At least 10 Queensland councils expect a $7 million hit next financial year as Australia's recycling crisis rolls on.
China has banned the importation of foreign waste leaving Australia with a mounting pile of rubbish it doesn’t know what to do with.
Councils across Australia are beginning to stockpile rubbish China will no longer accept, and with commodity prices down it’s becoming less and less viable to re-purpose recycled commodities.
In Queensland, local councils who run kerbside recycling services are braced for multi-million dollar hits and fear kerbside collection services are under serious threat.
On Monday, the Local Government Association of Queensland told a Senate committee hearing on waste that 10 councils expected the crisis to cost them an extra $7 million in the 2019/19 financial year.
“A further 18 are concerned and are aware of the impact that will occur in the future,” the LGAQ’s Robert Ferguson said.
He warned the true cost to councils could prove far higher, as they contend with higher charges by contractors, and truckloads of waste being rejected because contamination levels are too high.
The councils have called on all levels of government to coordinate a solution to the crisis, which earlier this month saw Ipswich City Council announce it was dumping kerbside recycling services.
It has since said it will look for an interim contractor to resume recycling collections as soon as possible, and does intend to look for a new long-term contractor.
Ipswich Mayor Andrew Antoniolli said the council was planning an aggressive education campaign to drive down contamination rates, which were at a staggering 52 per cent, compared to just 15 per cent a few years ago, and Brisbane’s seven to 10 per cent.
“We can’t put a finger on it, but I think recycling has become somewhat confusing,” he told the Senate committee.
“There has been some talk around the fact we are obviously a highly multicultural area, and some cultures aren’t as familiar with recycling as others.”
He agreed the council had been at the centre of a perfect storm, trying to renegotiate a new recycling contract with China changed the rules and hit the sector hard.
They mayor also admitted the council only told the state environment minister that it had resorted to dumping recyclables in landfill hours before telling ratepayers.
He said that was an uncomfortable message to share with people, but he wanted to be honest.