A number of surveys have tagged Australia to be one of the world’s biggest waste-generating countries. According to the Department of the Environment and Energy’s 2018 National Waste Report, the country generated 67 million tonnes of waste in the calendar year of 2016-2017 alone. From huge volumes of rubbish generated in every household to the country’s lack of recycling infrastructure, Australia has a number of waste-related problems to confront.
Masonry materials are the most common form of waste collected in Australia
With up to 17.1 million tonnes collected between 2016 and 2017, masonry materials take up the biggest chunk of Australia’s waste quota. They are followed by organic waste at 14.2 million tonnes, ash at 12.3 million tonnes, hazardous waste at 6.3 million tonnes, and paper, cardboard, and metals at more than 5 million tonnes apiece. Perhaps the key takeaway here is that Australian companies working in the masonry and construction industries have the biggest responsibility to re-examine their waste generation habits.
The average Australian household generates at least 1.5 tonnes of rubbish every year
Australian households, on the other hand, can also do their part to reduce the waste they generate. In 2014, Greenpeace Australia reported that one Australian family can produce up to 1.5 tonnes of rubbish annually. The bulk of that rubbish is plastic packaging and food waste. But as per the ABC, up to 8 billion Australian dollars’ worth of edible food is thrown into the household bins as well. That means it is critical for Australian families to revisit their everyday consumption habits—so that waste is reduced, and fewer things go to waste at all.
Though waste generation has increased over the last two decades, so has Australia’s recycling rate
Of more than 54 million tonnes of core waste, about 21.7 million tonnes of it goes to the landfill. On the other hand, up to 31.7 million tonnes of waste—a significant 58%--is segregated for recycling. Australia’s national recycling rate has thus gone up, but as detailed in the item below, several obstacles prevent a follow-through of the recycling process.
Australia’s recycling infrastructure still leaves a lot to be desired
It’s one thing to segregate materials for recycling, but do these waste actually undergo full treatment for recycling in Australia? Earlier in 2019, a shocking feature on 60 Minutes posited otherwise. The program revealed that the current recycling industry in Australia has a dearth of facilities to re-process recyclable material. If it’s not put through the contentious practice of being sold to China and Southeast Asian countries, most of the country’s recyclable rubbish merely sits in recycling company warehouses. The responsibility is with the powers that be—i.e. the Australian government and large conglomerates—to mass-recycle these materials and implement better recycling policies on a large scale.
Australia has a robust skip bin industry to bolster residential and commercial waste management
The country’s professional waste removal industry is thriving, and nothing proves that better than the existence of skip bin rental services. Invented in 1922 by Edwin Walker and first dispatched in Southport, UK, skip bins are now an iconic fixture in Australian cities. They contribute significantly to the cleanliness of the country’s residential and commercial areas, and as a result, have amassed more than 3 billion Australian dollars in value for skip bin contractors. Australian clients can now expect professionalism, competitiveness, and efficiency in waste management from more than 2,000 skip bin businesses in operation.
There are both good things and bad things about Australia’s waste situation—and there are a lot of things you can do to improve upon it. You have enough agency to revisit your own waste management behaviours, and in turn, inspire action from those around you.
Let’s be one in seeking better waste management capacities, higher recycling rates, and more environmentally sound policies for Australia!