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Key departmental publications, e.g. annual reports, budget papers and program guidelines are available in our online archive.

Much of the material listed on these archived web pages has been superseded, or served a particular purpose at a particular time. It may contain references to activities or policies that have no current application. Many archived documents may link to web pages that have moved or no longer exist, or may refer to other documents that are no longer available.

More with Less - Initiatives to promote sustainable consumption

Environmental Economics Research Paper No.3
Prepared by Deni Greene Consulting Services,
Australian Consumers Association and National Key Centre for Design, RMIT for the
Department of the Environment, Sport and Territories

Commonwealth of Australia, 1996
ISBN 0 642 24869 9

Detailed Analysis of Initiatives

Reducing Consumption of Harmful Chemicals

Use of some chemicals create detrimental effects on the environment. Effects include damage to flora and fauna, damage to the ozone layer, contribution to air pollution, and impact on water quality, either through addition of nutrients or increased concentrations of substances which affect the health of humans or other species.

The aim of initiatives to reduce consumption of harmful chemicals is to use techniques not requiring chemical use, to shift to substances which perform the same function but do not produce the environmental effects, or where no alternative exists, to reduce the amount of harmful chemicals used.

Indicators of environmental change are the amounts of chemicals used, the amounts of chemicals discharged into sewage systems or into water bodies, and concentrations of the chemicals in air.


Initiative Albury Phosphorus Awareness and Reduction Campaign
Location Albury, NSW
Date 1993–1995
Initiator Albury City Council, City of Wodonga, later joined by Corowa Council
Type of Initiative Information
Description Albury City Council undertook a community awareness program aimed at reducing the discharge of phosphorus from all sources in the urban environment. The campaign consisted of two messages to reduce phosphorus input to sewerage systems: use low or zero concentration phosphorus detergents and wherever possible, wash only full loads of laundry. Two messages aimed at reduced input to stormwater systems: wash cars on lawns, pick up and bury pet droppings, don't overfertilise gardens and lawns, don't sweep waste into drains.

The elements of the campaign are: promotional material, media coverage, a guest speaker program, and a schools program. To provide information for consumers about detergents, the Council initially distributed a list showing phosphorus content of available detergents. Later, the State Government signed an agreement with the Australian Chemical Specialties Manufacturers, the industry association representing detergent manufacturers, under which organisation members would label phosphate content of their products.

Results of Initiative Market research has shown that awareness of the link between phosphorus and blue green algae jumped from less than 10 percent before the campaign to 96 percent in a May 1994 survey and 94 percent in a November 1994 survey. In November 1994, 31 percent of those surveyed stated that they had changed detergent brands as a result of the campaign; 28 percent said they were now using phosphorus free laundry powders and 49 percent said they were using detergents with less than 5 percent phosphorus. Over 50 percent said they wash their cars on the lawn.

Phosphorus loads in the influent to Albury's largest sewage treatment plant averaged 142 kilograms per day before the campaign. The June 1995 average is now 112 kilograms per day, a decrease of 21 percent.

Influences on Outcome Sewage treatment plant data showed that phosphorus influent loads increased during a period when there was a lessening of public information provided. Further promotion was then associated with a fall in phosphorus loads.
Applicability Labelling of detergents and other products can be applied in other locations. Awareness campaigns similar to that conducted in AlburyWodonga are relevant in many locations and on a variety of subjects.
Reference Albury–Wodonga–Corowa Phosphorus Action Campaign Working Group (1995) Albury–Wodonga–Corowa Phosphorus Action Campaign Performance Review Report July 1995.


Initiative Regulations for Ozone Depleting Substances
Location Nationwide, enforced to varying degrees in states
Date 1989 for CFCs in aerosols, 1994 for CFC refrigerants; 31 December 1995 for hand held halon (yellow) fire extinguishers
Initiator Commonwealth and State Governments
Type of Initiative Regulations
Description In accordance with the Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer, and subsequent international protocols, Australia agreed to phase out CFCs, halons, methyl chloroform and carbon tetrachloride by 1 January 1996. Implementing legislation was adopted by States.

Sale and purchase of aerosols containing CFCs was banned as of 31 December 1989, after having been announced earlier. There was strong consumer pressure for a rapid phase out of these products. Aerosol manufacturers cooperated in substituting other propellants for the banned chemicals. A few exceptions were permitted for industrial safety uses and asthma puffers. Only asthma puffers continue to be exempt.

Import and manufacture of refrigeration equipment using CFCs was banned as of August 1994. This affected about 20 percent of refrigeration equipment.

The Department of Administrative Services Centre for Environmental Management (DASCEM) has established a Halon Bank to collect halon fire extinguishers. Fire stations are serving as collection points. Apublicity campaign, launched by the Minister for the Environment, to inform people to turn in their halon fire extinguishers is being conducted from September 1995 to January 1996.

Results of Initiative CFCs have been removed from aerosols. The ban on CFC refrigerants is considered to be about 95 percent effective, according to the EPA.

DASCEM estimates that it has collected about 500 tonnes of halons, out of a previously existing stock in households and elsewhere of 1200 to 1500 tonnes. The collection figures predate the inception of the publicity campaign. That campaign is intended to substantially accelerate removal of the fire extinguishers prior to the ban date.

Influences on Outcome High levels of public concern and extensive publicity created a climate in which phaseout of aerosols was strongly supported. Cost of replacement propellants were cheaper than CFCs, so aerosol manufacturers were not resistant to change.
Applicability Bans are clearly effective, especially where they are strongly supported by an aware public. They could be applied where appropriate circumstances warrant the complete removal of a harmful substance.
Reference Townsend, R., EPA(1995), personal communication.

Victorian EPA (1994) Ozone Protection in Victoria.

DASCEM (undated) The Nasty Truth about Yellow Fire Extinguishers.


Reducing Resources Used in Consumer Products

Everyday products used in Australian homes consume vast quantities of natural resources, energy and water in their manufacture. Additional resources are used in manufacture of the packaging for these products and in transporting materials for manufacture and in distributing the products. Obtaining these resources and manufacturing products and packaging may result in air and water pollution, damage to land, impacts on flora and fauna, use of water, emission of greenhouse gases, and other effects.

The aim of sustainable consumption is to reduce the overall amount of resources used. One way in which this can be done is to change the design of products so that they involve use of less or less impacting resources. Another is to recycle materials, which not only reduces the resources required as raw materials, but also may require less input of energy and water.

An indicator of change is the amount of particular materials recycled.


Initiative Marketing of Recycled and Unbleached Paper Products
Location Nationwide
Date ongoing
Initiator private sector
Type of Initiative Provision of environmentally preferable products
Description Over the past five years consumers have been offered an increasing number of choices in the paper they buy and in the packaging of consumer products. Variables include inclusion of various proportions of recycled materials, source of the recycled materials, such as postconsumer waste, paper bleached with different chemicals, unbleached paper, and paper produced from fibres other than wood. Nowhere is this range of consumer choices more evident than on supermarket shelves holding toilet paper.
Results of Initiative In 1994–95, recycled paper is forecast to make up over 53 percent of the total fibre used in paper production in Australia. Although the proportion of recycled paper approaches 80 percent of the fibre used in Australian packaging, it provides a much lower share of other types of paper.

Sales of recycled toilet paper average about 100,000 cases per month, which is slightly over 8 percent of the market. Unbleached toilet paper sales are about 25,000 cases per month, or about 2 percent of the market. Quite apart from the specific sales data, however, the marketing of alternative paper products, reflecting public concern about chlorine bleaching and attitudes toward recycling and logging in native forests, has led to massive changes in the mainstream paper industry over the past five years. All new paper mills have eliminated use of chlorine bleaching and either moved to use of alternative, less environmentally damaging bleaches or to production of unbleached paper.

Only a very small amount of wood from native forests is still used for paper making in Australia. The remainder is all either plantation grown or recycled paper fibre. Recycled inputs to paper production have grown for all types of paper and paper packaging.

Influences on Outcome The controversy about the proposed Wesley Vale Pulp Mill brought issues about chlorine bleaching to a broad public audience. Paper recycling issues have received continuous media attention.
Applicability Consumer attitudes toward new environmentally preferable products will undoubtedly influence the manufacturers of competing products.
Reference Allen, P. , Recycling and Resource Recovery Council, Vi c t o r i a (1995), personal communication.

Maunsell Pty. Ltd. (1994) Monitoring of Performance against Waste Minimisation and Recycling Targets. Final Report, prepared for EPA.

Nielsen, A.C. (1995), Selling Area Marketing Index, June.


Initiative National Recycling Plan Targets
Location Nationwide
Date 1992
Initiator Australian and New Zealand Environment and Conservation Council (ANZECC), in agreement with manufacturers
Type of Initiative Voluntary target, information
Description Targets for recycling were adopted in 1992 under the National Waste Minimisation and Recycling Strategy. A key target is 50 percent reduction, based on 1990 levels, of waste and domestic waste per capita going to landfill by the year 2000. Another target was for all local governments to adopt waste management plans by 1993. Specific recycling rate targets set for a range of materials are shown below. These are to be achieved by 1995, except where indicated.
  • glass containers 45%
  • aluminium cans 65%
  • liquidpaperboard cartons 20%
  • steel cans (by 1996) 25%
  • steel cans (by 2000) 45%
  • newsprint 40% waste oil collected 70%
  • waste oil recycled/reused 80%
  • rigid/semirigid containers 25%
    • HDPE 50%
    • PET 30%
    • PVC 15%
    • polypropylene 15%
    • polystyrene 10%
Results of Initiative A 1994 study of performance on this initiative found that baseline data had not been determined in many cases, so it was difficult to determine whether the 50 percent reduction of waste to landfill would be achieved, but it appeared that insufficient progress had been made so far. The target for local waste management plans by local councils was not met: only 24 percent had plans by early 1994. Recycling rates for glass, aluminium cans, newsprint, and PET containers would be achieved. The consultants were doubtful that targets for steel cans and HDPE and PVC containers and waste oil would be met. They could not determine whether other targets would be met.
Influences on Outcome Although there was a large amount of media and community focus on recycling at the time the targets were set, the issue's profile was much lower in following years. Little effort was made by Government to make sure industry and local governments were progressing toward the targets.
Applicability Establishment of voluntary industry and local government targets appears to be of limited value unless progress towards the targets is monitored frequently and some penalty attaches to failure.
Reference Maunsell Pty. Ltd. (1994) Monitoring of Performance against Waste Minimisation and Recycling Targets. Final Report, prepared for EPA.


Initiative Queensland Tyre Recycling Program
Location Queensland
Date 1995
Initiator Queensland Government
Type of Initiative Financial incentives, regulation
Description Disposal of the large volume of tyres discarded every year is an increasing problem. Some unscrupulous operators charge firms to remove unwanted tyres, then dispose of the tyres in abandoned buildings, quarries and mines. As a result of several large fires of abandoned tyres, Queensland instituted a multiprong program. It classified tyres as a regulated waste under the Environment Protection Act, meaning that transport, storage and disposal of all tyres is regulated. It forced those who illegally disposed of tyres to recover them at their own cost. It worked with industry, establishing a Draft Code of Practice and a Recycling Industrial Incentives Scheme.

The incentive scheme assists companies in developing technology and equipment for use of recycled tyre materials. It provides 50 percent funding to industries participating in the National Industry Extension Service (NIES) program. As part of the program, companies initial develop business and export plans, then progress to more detailed development of material product design programs.

Results of Initiative Illegal dumping of tyres appears to be much less of a problem than prior to the initiation of the program. Reuse and recycling still haven't progressed to a point where they are able to handle the majority of the tyres disposed of. Retreading only handles about 18 to 25 percent of discarded tyres. Several industries have developed with the assistance of the incentive scheme, including: Leaky Pipe Australia, which manufactures perforated garden hose and Master Fibre, which is producing matting for use in playgrounds. Other companies are developing equipment for shredding and reusing tyre materials.
Influences on Outcome Local industry is unwilling to take responsibility for imported tyres and to make long term voluntary commitments, so a more formal regulatory approach was needed to obtain action.
Applicability May be applicable in other locations.
Reference Muller, W. , Queensland Department of Environment and Heritage (1995), personal communication.


Initiative Recycle Maroochy Program
Location Maroochy Shire, Queensland
Date ongoing since 1993
Initiator Maroochy Shire Council
Type of Initiative Financial incentives
Description To encourage maximum costeffective recycling, the Council adopted an scheme which provides rate rebates to householders who recycle. It provides homes with a 240 litre recycling bin fitted with a transponder that transmits data on the bin number to an onboard reader on the collection truck. Rebates against rates are credited in the amount of $20 for 20 or more collections, $15 for 15 to 20 collections, and $10 for 10 to 15 collections. A Recycling Guide explains the scheme and describes what happens to each of the products collected. The scheme was publicised by local media, public events, and pamphlets sent out with rate notices.
Results of Initiative The scheme has been successful and profitable for the Council. Over 95 percent of residents participate in the recycling. Despite the presence of large numbers of holiday homes, the average presentation rate is 76 percent per collection day. The average recycling bin yields 6.5 kilograms of materials each collection; paper is not collected. In the first three years of operation, over 10,000 tonnes of recyclables was collected, sorted and sold. That represents about 20 percent of the domestic waste stream. The Council has made an income from the scheme of $1,200,000.
Influences on Outcome unknown
Applicability Appears to be applicable in other locations.
Reference Kleinschmidt, J. and McNicoll, D., Maroochy Council (1994) The Recycle Maroochy Program, paper presented at seminar on Effective Waste Management.


Initiative Melbourne Pay-by-Weight Waste Minimisation Trial
Location Melbourne
Date 1991–1994
Initiator City of Melbourne, with Graduate School of Environmental Management, Monash University
Type of Initiative Simulated user pays system
Description During a three month period, from November 1993 to February 1994, rubbish bins for 100 households were fitted with a microchip computerised identity tag, and a weighing device was attached to the lifting arm used on trucks collecting residential rubbish. Residents were informed monthly about the quantity of waste they set out for collection in the form of a Waste Statement. The statement also indicated how the quantity compared with average quantities set out by residents in the surrounding trial area, and how much the resident would be charged if a user pays system were introduced. Educational material on reducing waste was also sent out with the statement. Rubbish for control groups in the same area was also weighed, but no statements were sent out.

Another group of residents in multiunit dwellings with shared rubbish bins also participated in the trial. Residents in each unit were supposed to receive statements indicating total waste set out by their block of units, their share, and the usage based charge that would apply, based on equal distribution among all units in the block. Statements were actually never sent out.

The entire study covered three years, although problems with the weighing technology meant that the actual trial was only for three months. Waste stream analyses were conducted over the full study period. Community education activities occurred over the full periods.

Results of Initiative Problems with the weighing technology meant that the effect of the trial on the amounts of waste generated could not be determined. Views critical of the trial and user pays approaches appeared in some local media. Waste generated from the whole municipality decreased during the study period from over 300 tonnes per week in 1991 to less than 200 tonnes per week in 1993.
Influences on Outcome Boundary changes to the municipality meant that the trial had to be cut short.

Hypothetical charges are unlikely to produce the same effect as actual user pays charges.

Technical problems limited the effectiveness of the trial.

Applicability With affordable, reliable technology, pay-by-weight schemes may be applicable in some locations. The City of Melbourne found that they would have to upgrade the bin lifting arm of their vehicles in order to obtain reliable results from a weighing system. This would cost hundreds of thousands of dollars. On new trucks it might be more practical.
Reference Graduate School of Environmental Science, Monash University (1995) Wising Up to Weight. A Waste Minimisation Scheme for the City of Melbourne. This report fully documents results of the project.


Initiative Ban on Recyclables in Rubbish
Location Wangaratta, Vic.
Date 1994
Initiator Wangaratta City Council
Type of Initiative Simulated user pays system
Description Council inserted a provision into its local law on garbage, which prohibited inclusion of recyclables in rubbish bins. The penalty for repeated offenses could be up to $400. The law was never policed, but it was widely publicised. The provision of the law has now been removed because the Council has been amalgamated and restructured.
Results of Initiative Community awareness of the importance of recycling was greatly increased by the initiative, according to the council officer who was responsible for the initiative at the time. Recycling participation rates increased from 56 percent before the law was enacted to 91 percent last year.
Influences on Outcome Unknown
Applicability Unknown
Reference Timms, D., Wodonga Council, formerly with Wangaratta Council (1995), personal communication.

Contents for Detailed Analysis

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