Acting Victorian Premier John Thwaites is spinning furiously with his attempts to reassure neighbours of existing hazardous waste landfills following the Government’s abandonment of its eight-year old policy to end hazardous waste landfilling.

Mr Thwaites has claimed that under the Government’s policy backflip that there will be no change in the waste received at the existing Tullamarine and Lyndhurst landfills, that Tullamarine will close within three years, and that less hazardous waste will be landfilled because the Government is jacking up the landfill levy from $25 to $250 per tonne.

Ever since the late 1980s the estimated lifetime of the Tullamarine landfill has been, variously 1-3 years. Over that time the facility, just out the front of the airport, has been transformed from a landfill to a substantial landhill.

History suggests the Tullamarine landfill could last for a very long time and the Government has already committed to keep Lyndhurst open to hazardous waste until at least 2020 while providing no reason to believe that it will close its gates then.

Moreover, despite all the hype surrounding the increase in the levy, the Government’s new knee-jerk policy will provide less financial incentive for hazardous waste reduction than the previous policy of replacing landfills with a long-term containment facility. The Environment Effects Statement for the ill-fated Nowingi proposal puts the cost of disposal at a containment facility at $700 per tonne compared to $200 per tonne for landfill.

So with the increased levy, industry can now expect to pay $450 per tonne for landfill disposal, a saving of $250 per tonne compared to containment disposal.

No doubt, munificent Victorian industry will use this $250 per tonne saving to invest in more hazardous waste reduction than would otherwise be the case.

Peter Fray

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Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey