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4102.0 - Australian Social Trends, 1998  
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Contents >> People & the Environment >> Waste Management: Household waste management

Waste Management: Household waste management

Between 1992 and 1996 the proportion of Australian households that did not recycle fell from 15% to 9%.

Our increasing environmental awareness is reflected in the way we dispose of household waste. The major change has been the increase in the proportion of households who set aside materials for recycling. The increase in the number of councils that provide kerbside collection of recyclables has probably encouraged more households to sort their rubbish. Recycling of household waste materials has a two-fold advantage: it reduces the volume of material going into landfill disposal sites and provides income to the council from the sale of the recyclable materials.

Household waste
The amount of rubbish generated by households has been estimated by analysing the contents of their rubbish bins. However, this method misses waste that has been incinerated, recycled at home or taken personally to a rubbish tip or recycling centre.

A survey in 1989 estimated that across Australia local councils collected an annual average of 370 kg of waste per person. A more recent survey in 1995 of 302 households in Mitcham, South Australia estimated that each year households in that area generated 355 kg of waste per person, or about 906 kg of waste per household. The survey estimated that about 10% of the waste went into the recycling stream.1

The Mitcham and earlier surveys1 have estimated that, by weight, about half of domestic waste is made up of organic compostable materials like food scraps and garden waste. Paper waste accounts for about one quarter and the remaining quarter is composed mainly of plastics, glass, ferrous metals and general waste like dirt, dust, ash etc. A small proportion (0.5%) of household waste comprises hazardous materials such as paint, batteries, fluorescent globes and pharmaceuticals

DOMESTIC WASTE STREAM FOR THE CITY OF MITCHAM, ADELAIDE, OCTOBER AND NOVEMBER 1995

Annual waste generation

Per person
Per household
Material typeIncludes
kg
kg

Organic compostableGarden, food/kitchen, other compostables.
178.5
456.0
PaperNewspaper, writing paper, packaging, cardboard, milk cartons etc.
91.2
233.0
PlasticsPET, HDPE, LDPE, plastic bags, polypropylene, polystyrene, etc.
25.1
64.1
GlassJars, bottles, plateglass etc.
23.9
61.1
Ferrous metalSteel cans, white goods, packaging etc.
11.1
28.3
Other materialsCeramics (bricks, tiles etc), dust, dirt, rock, soil, ash, etc.
10.2
26.1
Other organicTextiles, wood, leather, rubber, oils.
9.5
24.3
Non-ferrousAluminium packaging and cans, copper, brass, etc.
3.1
8.0
Household hazardousPaint, dry cell batteries, car batteries, fluorescent globes, etc.
1.9
4.9
Total
354.5
905.8

Note: Based on a survey of 302 households over a ten-day period.

Source: City of Mitcham, 1995, in Australians and the Environment (cat. no. 4601.0).


What materials are recycled?
The most commonly recycled materials from household waste are paper, glass, plastics, old clothing, cans and kitchen and garden waste.

In 1992 and 1996, the Australian Bureau of Statistics surveyed Australian households seeking people's views and practices on environmental issues. Nearly three quarters of households stated that they recycled paper waste in 1996, an increase of nearly 20 percentage points from 1992 when 55% of households stated that they recycled paper.

Glass was the next most common material recycled. The reported 73% of households which recycled glass was an increase from the 1992 proportion of 55%.

Plastic and old clothing were both recycled by 67% of households in 1996. This was a small increase for clothing (63% in 1992) but a large increase for plastics which had been recycled by only 37% of households in 1992.

Although there were generally only small differences in the proportions of households recycling different materials between States, the two Territories had distinctly different rates. The Australian Capital Territory had particularly high proportions of households recycling most materials, for example, 98% recycled paper and 96% recycled glass. The Northern Territory had particularly low proportions of households who recycled, for example, 39% recycled paper and 30% recycled glass. These differences probably reflect the availability of recycling facilities and the economics of transporting recycled materials. The Australian Capital Territory has a comprehensive fortnightly kerbside collection of recyclable materials whereas in 1996 the Northern Territory had extremely low rates of kerbside collection of recyclables.

PROPORTION OF HOUSEHOLDS RECYCLING SELECTED MATERIALS

1992
1996
Material recycled
%
%

Paper
54.7
74.5
Glass
55.3
73.4
Plastic
37.3
66.8
Old clothing/rages
63.3
66.6
Cans
44.1
62.1
Garden waste
47.3
50.8
Kitchen/food waste
35.6
44.9
No recycling
15.3
9.4

Note: The total will not add to 100% because households usually recycled more than one type of material.

Source: Environmental Issues: People's Views and Practices, Australia, 1992 and 1996 (cat. no. 4602.0).


How households recycle
A householder can recycle waste materials in various ways. They can take materials to central collection points (such as clothing, bottle and can bins at a local shopping centre); if available, they can use their own recycling bin that is collected by their local council or private contractor; or they can take materials to collection points at their local dump. Householders can also recycle materials within their own home and garden, for example, by re-using glass containers, composting kitchen scraps and shredding garden waste for composting or use as a mulch.

In 1996, about three quarters of households who recycled had recyclable waste collected from their house (though kerbside collection is mainly used to collect paper, glass, cans and plastic containers). The growth in the provision of kerbside collection of recyclable waste has been quite rapid since 1992, when just under half of households who recycled had a kerbside collection service for recycled waste.

The use of central collection points has also increased. In 1996, 63% of households who recycled took recyclable waste to a central collection point compared to 53% in 1992. Old clothing in particular is mainly taken to collection points.

The use of special areas at dumps remained low and similar between the two surveys: 8% of households who recycled in 1996 and 10% in 1992. Composting or mulching also increased from 45% of households who recycled in 1992 to 54% in 1996. The re-use of materials within the household remained similar, 40% of households recycled in 1996 and 42% in 1992.

RECYCLING METHODS OF HOUSEHOLDS THAT RECYCLED

1992
1996
Recycling method
%
%

Collection from house
49.4
76.3
Central collection points
52.5
62.6
Compost/mulch
44.9
53.6
Re-use within the household
41.9
40.2
Other method
2.8
12.5
Special areas at dump
9.7
8.4

Note: The total will not add to 100% because households usually recycled more than one type of material.

Source: Environmental Issues: People's Views and Practices, Australia, 1992 and 1996 (cat. no. 4602.0).

HOUSEHOLDS(a) RECYCLING METHOD, SELECTED MATERIALS, MARCH 1996

Paper
Glass
Cans
Plastic
Food waste
Garden waste
Old clothing and rags
Recycling method
%
%
%
%
%
%
%

Central collection points
10.7
11.4
16.8
8.9
0.6
1.4
73.2
Collection from house
80.1
81.7
80.1
77.6
5.1
8.7
7.2
Special areas at dump
2.6
3.1
2.3
2.2
0.3
4.6
0.2
Other(b)
16.7
11.8
3.1
22.8
98.7
90.5
35.3

Note: The total will not add to 100% because households that recycled may have used more than one method of recycling.

(a) Refers only to households that recycled the surveyed material in each case.
(b) Includes composting or mulching and re-use within the household.

Source: Environmental Issues, People's Views and Practices, Australia,1996 (cat. no. 4602.0).


Households who did not recycle
Between 1992 and 1996 the proportion of Australian households that did not recycle fell from 15% to 9%. In 1996, 51% of households that stated a reason for not recycling one or more of the items surveyed said that they did not have enough recyclable materials. 23% stated that they did not have the services or facilities to recycle and 9% stated that they did not have enough storage area.

REASONS GIVEN FOR NOT RECYCLING AT LEAST ONE OF THE MATERIALS SURVEYED

1992
1996
Reason for not recycling
%
%

No storage area
6.8
8.7
Not enough recyclable materials
31.2
51.0
No services/facilities
28.4
23.0
Inadequate services/facilities
14.4
6.9
Uncertain of services/facilities
6.9
5.2
Other
25.7
24.0

Note: Total will not add to 100% because households may have had more than one reason for not recycling.

Source: Environmental issues, People's Views and Practices, Australia, 1992 and 1996 (cat. no. 4602.0).


Hazardous waste disposal
In March 1996 only 31% of households were aware of special hazardous waste disposal facilities. Overall, most households that disposed of hazardous waste did so through the usual rubbish collection from the dwelling. Households disposing of motor oil were more likely to take it to a business or a shop (23%) or a special area in a dump (23%) (in both these cases the oil is probably recycled). However, 11% of households disposing of motor oil did so with household rubbish, 7% took it to the general area of a dump and 4% buried the oil. The majority of households disposing of car batteries did so at a business or shop or at a special area at a dump (61%), but 13% put them out with the household rubbish or took them to the general area of a dump.

HOUSEHOLD(a) DISPOSAL OF HAZARDOUS WASTE, SELECTED ITEMS, MARCH 1996

Garden chemicals
Paint products
Fluorescent globes
Car
batteries
Other batteries
Motor oil
Pharmaceuticals
Total
Method of disposal
%
%
%
%
%
%
%
%

With usual garbage collection
65.5
51.6
76.8
5.6
85.7
10.8
42.6
61.9
Special service from house
4.6
8.0
4.0
8.2
0.9
4.6
*0.5
6.2
Dump - general area
12.5
24.3
12.1
7.5
5.1
6.7
2.1
11.0
Dump - special area
10.8
12.5
3.3
19.8
2.7
23.0
*0.3
12.0
Collection point other than dump
3.5
3.0
*0.9
13.0
2.3
10.5
1.3
6.6
Poured down the drain
*0.7
*1.0
-
*0.1
-
*0.4
25.5
11.0
Taken to a business or shop
2.0
*0.9
2.0
41.1
2.5
22.9
29.2
24.9
Buried
*1.3
1.1
*0.7
1.5
0.9
4.0
1.3
2.3
Other
2.6
1.9
*0.8
4.2
*0.6
18.7
2.0
6.6

Note: Total will not add to 100% because households may have had more than one method of disposing of a hazardous product.
(a) Refers only to households that disposed of hazardous waste.

Source: Environmental issues, People's Views and Practices, Australia (cat. no. 4602.0).


Endnotes
1 Australian Bureau of Statistics, 1996, Australians and the Environment, cat. no. 4601.0, ABS, Canberra.



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