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Waste Statistics Australia 2022: Looking Through The Decade

Australia is the world leader in recycling with around 60% of recyclable material being recycled. Despite this, Australia still has a long way to go with only 20% of total waste being recycled. The most common types are paper, metals and plastics.

The textiles industry is an example of an industry that reused cotton for over 200 years since its creation. Wearing clothing made from previously used materials reduces carbon emissions by 7-12%. This proves that it does not take huge steps forward to make a difference when looking at the big picture.

To gain a better understanding of the Australian waste landscape, we will dive into 16 key waste statistics from the past decade. Let’s go!

Ariel View of Landfill

1. Australians use on average 115 litres of water per person each day. A bucket can save up to thirty litres every time it is filled and put into the toilet cistern. This means that Australians can save approximately 360 billion litres of water every year by simply putting a bucket in the bathroom.

The average household could save up to six thousand dollars or more per year if they choose efficient appliances around their home. One example would be purchasing energy-efficient washing machines to reduce water and energy usage while also using less detergent.

2. Food waste is estimated at between 30-40 percent of the total food produced in Australia each year, where 50% of this amount comes from households. Food volumes are increasing across Australia, with an increasing population yet consumer demand for convenience foods has led to over-purchasing and often unnecessary wastage particularly associated with fresh fruit and vegetables.

An article published by Intellect indicates that Australians are more likely to pay for green products if they feel it helps the environment, but only if the price is not over 10% higher. This shows that despite their beliefs, Australians are willing to compromise on price when it comes to protecting the environment.

Excavator Picking up Rubbish

3. Australians throw away 12.7 million tonnes of construction and demolition waste into landfill each year which contributes 70 million tonnes of carbon dioxide annually. To combat this issue, all states of Australia have a refundable container deposit scheme in place where consumers can get money back by returning empty bottles and cans.

4. One report by the Australian Government Department of Industry, Innovation and Science suggested that Australia could save up to $1 billion per year through the implementation of legislation regarding the use of plastic bags. This is because it costs around 4 cents for every bag whereas people are willing to pay between 15-25 cents when asked directly which shows that they’re not completely conscious about how much money they’re wasting.

Food waste going into bin (1)

5. A new report by the World Economic Forum estimates that food waste and loss costs Australia $20 billion each year. This is due to both production of food, transporting the produce and then the end result of throwing away expired food which has gone bad before it reached its expiration date.

Australia’s tourism industry produces over 400,000 tonnes of solid waste every year. The most common types of waste generated come from disposable plastic water bottles, straws and cups. It has been reported that approximately 1 million single-use plastic bags enter our oceans every minute and it is estimated that in 2050 there will be more plastic than fish in the ocean if do not take action now – just one example of how this waste impacts ecosystems and marine life.

Plastic Bags & Vegetables

6. A study in 2017 by the University of New South Wales estimated that Australia could save $1.3 billion per year if all plastic bags were to be phased out and replaced with reusable bags. This is due to the fact it costs Australian’s 136 million dollars every year simply to clean up plastic bag litter, which includes them ending up in waterways and then ultimately into our oceans causing damage to marine life who end up consuming or becoming tangled in the pollution.

7. The Clean Up Australia organisation has stated that over 19 million volunteers have helped pick up almost 12 thousand tonnes of rubbish throughout the country since its establishment back in 1989. This shows that there is a strong sense of community here where people work together to deal with the problem of pollution and waste.

8. Australia recycles approximately 58% of all aluminium containers which have been put into recycling programs throughout the country. Container deposit schemes have been implemented by most states in order to encourage people to recycle more and reduce plastic litter entering our oceans and environment due to their inability to decompose naturally like other products such as paper or cardboard do.

9. A survey conducted by university student David Hetherington showed that 46% of males said they would not recycle or compost their waste if someone was not watching them. This is due to the fact that people feel as though they will be judged for their actions even though it simply comes from a place of wanting to help our surroundings and environment by reducing as much waste as possible which ends up in landfills.

Colourful paper and stickers

10. In 2017, Australia imported 878 thousand tonnes of paper products. In comparison, we exported only 77 thousand tonnes showing that we are more than happy to receive these products for free instead of making sure we use all products we buy and ship within our own country first before buying more.

11. Australia’s average mining industry can produce approximately 4 tonnes of waste for every tonne of product extracted and processed leaving behind large amounts of land contaminated with heavy metals such as lead and arsenic which can seep into the surrounding areas’ water supplies and poison the environment.

Contamination of groundwater is not just a result of mining but also from household waste such as pesticides, fertilisers and cleaning products which seep through the ground leading them to end up in lakes where they can then contaminate what we rely on for drinking water.

12. A study found that 46% of Australians said that they would feel embarrassed to be seen separating their waste into public bins due to concerns about how others might perceive them. This means that people are still likely to dump their rubbish together even if it isn’t going to be processed properly by waste management companies meaning recyclables could end up contaminating other types of waste while organic material will simply end up in landfill.

Turtle in Ocean Reef

13. During the International Year of the Reef 2018, the Australian government committed to investing 500 million dollars in cleaning up marine pollution from litter that ends up inside our ocean reefs. This is a direct result of plastic bags and other materials being left behind by irresponsible citizens who fail to dispose of their waste properly instead of taking advantage of recycling opportunities available to them which would aid the process.

14. In 2013, Australians generated an average of 4 million tonnes of waste between households and commercial sectors making up around 33% of all landfills. This number only seems large because there are so many people living in Australia however, it’s important to note that most countries with smaller populations actually produce more garbage on average per capita. The reason behind these surprising results is due to how much food, packaging, plastics and other materials are used daily which means there is more to recycle, reuse or throw away.

There are some items that can’t be recycled such as hazardous materials like aerosols, batteries, mercury light bulbs and fluorescent tubes however they make up a small amount of the total waste produced by Australia each year. Despite this fact, recycling these products still helps to cut down greenhouse gas emissions from large companies who rely on mining to obtain rare resources for manufacturing new products. 

In addition, many types of plastic packaging used in commercial sectors can be recycled again cutting down energy usage and reducing carbon emissions even further which contributes towards helping our planet recover from the damage we’ve caused it thus far with all our waste production.

15. In a study conducted by Monash University in 2007, they discovered that Australians produce more than 3 billion kilograms of waste per year because there are so many people living in the country. This works out to be around 1 tonne of garbage per person which is much higher than other countries such as Norway which only produce 326 kg per capita each year. Although Australia produces a large amount of waste, it’s still an improvement compared to what was produced in the early 90s when we produced over 6 tonnes of trash for every single person.

16. The total cost for managing solid waste in Australia was $3.2 Billion in 2009-2010 however this could be reduced if more households began recycling their products instead of throwing them away immediately even if it means buying bins for different types like paper and plastic. We could also reduce the number of hazardous materials we produce by recycling more products or reducing our usage of them altogether. This way, Australia’s GDP would be able to save millions each year without affecting companies who rely on rare materials for manufacturing new products which can become expensive if they’re running out quickly like oil.


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