In a change to Queensland waste legislation that will have ramifications for the development industry, disposing of 'clean earth' at a landfill facility from 1 July 2023 will incur payment of the waste levy at the general rate per tonne.

The Waste Reduction and Recycling and Other Legislation Amendment Bill 2023, introduced on 22 February 2023, removes the 'clean earth' levy exemption, treating 'clean earth' in the same way as any other form of waste.

Currently, where bulk earthworks or the like require the removal of 'clean earth' - that is, earth that does not contain contaminants or building waste - that material is exempt from the payment of the waste levy when disposed of at an appropriate waste facility. The rationale for the 'clean earth' exemption was that non-hazardous earthen material should not be considered a waste product.

However, recognising that 'clean earth' has other uses not requiring disposal at a landfill, such as fill for development, the exemption is considered counter-productive to facilitating other secondary uses. There have also been concerns about how the 'clean earth' definition has been applied and potential misuse of the exemption.

The change, bringing Queensland into line with other states, will mean development will either incur the waste levy for disposal at a waste facility or, if a re-use is possible, involve further complexities associated with identifying a receiving site. This may include assessing, and potentially processing, the extracted material to ensure its suitability for other applications.

In addition, the proposed waste reforms:

  • include various amendments to promote the 'circular economy' principle to keep products and materials in the economy rather than generating waste
  • prohibit the outdoor release of 'lighter than air' balloons (primarily helium filled balloons), including offence provisions, from 1 September 2023
  • set an expiry date of 31 December 2025 for the current exemption permitting single use plastic items forming part of a shelf-ready product (such as straws attached to drinks) .

The proposed amendments are currently open for submission and comment until 10 March 2023.

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