Ipswich City Council has admitted to dumping recycling in landfill for four weeks before informing residents.
The Queensland government on Thursday announced it would bring forward the reintroduction of a waste levy in an attempt to fend off a domino effect across the state’s councils.
Ipswich has been rubbished for dropping its recycling program, over an extra $2 million in costs to cope with China’s waste import ban.
Mayor Andrew Antoniolli said the council’s predicament arose because its waste collection contract was up for renewal.
“To get a new contract means we are going to be paying five times the amount of money,” he told reporters on Thursday.
“When other councils come to that point in their contracts, they are going to be facing the same financial dilemma.”
He admitted the council had been dumping recycling for a month.
Several other councils across the state have their contracts up for renewal over the next two years, leading to concerns they would follow Ipswich’s example and cut their recycling programs.
China previously accepted up to one million tonnes a year from Australia, before tightening its regulations. Ipswich also blamed rising waste contamination in yellow bins.
State government officials met with the Local Government Association of Queensland (LGAQ) on Thursday.
Deputy Premier Jackie Trad said following the meeting they decided to bring forward the reintroduction of the proposed waste levy, previously slated for July 2019, to help subsidise the programs.
“We reckon Queenslanders quite rightly would think waiting a year to reintroduce a waste levy, given what’s happened over the last 24 hours, is too long,” she said on Thursday.
Ms Trad couldn’t say how much sooner the levy would come in but hinted it could be dealt with in the upcoming state budget in June.
LGAQ boss Greg Hallam said the levy would give councils certainty that he hoped would stop them following Ipswich.
“We have a medium- to long-term solution and that is to take the proceeds of the waste levy and to build five or six state-of-the-art zero waste, waste to energy plants in Queensland,” Mr Hallam said.
“With certainty around incomes, we can build these plants within two years.”
LNP Opposition Leader Deb Frecklington said the situation was “appalling” and needed to be rectified, but reintroducing the waste levy was not the answer.
“The Palaszczuk government’s knee-jerk decision to rush through a waste tax, with no details and no consultation, shows Labor is making it up as they go along,” Ms Frecklington said.
“Let’s be frank, the only place that has a waste problem, whether it is dumping recycling in landfill or interstate waste dumping, is Ipswich.”
Gold Coast and Brisbane City Councils stated they were financially unaffected by China’s restrictions on low-grade recyclables.
Gold Coast Councillor Paul Taylor said its waste collection contract had two years to run and it was up to the contractor to absorb any cost increases.