Waste Account, Australia, Experimental Estimates

This is not the latest release View the latest release

Experimental estimates of solid waste in Australia. Physical and monetary data are presented in a SEEA aligned environmental-economic accounts format

Reference period
2016-17 financial year

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).

  1. 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).

  1. 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).

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%).

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.

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.

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%.
  1. 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).

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

  1. 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.

Data downloads

Tables 1-8 Waste account, Australia, experimental estimates

In this issue

Show all


The Waste Account, Australia, Experimental Estimates, 2016-17 is the result of a collaboration between the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) and the Department of the Environment and Energy (DoEE). This account is the first to be released under the Common national approach to environmental-economic accounting in Australia.

The System of Environmental-Economic Accounting (SEEA) was the agreed framework to be used in the national approach. Solid waste accounts are part of the SEEA and, where possible, the published tables align with this framework. The core waste account tables provide information on the generation (supply) and management (use) of waste in the economy by businesses and households in physical terms. This allows for analysis of issues related to waste, such as waste imports and exports, recycling and the circular economy. The ABS last produced a Waste Account in 2014. These new experimental estimates use a different scope and data sources to meet current needs and comparison is not advised.

The DoEE releases the National Waste Report every two years that provide a range of data on the topic of waste. These experimental waste accounts align with the National Waste Report, and utilise this report as a key data source, along with data from the ABS' National Accounts.

Physical data is modelled to include further details of industry and waste type. Further details of methodology and data sources used can be found on the methodology page of this publication

This publication

This joint publication presents a waste account and associated statistics at the national level, for the reference year 2016-17, including:

  • Physical data on the Supply of waste across the economy
  • Physical data on the Use of waste across the economy, with a focus on waste fate under the Waste Collection, Treatment and Disposal Services industry
  • Monetary data on expenditure and income for waste services across industry sectors
  • Physical data on the supply and use of E-waste, by waste type
  • Physical data on waste exports and imports
  • Key indicators about the Waste Collection, Treatment and Disposal Services industry.

Detailed information can be found via the Data downloads section.

Further synthesis on the waste account and the national waste policy is available on the DoEE’s environmental-economic accounting website: A common national approach to environmental-economic accounting.

Policy context

Australia is moving towards a circular economy rather than the traditional linear ‘take, make, use and dispose’ approach, with businesses and governments recognising the opportunities waste materials provide and the economic value they retain. This is a development occurring across the globe, including in the European Union, Canada, and Australia’s major trading partners, including China.

Critical for this transition is the development of our domestic waste and recycled material markets. The Waste Account, Australia, Experimental Estimates, 2016-17 provides important information for market development. Presenting physical waste data paired with monetary data, from a whole-of-economy perspective, improves the information base available for policy and industry investment decisions.


The ABS seeks feedback on this paper from interested stakeholders on technical and conceptual issues and identification of further appropriate data sources of the accounts. For submissions and feedback please email environment@abs.gov.au.

The ABS Privacy Policy outlines how the ABS will handle any personal information that you provide to the ABS.

Ongoing engagement with various government and industry stakeholders will inform the refinement of future waste accounts in line with user needs.

History of changes

Show all

23/09/2019 - An additional footnote has been added to Table 2 to clarify exports for Tyres and Other Hazardous Waste. No further changes have been made to this issue.

Previous catalogue number

This release previously used catalogue number 4602.0.55.005.

Back to top of the page