Waste management and resource recovery are growing challenges for industry and the community. The long-term vision of a circular economy is compelling, the community reaction against plastic waste is clearly strengthening, and bans on international transfer of some of our waste streams make better local waste management urgent. However, there are many barriers to the kind of waste management and resource recovery outcomes that industry and the community would like to see, including the difficulty of sustaining markets for recovered materials where they are more expensive than or different in quality to virgin materials. Innovation in technology, business models and policy will be needed.

Key data:

  • Compared with a selection of other developed economies, Australia generates more waste than the average and the proportion it recycles is a little less than the average.
  • The waste industry includes commercial collection, processing, disposing and recycling activities. It employed 31,000 people and was worth $4.2 billion in value-added output in 2016-172 .
  • In 2017-18, 54% of recyclable plastics collected were exported for recycling (this percentage has doubled since the year 2000). Though plastics recycling has increased significantly over the past few decades, it’s resulted in increased exports rather than local expansion. The Australian local plastics recycling sector is currently smaller than it was in 2005.


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