4602.0 - Environmental Issues: People's Views and Practices, Mar 2006  
ARCHIVED ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 21/11/2006   
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This publication is the twelfth of its type and presents information on environmental behaviour and practices of Australian households and individuals in March 2006. Respondents were aged 18 years or older.

This edition focuses on 'Household waste management and transport use' and covers a range of issues including waste recycling and reuse, disposal of hazardous waste materials, awareness and use of waste disposal or service facilities, the main form of transport to work, study and day-to-day trip, use of public transport and motor vehicle servicing or maintenance.


The data in this publication are derived from a supplement to the Monthly Population Survey. Please refer to the Explanatory Notes at the back of this publication for further details about the survey.


A set of changing topics rotate over a period of three years. The topics contained in this publication are compared with data collected in 1996, 2000 and 2003. Where applicable those data have been included in this publication to enable comparisons.

Prior to 1997, environment topics were surveyed using 'personal interview' methodology. From 1997 onwards, the 'any responsible adult' methodology has been applied. When comparing post-1997 and pre-1997 data, readers should be aware that some differences in the data may be explained by the change in methodology rather than the representing real changes over time.


Where figures have been rounded, discrepancies may occur between sums of the component items and totals. Published percentages are calculated prior to rounding of the figures and therefore some discrepancy may occur between these percentages and those that could be calculated from the rounded figures.


For further information about these and related statistics, contact the National Information and Referral Service on 1300 135 070 or Robyn Elphinstone on Canberra (02) 6252 5502.



This publication presents the results of a household survey conducted in March 2006. The survey collected information on household waste management, motor vehicle ownership and maintenance and use of transport, all of which have implications for resources use, pollution and greenhouse gas emissions.

Main findings

A major finding of the survey was that recycling activities are widely accepted having grown extensively in Australian households between 1996 and 2006. In March 1996, 91% Australian households engaged in some form of waste recycling or reuse activities at home. By March 2006, almost all households (99%) in Australia recycled and/or reused waste. Household participation in recycling has increased for nearly all surveyed materials and this reflects the extent of services or facilities made available to households. For example, paper, plastic products and glass are predominantly the most recyclable materials in Australia because these are the materials recycled through the local kerbside recycling to which about 90% of households in Australia have access.

Another key finding is that household recycling is influenced by three main factors: the quantity or volume of recyclable material generated by a household, accessibility/availability of households to service facilities, and interest. Households will recycle if they have enough waste materials to warrant recycling; if there are recycling services or facilities provided such as the local kerbside recycling and existence of dumps or tips/landfills, and; if the recycling activity is of interest.

Public transport access and timing were the key issues why the majority of people in Australia (80%) prefer to use their motor vehicles to get to their place of work or study. About 28% of people claimed there were no services available in their area. Where services are available, 25% of people reported that such services were not available at convenient times. For 14% of people, travelling through public transport took too long.

Other key findings of the survey are presented below and details are presented in the subsequent chapters.

Waste management

  • In March 2006, about 98% of Australian households recycled waste, 87% reused waste, while only less than one per cent did not recycle or reuse waste at all.
  • Paper products, glass and plastic bottles continued to be the most commonly recycled material in Australia.
  • Plastic bags were reused by about 89% of households in Australia in March 2006, up from 83% in 2000.
  • Almost two-thirds (66%) of Australian households recycled garden waste (up from 51% in 1996), particularly in the Australian Capital Territory (74%).
  • Household waste recycling occurred mostly through the local kerbside collection service (87% of households) across Australia; 12% reported using private contractors.
  • Reusing waste material continues to grow among Australian households, from 37% in 1996 to 87% in 2006. Materials most often reused were plastic bags (89%), old clothing or rags (41%), motor oil (28%) and kitchen or food waste (27%).
  • Composting was practised by 46% of households, down from 54% in 1996. The use of dumps and/or waste transfer stations was relatively low (15%) but has doubled since 1996 (8%).
  • Most of the hazardous waste materials generated by households were disposed through the usual garbage collection (85% of households). These materials include household batteries (95%), oven cleaners (90%), fluorescent lighting (82%) and garden chemicals (71%). Waste tyres (88%), motor oil (81%) and car batteries (43%) were disposed of mainly through a business or shop.
  • The majority of households (61%) that did not use appropriate hazardous waste disposal services or facilities said so because they did not generate enough materials to warrant use of these services or facilities; 13% had no reason and 8% not interested at all. Cost of disposal was hardly a factor (3%).

Motor vehicle ownership and maintenance
  • In March 2006, 90% of households in Australia kept at least one registered motor vehicle in their garage or dwelling and 51% had two or more. The majority (92%) of these registered motor vehicles in the garage have airconditioning.
  • Cost (51%), fuel economy (39%) and the size of the vehicle (34%) were the three main factors considered when buying a motor vehicle.
  • Nearly 90% of motor vehicles used by Australian households ran on unleaded fuel; 6% on diesel and 3% in gas (liquefied or compressed). Lead replacement petrol (LRP) was used by only 1% of vehicles.
  • The majority of vehicles (49%) were serviced once every six months; 23% once every three months and 17% once a year.

Use of transport
  • Private motor vehicles continued to be the main form of transport Australians used to get to their place of work or study (80% of people) or for their day-to-day travel (92% of people).
  • Of the people who drove to and from their place of work or study, 18% took passengers. These people were mainly those who usually dropped their children at school (40%) or were working or studying with or near the passenger (33%).
  • The use of public transport remains low (14% of people) but slightly higher than the 1996 level (12% of people). Support for public transport was highest in New South Wales (19%) and Victoria (14%) and least in Tasmania (6%).
  • 59% of people who usually used public transport to get to their place of work or study found it more convenient, comfortable and less stressful; 28% found it less costly. About 22% of people used public transport due to parking concerns.
  • The proportion of people who usually walk or cycle to place of work or study was almost unchanged since 2000 (about 5%). Proximity of home to place of work or study (59%) and exercise and health (48%) were the two most important reasons why people usually walked or cycled.