30-31 Oct 2019
ICC Sydney, Darling Harbour

Highlights: Australia’s National Waste Report 2018

Dec 12, 2018 Industry Reports

Australia's 2018 National Waste Report has been released

Prepared for the Department of the Environment and Energy,  the latest report is the culmination of two years of work by Blue Environment in obtaining data from the states and territories. 

What the Report Covers

The report covers waste generated or managed in Australia. Different parts of the report cover different types of waste. Most of the report focuses on core waste – materials generally managed by the waste and resource recovery sector, comprising solid non-hazardous materials and hazardous waste including liquids.

The Report looks at the waste management method, including the infrastructure that treats it (landfill, compost, alternative waste treatment) and waste fate (disposal, recycling, energy recovery and long-term storage.

Some of the Report findings were:

  • Australians generated 67 million tonnes of waste in 2016-17 with 37 million recycled. The numbers are largely similar to the 66 million tonnes generated in 2014-15 and 36 million recycled.
  • On a per capita basis, waste generation rates are declining.
  • There was a significant decline in scrap metal (23 per cent), plastics (79 per cent) and paper and cardboard (39 per cent) in 2017-18
  • In terms of waste stream data, hazardous waste comprised 6.3 million tonnes generated in 2016-17, with 27 per cent recycled, 59 per cent landfilled and 13 per cent sent to a treatment facility.
  • From 2006-07 to 2016-17, hazardous waste generation increased by about 26 per cent, while the recycling rate decreased from 34 to 27 per cent. More than half of this increase is attributed to greater quantities of materials, including contaminated soil.
  • The plastics recycling rate remained relatively stable. With recycling rates at just 12%, plastics may be ‘low hanging fruit’ for improving overall resource recovery rates. Where the value of plastics is too low for recycling, either in Australia or off-shore, processing into refuse-derived fuels offers an alternative.
  • 30 million tonnes of organic waste was generated in 2016-17, remaining fairly stable over an 11-year period while Australia’s population increased. The recycling rate over this time increased from 39 to 52 per cent.
  • More local governments around Australia are beginning to collect food and garden waste in their organics kerbside
    bin collections, which should see an increase in food waste recovery in future years.
  •  A long-term increase in waste exports, except for a decline between 2013-14 and 2015-16 which it attributes to a scrap metals decline.
  • Exports of waste materials for recycling were strongly affected by the Chinese restrictions, but the displaced materials mostly found new export destinations. The breakdown shows this occurred for paper and plastics and in both cases increased to Indonesia, Vietnam, Malaysia and Thailand.
  • Despite its restrictions and reduced Australian imports, in 2017-18 China remained Australia’s biggest destination for exports of waste materials for recycling.  In saying that, China’s Sword Policy has forced many companies to absorb financial losses and remain financially stricken, with local governments and ratepayers facing higher costs.
  • The Report also comments other major importers of waste materials (Malaysia, Thailand and Vietnam) may also introduce tighter controls over imports of waste materials. making it “likely that export markets for waste materials for recycling will become more constrained globally, and Australia will need to increase on-shore recycling of the major export commodities of metals, paper and cardboard and plastics.”
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