4655.0.55.002 - Information Paper: Towards the Australian Environmental-Economic Accounts, 2013  
ARCHIVED ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 27/03/2013  First Issue
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Households are an integral part of the accounts described in the previous chapters of this publication. While not always explicitly measured, their impact on aspects of the environment is clear as they represent the large majority of final consumers (and are thus the driving force behind the production) of most produced goods in the economy.

The ABS regularly collects information from households on a wide variety of topics, mostly through surveys with a limited sample, and every five years via the Census of Population and Housing. Some of these data can be used to populate environmental accounts. There also exists other information that can inform decision and policy-making regarding environmental issues. This chapter presents a small selection of such household data according to the accounts presented in this information paper.

Integrated household data

Figure 8.1 Household resource intensity, water and energy consumption and waste emissions per capita, 2002-03 to 2010-11, Australia

Figure 8.1 illustrates intensity measures related to water use, energy use and GHG emissions for Australian households. Each intensity measure decreased between 2002-03 and 2010-11 ranging from a 4% decrease per capita in GHG emissions generation and energy consumption, to a 31% decrease in water use per capita over the 8 year period (note that GHG emissions figures are not available for 2010-11).

Figure 8.2 Dwellings with rainwater tanks (‘000) and percentage of suitable dwellings with a rainwater tank, Australia, 2007 and 2010.
The period between 2007 and 2010 saw the end of a drought in Australia and the beginning of a comparatively strong La Nina event, bringing higher than average rainfall to much of Australia. Australian households continued to install rainwater tanks during this period, with the number of tanks increasing 40% to over 2.3 million, and for dwellings that are suitable for rainwater tank installation, the proportion rose from 24% to over 32%.

Figure 8.3 Households with water saving products (%), Australia, 1998 – 2010.

Water saving products for households, such as water-efficient shower heads and dual flush toilets, are now subject to rebate or swap schemes in most states and territories. Water saving device uptake is linked to changes in overall water consumption per capita in households and this is discussed in Chapter 2.

Figure 8.4 shows the changes over the period by state and territory for water efficient shower heads. The largest increase was seen in New South Wales with a 116% increase over the time period, while the smallest increase was seen in Western Australia with a 63% increase.

Figure 8.4 Percentage of households with water efficient shower heads, States and Territories, 1998 and 2010.

Figure 8.5 illustrates the increase in dual flush toilets in state and territory households in the reference period. The percentage of households with dual flush toilets became more even across states and territories, the range of percentages dropping by more than half from 28% in 1998 to 12% in 2010.

Figure 8.5 Percentage of households with dual flush toilets, States and Territories, 1998 and 2010.

Figure 8.6 Sources of energy used by households, Australia, 2005, 2008 and 2011.

Figure 8.6 shows that mains electricity use inside households rose from just under 99% in 2005 to 99.8% in 2011. The use of solar energy by households in Australia rose more than for any other energy source, from 5% in 2005 to 11% in 2011. The federal government’s Solar Homes and Communities plan had been in place for five years to 2005 and was phased out in 2009 and was replaced by the Solar Credits scheme. The small-scale renewable energy scheme and feed-in tariffs are also currently available to households in Australia. The three years to 2008, the period under the Solar Homes and Communities plan, saw an increase from 5% to 8% of households using solar energy, while for the three years to 2011, the period including a combination of the Solar Homes and Communities plan and the current Solar Credits scheme, saw an increase from 8% to 11%.

The proportion of households using LPG/bottled gas increased from 12% in 2005 to over 17% of households reporting this as an energy source used inside the home in 2011. LPG/bottled gas is often used for cooking where mains natural gas is not available.

‘Other’ energy sources includes wood and oil, and their use is especially prevalent in Tasmania, where 39% of households reported using other energy sources in 2011.

Figure 8.7 Energy star rating considered when buying an appliance, Households that purchased an appliance in the last 12 months, Australia, 2005, 2008 and 2011

Figure 8.7 shows that when making a clothes drier purchase, consideration was given to its energy efficiency in 53% of cases, the highest percentage among all appliances and an increase of 33% in 6 years.
Figure 8.8 Households that recycle and reuse waste (%), Australia, 2000 - 2012.

Figure 8.8 shows a slow and consistent increase in the percentage of households recycling and reusing waste through the 10 years to 2010. This trend was reversed with a large decline in households that reuse waste, from 86% in 2009 to 73% in 2012 and by a smaller 1% drop in households that recycle. Figure 8.9 suggests a possible explanation for these recent falls.

Figure 8.9 Proportion of households that recycle selected product types, Australia, 2000 – 2012.

Recycling rates for most waste types were either stable during the time period or slowly increasing. Plastic bag recycling rates dropped from 89% in 2009 to 85% in 2012, a three year period during which, three states and territories (SA, NT and ACT) introduced plastic bag bans. Fremantle, WA became the first local council to adopt a plastic ban early in 2013, while local councils in other states and the state government of Tasmania are currently assessing legislation to implement plastic bag bans. Data are not available for NT and ACT in 2012, but SA showed a large decrease in the proportion of households that reused or recycled plastic bags, from 86% down to 78%. The drop in plastic bag use, and subsequent reuse is a contributing factor in the overall drop in households that reuse any type of waste in 2012 as seen in figure 8.8.