In November 2008, Australia's environment ministers agreed to prepare the first comprehensive national report on resource recovery and waste management. Just prior to this, the Senate report Management of Australia's waste streams had concluded that Australia lacks fundamental information on most aspects of waste generation and management, including physical, financial, economic and social aspects, and needs adequate analytical tools to process such information.
On 5 November 2009, Australia's environment ministers, through the Environment Protection and Heritage Council (EPHC), released the National Waste Policy: Less waste, more resources. The policy sets out a comprehensive agenda for national co-ordinated action on waste across six areas, and marks a fundamental shift in the approach to waste management and resource recovery.
A key strategy under the policy is the development and publication of three-yearly reports on current and future trends in waste and resource recovery. These reports will be supported by access to integrated national core data that are accurate, meaningful, up-to-date and accessible.
The National Waste Report 2010 presents a contemporary national picture of resource recovery and waste management in Australia. It documents what is known about the status of and trends in resource recovery and waste management in Australia, particularly in the light of trends in waste generation. Based on key statistical information, it provides our best understanding of the main aspects of the waste system and how it works.
It reviews the current state of infrastructure and explores some scenarios for the future, including innovative technologies that may be harnessed to enhance our waste management practices. The information in this report will assist governments, businesses and the community to make sound policies and decisions, and will help individuals to contribute to waste minimisation in meaningful and achievable ways.
The report covers
- municipal solid waste (MSW)—that is, household and council waste
- commercial and industrial waste (C&I)—that is, waste from business, educational institutions and government
- construction and demolition waste (C&D)—that is, waste from residential, civil and commercial construction and demolition activity, and
- hazardous waste.
It does not cover gaseous, liquid or radioactive waste, and it does not explicitly cover biosolids (the solid waste from sewage treatment plants), although data presented for some jurisdictions include disposal figures for biosolids. Waste and recycling in Australia's external territories are outside the scope of this report.
The report presents information on several issues faced by those who make policy for urban, regional and remote Australia:
- the amount of waste generated and the make-up of that waste;
- the impacts and benefits of waste, including those associated with landfills, resource recovery, hazardous waste and hazardous substances, organic waste, litter and marine debris;
- how we manage waste, including a brief history of waste management; the values and choices displayed by Australians in relation to resource recovery and waste generation; policies and regulations; strategies such as extended producer responsibility; how the waste and resource recovery markets operate; regional and remote area issues; and waste infrastructure and technology;
- data gathering about waste and recycling in Australia.
There is no single, definitive, national information source on resource recovery and waste management in Australia, largely due to the fact that the Australian waste industry is regulated mainly by states and territories rather than by one central body. The information in this report has been drawn from a range of published sources, including
- information from Australian Government agencies including the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS)
- information from state, territory and local governments
- various industry information sources, and
- Waste and Recycling in Australia—three reports prepared by Hyder Consulting:
- one published in 2006, covering the period 2002-03
- one published in 2008 covering the period 2006-07, and
- one published in 2009 updating data for 2006-07 and providing additional data.1
Several analyses were commissioned to supplement and strengthen current knowledge. These covered the following topics:
- capacity of landfills until 2030, and their cost and performance;
- current and future innovations, trends and opportunities in the technology and practices that are utilised in waste and resource recovery;
- employment related to landfill disposal of waste and to alternatives such as recycling;
- climate change aspects of resource recovery and waste management;
- lessons learned from overseas product stewardship/extended producer responsibility schemes;
- the degrees to which people value their participation in kerbside and workplace recycling;
- current waste and resource recovery data and the potential value of a new national waste data system.
1This excludes construction waste from owner/occupier renovations, which is classified as part of the municipal waste stream.
Parameters of the data
The National Waste Report 2010 is a first step towards establishing baseline data and developing a strong and comprehensive knowledge base on waste management and resource recovery in Australia. It seeks to present key information for each jurisdiction, provide a clear understanding of national trends and their implications for sustainability, and respond to the community's desire for information about how sustainability can be incorporated more fully into daily life.
The authors of this report have taken a 'slice in time' approach, focusing on the data set for the 2006-07 financial year, for which the fullest information was available when the report was being prepared. Much of this information was first gathered by Hyder Consulting in 2008 and revised, in consultation with state and territory governments, during 2009. Other material from various sources supplements the Hyder information.
The fact that waste and recycling data are generated in variable ways by a range of agencies inevitably means that there are wide disparities in the detail, geographic coverage, scale, time frames and scope of the data. Within those limitations, every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of the information presented. Comprehensive data were not always available, and readers should exercise a degree of caution when using the information in the report.
|Main findings of the report: a summary|
Waste, resource recovery and recycling in Australia
National waste generation profile
Per capita recycling and landfill disposal
National recycling profile
Landfill disposal profile
Social.values and behaviour
Regional, remote and Indigenous communities
Hazardous substances and hazardous waste
Data and classification