4602.0.55.005 - Waste Account, Australia, Experimental Estimates, 2016-17 Quality Declaration 
Latest ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 18/09/2019   
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Main findings

Waste generation by industry and households

In 2016-17, the Australian economy generated or imported 68.9 megatonnes of waste, of which the largest contributors were:

  • Construction (20.4 megatonnes, 29.6%)
  • Households (13.8 megatonnes, 20.0%)
  • Electricity, gas, water and waste services (12.7 megatonnes, 18.4%)
  • Manufacturing (10.8 megatonnes, 15.6%).


Waste intensity by industry

Of the industries highlighted in the account, those with the highest waste intensity (waste generated (tonnes) divided by gross value added ($ million)) were:
  • Electricity, gas, water and waste services 291.0 t/$m
  • Construction 151.8 t/$m
  • Manufacturing 105.6 t/$m.

Waste generation for the Electricity, gas, water and waste services industry included 12.3 megatonnes of ash from coal-fired power plants which is the main driver of the industry's high waste intensity score (figure 1).

Figure 1. Waste Generation and Waste Intensity (a), selected industries, 2016-17
Figure 1 shows Waste Generation and Waste Intensity (a), selected industries, 2016-17. Footnote: Waste intensity is "GVA" divided by "total waste generation" for a given industry.


Largest waste categories

In 2016-17, the Australian economy generated or imported 68.9 megatonnes of waste, of which:
  • 17.1 megatonnes (24.9%) was masonry materials
  • 15.1 megatonnes (21.9%) was organics
  • 12.3 megatonnes (17.9%) was ash from coal-fired power stations
  • 6.6 megatonnes (9.5%) was metals
  • 6.4 megatonnes (9.3%) was hazardous waste
  • 5.6 megatonnes (8.1%) was paper & cardboard
  • 2.6 megatonnes (3.7%) was plastic.

The largest supplier of masonry material waste was the Construction industry with 15.0 megatonnes. This represents 73.8% of Construction industry waste (figure 2).

Figure 2. Masonry materials waste generation, by type, by industry, 2016-17
Figure 2 shows Masonry materials waste generation, by type, by industry, 2016-17. Footnote: (a) Includes non-hazardous foundry sands.


The largest supplier of organic waste was Households, with 7.0 megatonnes. This represents 51.0% of Household waste (figure 3).

Figure 3. Organic waste generation, by type, by industry, 2016-17
Figure 3 shows Organic waste generation, by type, by industry, 2016-17


Australian households generated 45.6% (1.2 megatonnes) of all plastic waste generated across the economy (figure 4), of which, the largest plastic types were:
  • polyethylene terephthalate (PET), 419,383 tonnes (35.9%)
  • high density polyethylene (HDPE), 337,544 tonnes (32.3%)
  • ‘other plastics’, 267,925 tonnes (22.9%).

Figure 4. Plastic waste generation, by type, by industry, 2016-17
Figure 4 shows Plastic waste generation, by type, by industry, 2016-17


The Australian economy domestically generated 465,818 tonnes of e-waste (figure 5), of which:
  • 369,084 tonnes (79.2%) was generated by households
  • 253,507 tonnes (54.4%) went to landfill
  • 212,311 tonnes (45.6%) was collected for recycling.

Figure 5. E-waste generation, by type, by industry, 2016-17
Figure 5 shows E-waste generation, by type, by industry, 2016-17


Waste fates

In 2016-17, the Australian economy generated or imported 68.9 megatonnes of waste, of which:
  • 19.0 megatonnes was sent to landfill for disposal, constituting 27.6% of total waste generation
  • 37.5 megatonnes of waste was recovered (i.e. exported, or collected for recycling or energy recovery) by the Waste collection, treatment & disposal services industry, of which:
    • 4.1 megatonnes (11.1%) was exported for recycling
    • 1.9 megatonnes (5.1%) was recovered for energy production
    • 31.4 megatonnes (83.8%) was collected for domestic recycling.
  • Of the 31.4 megatonnes collected for domestic recycling by the Waste collection, treatment & disposal services industry, the largest waste categories were:
    • masonry materials (11.7 megatonnes, 37.2%)
    • organics (6.7 megatonnes, 21.4%)
    • ash (5.3 megatonnes, 16.9%).
  • Of the 4.1 megatonnes exported for recycling, the largest two waste categories were:
    • metals (2.1 megatonnes, 51.4%)
    • paper & cardboard (1.5 megatonnes, 35.0%).

Figure 6 compares domestic recycling (collected by the Waste collection, treatment & disposal services industry) to exports for recycling, by waste category.

Figure 6. Exported and Domestic Recycling, by type, 2016-17
Figure 6 shows Exported and Domestic Recycling, by type, 2016-17

Recycling rate (figure 7) is calculated as ‘exported for recycling’ plus ‘collected for recycling by the waste management industry’ divided by ‘total waste generation’ for a given material. Of the waste categories:
  • metals have the highest recycling rate with 72.5% sent for recycling
  • textiles, leather and rubber have the lowest recycling rate, with 11.6%
  • plastics have a recycling rate of 12.7%.

Figure 7. Recycling rate (%) (a), by waste type, 2016-17
Figure 7 shows Recycling rate (%) (a), by waste type, 2016-17. Footnote: (a) Recycling rate is “exports” plus “recycling by waste management industry” divided by total waste generation for a given material.


Waste Collection, Treatment and Disposal Services industry

In 2016-17 gross value added was $4,212 million, which was an increase on 2015-16 (figure 8).

Figure 8. Gross Value Added, Waste collection, treatment & disposal services industry and All industries, Indexed to 2007-08

Figure 8 shows Gross Value Added, Waste collection, treatment & disposal services industry and All industries, Indexed to 2007-08

31,000 persons were employed at 30 June 2017, which was an increase on 2015-16 (figure 9).

Figure 9. Employment (a), Waste collection, treatment & disposal services industry and Total industry, Indexed to 2007-08
Figure 9 shows Employment (a), Waste collection, treatment & disposal services industry and Total industry, Indexed to 2007-08.  Footnote: (a) Refers only to the private sector.

In 2016-17 total compensation of employees in the Waste collection, treatment and disposal services industry was $2,670 million.


Income and Expenditure on Waste Collection, Treatment and Disposal Services

In 2016-17 the total supply of (or income from) Waste collection, treatment and disposal services by the Waste collection, treatment and disposal services industry, in basic prices, was $13,430 million.

    In 2016-17 the total use of (or expenditure on) Waste collection, treatment and disposal Services in purchasers’ prices was valued at $14,420 million, of which the sectors spending the most were:
    • the Construction industry, with $1,489 million
    • the Manufacturing industry, with $1,085 million.

    Figure 10. Monetary waste use, by industry, 2016-17
    Figure 10 shows Monetary waste use, by industry, 2016-17