National Waste Report 2010

Environment Protection and Heritage Council and the Department of Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts, 2010



In November 2008, Australia's environment ministers agreed to prepare the first comprehensive national report on resource recovery and waste management. Just prior to this, the Senate report Management of Australia's waste streams had concluded that Australia lacks fundamental information on most aspects of waste generation and management, including physical, financial, economic and social aspects, and needs adequate analytical tools to process such information.

On 5 November 2009, Australia? environment ministers, through the Environment Protection and Heritage Council (EPHC), released the National Waste Policy: Less waste, more resources. The policy sets out a comprehensive agenda for national co-ordinated action on waste across six areas, and marks a fundamental shift in the approach to waste management and resource recovery.

A key strategy under the policy is the development and publication of three-yearly reports on current and future trends in waste and resource recovery. These reports will be supported by access to integrated national core data that are accurate, meaningful, up-to-date and accessible.

The National Waste Report 2010 presents a contemporary national picture of resource recovery and waste management in Australia. It documents what is known about the status of and trends in resource recovery and waste management in Australia, particularly in the light of trends in waste generation. Based on key statistical information, it provides our best understanding of the main aspects of the waste system and how it works.

It reviews the current state of infrastructure and explores some scenarios for the future, including innovative technologies that may be harnessed to enhance our waste management practices. The information in this report will assist governments, businesses and the community to make sound policies and decisions, and will help individuals to contribute to waste minimisation in meaningful and achievable ways.


The report covers

  • municipal solid waste (MSW)—that is, household and council waste
  • commercial and industrial waste (C&I)—that is, waste from business, educational institutions and government
  • construction and demolition waste (C&D)—that is, waste from residential, civil and commercial construction and demolition activity,* and
  • hazardous waste.

It does not cover gaseous, liquid or radioactive waste, and it does not explicitly cover biosolids (the solid waste from sewage treatment plants), although data presented for some jurisdictions include disposal figures for biosolids. Waste and recycling in Australia? external territories are outside the scope of this report.

The report presents information on several issues faced by those who make policy for urban, regional and remote Australia:

  • the amount of waste generated and the make-up of that waste;
  • the impacts and benefits of waste, including those associated with landfills, resource recovery, hazardous waste and hazardous substances, organic waste, litter and marine debris;
  • how we manage waste, including a brief history of waste management; the values and choices displayed by Australians in relation to resource recovery and waste generation; policies and regulations; strategies such as extended producer responsibility; how the waste and resource recovery markets operate; regional and remote area issues; and waste infrastructure and technology;
  • data gathering about waste and recycling in Australia.


There is no single, definitive, national information source on resource recovery and waste management in Australia, largely due to the fact that the Australian waste industry is regulated mainly by states and territories rather than by one central body. The information in this report has been drawn from a range of published sources, including

  • information from Australian Government agencies including the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS)
  • information from state, territory and local governments
  • various industry information sources, and
  • Waste and Recycling in Australia—three reports prepared by Hyder Consulting:
    • one published in 2006, covering the period 2002?3
    • one published in 2008 covering the period 2006?7, and
    • one published in 2009 updating data for 2006?7 and providing additional data.1

Several analyses were commissioned to supplement and strengthen current knowledge. These covered the following topics:

  • capacity of landfills until 2030, and their cost and performance;
  • current and future innovations, trends and opportunities in the technology and practices that are utilised in waste and resource recovery;
  • employment related to landfill disposal of waste and to alternatives such as recycling;
  • climate change aspects of resource recovery and waste management;
  • lessons learned from overseas product stewardship/extended producer responsibility schemes;
  • the degrees to which people value their participation in kerbside and workplace recycling;
  • current waste and resource recovery data and the potential value of a new national waste data system.

1This excludes construction waste from owner/occupier renovations, which is classified as part of the municipal waste stream.

Parameters of the data

The National Waste Report 2010 is a first step towards establishing baseline data and developing a strong and comprehensive knowledge base on waste management and resource recovery in Australia. It seeks to present key information for each jurisdiction, provide a clear understanding of national trends and their implications for sustainability, and respond to the community? desire for information about how sustainability can be incorporated more fully into daily life.

The authors of this report have taken a ?lice in time? approach, focusing on the data set for the 2006?7 financial year, for which the fullest information was available when the report was being prepared. Much of this information was first gathered by Hyder Consulting in 2008 and revised, in consultation with state and territory governments, during 2009. Other material from various sources supplements the Hyder information.

The fact that waste and recycling data are generated in variable ways by a range of agencies inevitably means that there are wide disparities in the detail, geographic coverage, scale, time frames and scope of the data. Within those limitations, every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of the information presented. Comprehensive data were not always available, and readers should exercise a degree of caution when using the information in the report.

Main findings of the report: a summary*

Waste, resource recovery and recycling in Australia

  • There have been major changes to the way society manages waste in the last two decades.
  • Recycling and waste generation have both increased.
  • The recycling and waste sector is valued at between $7 and $11.5 billion.

National waste generation profile

  • 43 777 000 tonnes of waste were generated in Australia in 2006-07.
Projected waste generation
  • If waste generation grows at 4.5% per annum, Australia will generate 81 072 593 tonnes of waste in 2020-21.

Per capita recycling and landfill disposal

  • Per capita, Australia generated around 2080 kg (2.08 tonnes) of waste in 2006-07, of which 1080 kg (1.08 tonnes) was recycled.

National recycling profile

  • In 2006-07, 22 707 000 tonnes or 52% of Australia's waste was recycled
  • Of this quantity,
  • 42% was from the construction and demolition (C&D) waste stream
  • 36% was from the commercial and industrial (C&I) waste stream, and
  • 22% was from the municipal solid waste (MSW) stream.

Waste composition

  • Organic material made up 72% of the municipal solid waste sent to landfill in Australia in 2006-07.

Landfill disposal profile

  • 48% of Australian waste was landfilled in 2006-07.
  • Australia has sufficient unused physical landfill capacity in most of the larger urban centres but this may be constrained by social and environmental factors.
  • Landfill standards in Australia have improved in the past 20 years, but controls could be further improved, particularly for small-to-medium sized landfills.

Organic waste

  • Organic waste accounts for 62% of total MSW, C&I and C&D waste disposed to landfill.
  • 32% of available organic waste is recycled.

Social.values and behaviour

  • 99% of households undertake recycling and re.use.
  • 80% of employees would like to see more recycling in the workplace.
  • Lack of information, facilities and services present barriers to additional recycling.
  • National litter levels are trending downwards.

Regional, remote and Indigenous communities

  • Almost 33% of Australians live in regional and remote Australia and about 30% of waste is sent to landfills which service these areas.
  • There are particular challenges in providing recycling and waste management services to regional, remote and Indigenous communities.

Hazardous substances and hazardous waste

  • The estimated quantity of hazardous waste generated in Australia doubled between 2002 and 2006 to around 1.19 million tonnes per annum, but this figure is not comprehensive.
  • An average of 30 000 tonnes of hazardous waste is exported from Australia annually.

Product Stewardship

  • Product stewardship is an approach for managing the impacts of a product or material during and at end-of-life.

Data and classification

  • Data collection at present does not provide comprehensive national data on waste and recycling.

*These principal findings are also in the National Waste Overview published in November 2009, and can be found at

See also