Waste and resource recovery landscape

In 2016-17 Australia generated 67 million tonnes of waste. It’s about 2.7 tonnes for every person in the nation, and that figure is growing. But at the same time, Australians are continuing to do better and better at dealing with our waste: we currently recycle, re-use or otherwise recover 58% of all waste generated.

The waste management and resource recovery sector plays a key role in managing the environmental and social impacts and benefits of our waste. The industry employs 50,000 Australians and contributes over $15 billion to the economy annually. 

WMRR supports the principles of the waste management hierarchy - more here.  

Read on for a deeper look at Australia’s waste and resource recovery sector, the challenges we face and the path forward.

National Waste Report 2018 National Waste Policy 2018

A CIRCULAR ECONOMY

Australian jurisdictions have a shared vision of transitioning to a circular economy. But what is a circular economy? 

A circular economy gradually decouples economic activity from the consumption of finite resources and designs waste out of the system. Thus, a circular economy must be one that focuses on material design, avoidance of the creation of waste, and making polluters/generators responsible for the cost of managing their materials as well as re-using of post-consumer recyclate in product design. In fact, once it is "waste", it is too late; a circular economy does not capture materials that are put into the waste and resource recovery system but focuses on materials before they are even consumed. 

As present Australia continues to operate a linear (take, make, dispose) economy where the waste and resource recovery industry and local government continue to bear majority of responsibility for the end-of-life materials that we simply receive and not create. Waste and pollution are the consequences of decisions made at the design state where around 80% of environmental impacts are determined (Source: The Ellen MacArthur Foundation). A circular economy can only be built when it is based on three key principles:

1. Designing out waste and pollution. 
2. Keeping products and materials in use.
3. Regenerating natural systems. 

Australia, as an OECD country, should learn from other member countries by introducing policies that drive market demand for recycled products, make producers responsible for their materials, implement funding models that result in polluter-pays, and enforce strong targets and penalties. 

Building a circular economy requires a shift in thinking and an integrated resource management system - not a "waste system" - that first and foremost avoids the creation of waste, with the materials that are indeed consumed, managed within the waste and resource recovery system. 

To find out more, check out the Ellen MacArthur foundation here

Data

To continue to improve recycling rates, Australia needs certainty around material flows and market demand. Read more

Fact Sheets and Reports

Research and guidance from WMRR, government departments and other stakeholders in the waste sector. Read more