Sustainability Matters Jun/Jul 2016

Page 16

State of waste 2016 — current and future Australian trends Mike Ritchie*

Australians now produce about 50 million tonnes of waste each year, averaging over two tonnes per person. There are more of us and we generate more waste per person, each year.


rom 1996 to 2015, our

to society compared to landfill. Generally,

population rose by 28%

metals, paper and cardboard and plastic

but waste generation in-

(in sufficient quantities) are commercially

creased by 170%. Waste

viable recyclables. Almost all other recycling

is growing at a compound

in Australia is subsidised by someone via

growth rate of 7.8%/year.

gate fees, grants or the like. That includes

On the positive side, recycling is growing

most household, construction and com-

at a faster rate, and since 2005 we have

mercial waste. Unfortunately, there is no

actually seen (for the first time) a decline

free lunch in recycling.

in tonnages of waste sent to landfill (in the

It is important to point out that it is the

most progressive states). We now recycle

proper role of state government to set waste

approximately 58% of all the waste we

policy and direction. Most governments have

generate and send the rest to landfill.

set targets of between 60–90% diversion by 2020. Having done so, governments should

16 Sustainability Matters - Jun/Jul 2016


have the courage of their convictions and

Most governments have established recycling

put in place the mechanisms to permit the

targets to divert waste from landfill and

private sector and local governments to

to capture and recover materials for the

achieve those targets.

productive economy. Most readers know

It is way too easy to put out a strategy

that almost all recycling comes at a cost

with targets but then not bother to create