Australia's population is projected to be 35.5 million by 2056 which will place increasing pressure on the natural environment and its resources.
Figure 1 shows the rate of Australian waste generation compared to Gross Value Added (GVA) and population growth. From 1997 to 2012 the population rose by 22%, Gross Value Added increased by 64% and waste generation in Australia has increased by 145%.
During 2009-10, 53.7 million tonnes of waste was generated within the Australian economy, including imports.
The Construction industry generated the largest volume of waste with over 16.5 million tonnes, representing 31% of the total waste generated during 2009-10.
The largest volume of waste generated by industry and households was masonry materials, which accounted for 37% (19.8 million tonnes) of the total waste generated in 2009-10. Organic waste was the second largest generator by type, representing 24% (12.8 million tonnes) followed by paper and cardboard with 12% (6.4 million tonnes).
In 2010 the number of households in Australia was estimated to be 8.4 million with an average household consisting of 2.6 persons. Each household in Australia is estimated to produce almost 1.5 tonnes of waste each year for a total of 12.4 million tonnes.
Nearly half (47%) of all waste from households was organic waste and almost a quarter (23%) was paper and cardboard waste.
Over a third of Australians (35%) always compost or recycle garden waste and 23% always compost or recycle kitchen or food waste.
Almost 97% of households recycled and 73% reused consumed items. The most common items recycled or reused were paper and cardboard, glass, plastic bottles or containers and aluminium or steel cans. The most common way for households to recycle these items was to have the items collected from the house through kerbside bin collections.
Figure 2 Summary of waste generated and waste services provided, 2009-10
Disposal - Waste that is buried in landfill or incinerated or any other permanent form of removing waste that is not recovered or reused in any way. For facilities other than landfill, quantities disposed refer to waste that is sent to disposal facilities operated by either the same or a different organisation.
Recovery - The process of extracting materials or energy from a waste stream through re-use (using the product for the same or a different purpose without further production), recycling or recovering energy from waste.
Most waste is managed by the Waste Management Services Industry. This includes those businesses whose main activity is waste management as defined by the Australian and New Zealand Industry Classification (ANZSIC) 2006 (ANZSIC Division D, subdivision 29) and waste management activities of local government. Waste that is managed/treated by non-waste management businesses and exports of waste are also covered.
There are broadly three 'destinations' for Australia's waste:
1. Disposal to landfill;
2. Recovered for the domestic economy; and
Of the total waste generated in 2009-10, 25.2 million tonnes was recovered domestically, 24.9 million tonnes was disposed to landfill and 3.7 million tonnes was exported.
Of the 25.2 million tonnes of recovered waste in 2009-10, 10.9 million tonnes was masonry materials and 6.2 million tonnes was organic waste. Masonry materials recovered by businesses outside the waste management industry accounted for 5.0 million tonnes.
In 2009-10, 8.9 million tonnes of masonry materials and 6.6 million tonnes of organic waste was disposed to landfill, representing 62% of all waste to landfill.
In 2009-10, just under one million tonnes of glass waste was recovered with a further 0.5 million tonnes of glass disposed to landfill.
Paper and cardboard waste recovered domestically amounted to 3.0 million tonnes in 2009-10, with 1.9 million tonnes disposed to landfill and 1.5 million tonnes exported.
In 2009-10, 1.9 million tonnes of metal waste was exported which represented 52% of total waste exports.
Waste Management by Material (% of material total generation) 2009-10
Supply and Use of Waste Management Services and Products, 2009-10 ($m)
Waste Management Services
Businesses and government supply (provide) waste management services which are used (consumed) by other businesses, government and households. Waste management services include income from a range of services relating to waste management including collection, transport, recycling, treatment, processing or disposal of waste. In 2009-10, the supply of these services was valued at $9,595m.
Private (includes public trading enterprises) waste management businesses supplied just over half (54% or $5,149m) of the value of these services while local government provided just over one quarter (26% or $2,512m).
The remaining 19% ($1,860m) of waste management services was provided by non-waste management businesses. A large proportion of this (40% or $748m) was provided by the construction industry.
The majority of income from waste management activities related to non-recyclable waste services, accounting for 79% or $7,539m. Most of this (85%) was provided by the waste management services industry.
Income from recyclable waste services amounted to $1,981m. Although small relative to non-recyclable waste services, a relatively large proportion (38% or $743m) was provided by businesses outside the waste management services industry.
Waste management services are used or 'consumed' by businesses as part of their production processes (this expenditure is termed intermediate consumption), or by households as final consumption. In 2009-10, the waste management services industry consumed 30% or $2,903m of these services with the construction industry contributing 17% or $1,643m.
In 2009-10, businesses spent $2,403m on recyclable waste services. One-third of this amount ($785m) was by the construction industry with a further 19% ($457m) by local government.
Households spent $1,623m on waste management services (recyclable and non-recyclable combined), mostly on municipal rates related to waste management services. Household expenditure constitutes 17% of total expenditure on waste management services.
Not all waste that is produced has a negative value. Where the owner/discarder of the waste materials receives an income for the waste, it is termed a waste product. In 2009-10, waste products supplied to the economy were valued at $4,582m.
The waste management industry supplied 50% or $2,275m of the value of these products in the form of sales of raw materials (eg paper, cardboard, metals, organic material etc) resulting from materials recovery or reprocessing operations.
The remaining 50% or $2,240m of waste products were supplied by non-waste management businesses. Manufacturing ($723m), Wholesale ($547m) and Retail ($550m) made up over 80% of this remaining income from waste products.
In 2009-10, nearly two-thirds (63% or $2,870m) of the total amount of waste products supplied to the economy were consumed domestically with the remaining exported.
Waste Management Services ($m)
International Trade of Waste
In 2011-12 Australia exported 4.4 million tonnes of waste valued at $2,407 million or 0.8% of Australia’s total exports. In the last decade the value of Australia’s waste exports has tripled from $696 million and the share of total exports has risen from 0.4% in 2000-01 to the current figure of 0.8%.
Australia imported 685,000 tonnes of waste material valued at $139 million in 2011-12, representing only 0.05% of the value of Australia’s total imports. In the last decade there has only been a small increase in the share of waste imports to total imports, up from 260,000 tonnes of waste material valued at $58 million in 2000-01 (0.04% of the value of Australia's total imports).
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