1370.0 - Measures of Australia's Progress, 2010  
ARCHIVED ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 15/09/2010   
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Waste generation accompanies all human activities in the form of solid, liquid and gaseous waste, and comes from households, building and demolition sites, and industry. It is expensive to deal with, has a damaging impact on the environment, affects people's health and can even influence trade in the economy.

There are many problems associated with waste that make it a significant environmental issue. Primary among those are the environmental consequences of disposing waste in the natural environment. Waste that is disposed of in landfills has the potential to contaminate soil and groundwater, and emit greenhouse and toxic gases into the atmosphere. When waste is disposed of through incineration or other means, its impacts upon the environment, and potentially on human health, are also significant.

When measuring progress in this area, there are three aspects that need to be considered. The first involves minimising the waste generated in the first place. The second is to use the waste generated as a resource where possible. The last aspect involves disposing of whatever waste cannot be recycled in a manner that is least harmful to the environment, the health of the population and economic progress.

The volume of waste generated would give a good indication of the cumulative impact that people and their waste have on the environment. Currently, there is no consistent data source that enables us to sufficiently assess whether progress has been made in this dimension. However, some information is available that enables us to present an indication of the volume of waste generated, and the amount generated per person, and these are presented as supplementary progress indicators.

Ensuring that waste is disposed of appropriately is an area of concern for governments, and for communities. When the amount of waste generated increases, it challenges the capacity of current facilities to cope and creates pressure for land on which to locate new waste disposal facilities. The location and social acceptance of new facilities, such as landfills, is also an issue, especially if it is perceived that such facilities may affect the lives of people situated nearby. Decomposition of organic waste releases methane into the atmosphere, adding to the increasing levels of greenhouse gases that contribute to global warming and climate change.

Additional supplementary progress indicators regarding the amount of waste disposed to landfill, greenhouse gas emissions from waste, and the diversion of waste from landfill to recycling facilities are also provided. These illustrate how the generation and disposal of waste is changing in Australia.

Further information is also included on household recycling.

For a full list of definitions used, please see the Waste glossary.


  • Waste glossary
  • Waste references

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