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Exempt waste

Some wastes may be exempt from the waste levy, either by automatic exemption decided by landfill operators or by approval from the Department of Environment and Science (the department). Exempt waste does not incur the levy.

A full list of exempt wastes and their criteria can be found in the Waste Reduction and Recycling Act 2011 (the Act).

While some wastes are exempt from the levy, disposal fees charged by landfill operators may continue to apply.

If you are delivering waste (including exempt waste) to a landfill, you must provide sufficient information for the landfill operator to correctly identify the waste, for example, showing how your waste is exempt. Talk to the landfill operator to find out what specific information is required at their site.

PLEASE NOTE: If you do not provide sufficient information about how your waste is exempt, the waste cannot qualify for an exemption and the levy will apply.

Exempt waste by definition

Some waste types are automatically exempt from the levy under Section 26 of the Act. This type of exemption is decided by landfill operators.

Types of automatically exempt waste include:

  • waste resulting from a declared natural disaster such as a cyclone, bushfire or flood
  • serious local event waste (decided by local councils)
  • certain types of lawfully managed and transported asbestos waste
  • dredge spoil
  • clean earth
  • litter and illegally dumped waste collected by government, councils or forestry plantation licenses
  • other exempt waste prescribed in Section 8 of the Waste Reduction and Recycling Regulation 2011.

Exemptions for disaster waste

The department may identify disaster waste as being exempt from the levy if notified by a local council of a serious local event or a disaster declared under the Disaster Management Act 2003. Find out where exempt waste declarations are currently in effect.

Exemptions for asbestos

If certain criteria are met, asbestos waste may be exempt from the levy. Read the information sheet (PDF, 487 KB) for guidance on how the waste levy applies to the disposal of asbestos waste.

Exemptions for clean earth

Natural materials found in the earth, such as clay, gravel, sand, soil and rock, are individually and collectively referred to as ‘earth’. Earth may be defined as a waste if it is a left over or unwanted by-product from an activity, or surplus to the activity.

Clean earth is defined as earth that is not mixed with another type of waste and is not contaminated with a hazardous contaminant. Clean earth may be used as fill and when disposed to landfill, is exempt from the waste levy.

Earth that contains or is mixed with waste or a hazardous contaminant does not meet the definition of clean earth. Consequently, the waste levy obligations apply to its disposal, including use as fill. For example, if pieces of concrete, ceramics or bricks are present in the earth, it is not clean earth and is not exempt from the waste levy.

Exemptions for Acid Sulfate Soil

Earth that is acid sulphate soil may be defined as clean earth and exempt from the levy provided it:

  1. is not contaminated with waste or a hazardous contaminant, other than naturally occurring iron sulphides that produce sulphuric acid when exposed to air; and
  2. has been treated in accordance with best practice environmental management, within the meaning of the Environmental Protection Act 1994, section 21, for the treatment and management of acid sulphate soils, as stated in a guideline prescribed by regulation.

A note about “clean earthen material”

As part of the reforms to waste-related Environmentally Relevant Activities (ERA) introduced on 23 November 2018, definitions for some types of waste, such as ‘clean earthen material’, were removed and replaced.

The types of waste previously identified as ‘clean earthen material’, including but not limited to bricks, pavers, ceramics or concrete, are now included in the waste type ‘inert waste’. The definition of clean earth was also amended, and only the use of clean earth as fill is excluded from ERA 60.

Using earth, inert waste or construction and demolition (C&D) waste as fill is considered to be waste disposal and is a licensable environmentally relevant activity.

In other words, since 23 November 2018, disposal, including use as fill, of earth, inert waste and the other types of C&D wastes formerly included under clean earthen material requires authorisation under an Environmental Authority for ERA 60. The waste levy applies to all of these types of wastes from 1 July 2019.

Find more information about waste-related ERA reforms.

The full definitions of clean earth and earth can be found in the Schedule Dictionary of the Waste Reduction and Recycling Act 2011 .

Clean earth:

  1. means earth that is not contaminated with waste or otherwise contaminated with a hazardous contaminant; but
  2. does not include acid sulphate soil, other than acid sulphate soil that—
    1. is not contaminated with waste, or otherwise contaminated with a hazardous contaminant, other than naturally occurring iron sulphides that produce sulphuric acid when exposed to air; and
    2. has been treated in accordance with best practice environmental management, within the meaning of the Environmental Protection Act, section 21, for the treatment and management of acid sulfate soils, as stated in a guideline prescribed by regulation.

Earth means natural materials such as clay, gravel, sand, soil and rock.

Exempt waste by approval

Other exemptions are available on approval by the department under Section 28 of the Act. These wastes include:

  • waste received as part of charity donations that cannot practicably be re-used, recycled or sold
  • litter and illegally dumped waste which is collected as part of an organised community clean up activity
  • waste necessary for the operation of the levyable waste disposal site, such as for building infrastructure, temporary or daily cover, progressive or final capping, batter construction, profiling and site rehabilitation
  • some types of earth contaminated with a hazardous contaminant from land listed on the environmental management register or contaminated land register
  • biosecurity waste
  • serious local event waste (extension of time request).

An approved exemption has specific conditions, such as how long it is valid, the landfills the waste can be disposed at and the amount of exempt waste that can be disposed of. Exemption holders must comply with these conditions.

To receive the exemption, exemption approval holders must present their exemption certificate and unique exemption code when delivering exempt waste to the approved landfill/s. The landfill operator must record the exempt waste number in the gate transaction record.

Application forms for exempt waste can be found on the applications and forms page .