Government must act on $100 million waste levy avoidance scandal

Shadow Environment Minister Tjorn Sibma has called on the McGowan Labor Government to explain why it has not yet taken serious action to address well-founded allegations of systemic waste levy avoidance which potentially costs the State $100 million in lost revenue each year.
“It appears that there is an organised and deliberate system of waste levy avoidance in Western Australia which has flourished unimpeded over a number of years,” Mr Sibma said.
“This is a clear regulatory and public policy failure of enormous magnitude, which comes at a significant financial cost to the community of Western Australia, to say nothing of the likely environmental harm.
“The apparent lack of action by the McGowan Labor Government in the face of compelling evidence of wrongdoing is another deeply concerning aspect of this emerging scandal and warrants investigation.”
In its submissions to Review of the Waste Levy and Closing the Loop: Waste reforms for a circular economy, released by the Government in February 2020, the Waste and Recycling Industry of Western Australia (WRIWA) said:

“WRIWA has provided evidence to the Department of Water and Environmental Regulation and to the Minister for the Environment that levy avoidance in the C&D sector here in WA is largescale, systemic, organised and long standing.”

In its submissions, WRIWA estimated the State was losing up to $100 million in levy revenue per year due to waste disposal operators stockpiling Perth’s C&D (construction and demolition) waste or illegally dumping it at unlicensed country tips rather than pay landfill charges. It said confidential evidence of this had been provided to the Department of Water and Environmental Regulation (DWER).
Mr Sibma said the Environment Minister must explain why she, her predecessor and DWER had not acted on this evidence.
“It is astounding that the Government is allowing rogue waste operators to cheat the State out of millions of dollars, to the detriment of reputable recycling businesses,” he said.
“We should ask ourselves why the recycling business, especially as it relates to C&D waste, is flourishing in the eastern states, but floundering here. McGowan Government incompetence has delivered us the worst waste management and recycling regime in Australia.“
The National Waste Report 2020 found that WA reported a sharp drop in waste sent to landfill, despite most other states recording rises. It acknowledged this could have been due to stockpiling or the construction downturn, but stated “levy fraud on a significant scale also appeared plausible”.