1301.0 - Year Book Australia, 2009–10  
Previous ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 04/06/2010   
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Contents >> Environment >> Waste generation and disposal


More than two-thirds (69%) of Australian adults were concerned about the accumulation and disposal of household waste, according to an ABS survey in 2007-08. Australia's growing economy and its increasing use of energy and other resources have brought prosperity and wellbeing to many Australians. However, as a result more waste is produced than ever before. Associated with this has been an increase in waste diversity, toxicity and complexity, including electronic waste - e-waste - as one of the fastest growing types of waste (ABS, 2006).

In 2006-07, Australians generated nearly 44 million tonnes of solid waste, or 2,080 kilograms of waste per person (table 2.24).


Total generated
Per person(a)
Diversion rate
'000 t
'000 t
'000 t
% t

New South Wales
15 360
7 365
7 995
2 230
10 285
3 925
6 360
1 980
8 081
4 302
3 779
1 930
South Australia
3 318
1 144
2 173
2 090
Western Australia
5 247
3 539
1 708
2 490
1 056
Northern Territory
Australian Capital Territory
2 310
43 777
21 069
22 707
2 080

- nil or rounded to zero (including null cells)
(a) Figures for 'Kilograms per person' for Tasmania and the Northern Territory are estimated based on figures from the National Waste Overview.
Source: Environment Protection and Heritage Council (EPHC), National Waste Overview 2009.
Note: 1. There are differences between jurisdictional definitions, classifications and methodologies for measuring waste data which may also cover different materials. Comparative use of these data may therefore be inappropriate and should only be done with caution.2. Gaps in the Tasmanian and Northern Territory recycling data for Municipal solid waste (MSW), Commercial and Industrial (C&I) and Construction and Demolition (C&D) waste mean it is not possible to provide diversion rates for these jurisdicitions. NT data are for Darwin City council's MSW and the 30,000 recycling figure is the quantity of green waste generated in cubic metres.3. New data for the Northern Territory for the period 2006-07 were identified in November 2009 but time did not allow these data to be incorporated into this document. The new data show that total waste generated in the NT was 374,000 tonnes, waste disposed was 361,000 tonnes and waste recycled was 13,000 tonnes (all of which was derived from MSW and excludes listed wastes).4. Figures for Victoria represent the amount of waste accepted at licensed Victorian landfills, excluding material used as cover. These figures from Victoria were calculated by taking the tonnes of material received at landfills (including cover material sourced off site) and reducing this by 15 per cent to allow for cover material. Likewise, figures for cover fill is excluded from figures for Tasmania.

Waste generation has increased, especially in the past decade, with increases in both landfill disposal and recovery. The amount of solid waste generated increased by 11.4 million tonnes or (35%) from 32,379,000 tonnes in 2002-03 to 43,777,000 in 2006-07. In 2006-07, of the total waste generated, 48% was disposed to landfill and the remainder was recycled (graph 2.25). This compares with 54% going into landfills in 2002-03 (EPHC, 2009; Hyder, 2009).

2.25 Waste disposal and recycling, All sectors, Australia
Graph: 2.25 Waste disposal and recycling, All sectors, Australia

Household waste and recycling practices

Household recycling is influenced by three main factors: the quantity or volume of recyclable material generated by a household; accessibility/availability of households to disposal facilities; and household interest. The growth in recycling may be attributed to a number of factors including the provision of new and improved municipal kerbside collection services (increased collection frequency, better collection containers and a wider range of materials or products collected), community education programs, higher landfill levies in many states and territories and the development of markets for recycled materials (ABS, 2006).

2.26 Recycling/Reuse of waste by households
Graph: 2.26 Recycling/Reuse of waste by households

In March 2009, almost all households (99%) in Australia recycled and/or reused at home. Of these, 98% of households had recycled, and 86% had reused waste (graph 2.26). All states and territories recorded a household recycling rate greater than 95%. Queensland, however, recorded a drop in waste reuse from 92% in 2006 to 87% in 2009.

The high levels of recycling and reusing activity largely reflects the extent of recycling services or facilities available to households. For example, paper products (including cardboard or newspapers); plastic products (bottles and bags) and glass were the most recycled waste materials in Australia. These materials are recycled through kerbside recycling services, to which about 91% of Australian households currently have access (graph 2.27).

2.27 Waste Items recycled/reused by households
Graph: 2.27 Waste Items recycled/reused by households

Compared with 2006, paper products continued to be the most recycled waste material in Australia (graph 2.27). In 2009, about 99% of households recycled paper products in the Australian Capital Territory, 98% in Victoria and 96% in New South Wales. Paper product recycling was lowest in Queensland (92%). Significant increases in paper product recycling was noted in the Northern Territory (74% in 2006 to 93% in 2009).

Plastic bottles were the next most frequently recycled waste material by 94% of Australian households. Plastic bottles were the most recycled waste material in the Australian Capital Territory (99%) and the Northern Territory (96%). In Tasmania, glass was the most recycled waste material (94%), while in South Australia, cans were the most recycled waste material (96%).

There have been slight changes to the way households recycle waste. Australians were less likely to have waste collected from the house by private collection, take it to a special area at the dump or waste transfer station, take it to a central collection point other than a dump or waste transfer station or dispose by other means in 2009 than they were in 2006. This can be partly attributed to the increase in Australian households' use of municipal kerbside recycling, which has increased from 87% in 2006 to 91% in 2009 (graph 2.28).

Graph: 2.28 WAYS HOUSEHOLDS RECYCLE WASTE: 2006 and 2009

However, nearly a quarter of households (23%) disposed of electronic equipment and more than half of households (51%) disposed of household appliances through collection with non-recycled garbage in the 12 months prior to March 2009.

Across Australia, there has been a shift in the frequency of collection or drop-off of recyclable items since 2006. The frequency for weekly collection or drop-off service has reduced from 25% in 2006 to 20% in 2009. On the other hand, fortnightly disposal frequency nationally has increased from 75% in 2006 to 82% in 2009. Another significant change was the proportion of households across Australia recycling on an 'as required' basis, down from 67% of households in 2006 to only 16% in 2009 (graph 2.29).

2.29 frequency of collection/drop-off of household waste
Graph: 2.29 frequency of collection/drop-off of household waste

The most common reason reported by households for not recycling or reusing any waste items was 'does not use any or enough materials to warrant recycling or not appropriate' (95%). One in seven households (14%) reported they were 'not interested/too much effort/cost' and 13% reported 'no service/facilities provided' as a reason. One-tenth of Australian households (10%) offered no reason for not recycling.

2.30 hazardous waste items disposed
Graph: 2.30 hazardous waste items disposed

Of all the hazardous waste items disposed of, household batteries were the most common, with 68% of households disposing of this item during the 12 months to March 2009 (graph 2.30). The proportion of households disposing of household batteries has been steadily increasing since 2000, when 57% of households reported disposing of this item. The highest disposers of household batteries were the Northern Territory (88% of households), followed by the Australian Capital Territory (73%).

Medicines, drugs or ointments were the second most commonly disposed hazardous waste item. Just under one-third (32%) of Australian households disposed of these items, with the Australian Capital Territory being the highest at 38% of households.
Hazardous waste was disposed of in a number of different ways. The most common way of disposal was to have the waste collected from the house with usual (non-recycled) garbage, accounting for 82% of households, followed by taking the items to a business or shop/central point, with 43% of households using this method.

Awareness of hazardous waste disposal services in the local area has increased across Australia from 2006, when 32% of households were aware compared to 40% in 2009. The largest increase occurred in the Northern Territory, where awareness rose from 27% to 43%, and in Queensland (32% to 46%) (graph 2.31).

2.31 Awareness of household waste disposal services and facilities in area: 2007
Graph: 2.31 Awareness of household waste disposal services ^and facilities in area: 2007

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