Trends in waste and recycling
Around 27% of Australia ’s waste goes to landfill, reports the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS). According to their figures, the amount of waste generated is 76 million tonnes, with around half of that – 38.5 million tonnes – being recycled. That’s a more generous recycling rate than other organizations cite for Australia, but that’s not surprising. Measurement methods and scopes vary. Still, let’s press on.
Only 16% of plastics are being recycled, despite more than half of packaging found to be easily recyclable, says the Australian Packaging Covenant Organization (APCO).
But the largest source of waste comes from the construction & demolition industry, who spends $2 billion annually on waste services each year, representing a 35% growth since 2016–2017. The construction sector alone generates 16.8% of annual total waste, making it the second largest waste producer behind manufacturing, reports the ABS. Construction waste has increased by 22% since 2016-2017.
Australia’s Department of Climate Change, Energy, the Environment and Water have weighed in with these figures in their 2020 report:
- 12.6 Megatonnes (Mt) of municipal solid waste (MSW) from households and local government activities (500 kg per capita and 20% of the total)
- 21.9 Mt from the commercial and industrial (C&I) sector (36% of the total)
- 27.0 Mt from the construction and demolition (C&D) sector (44% of the total).
In general, the trend across Australia is for rising recovery rates. If we drill deeper into individual Australian states and territories, we can see more of what’s going on. Some of it you’ll already be aware of, but it’s still worth reminding yourself.
Australian Act Territory (ACT)
New suburban development is seeing more new homes being built. ACT sees this as an opportunity for temporary on-site facilities to encourage local recycling into products that can be used within the development. It’s also a chance to exchange any surplus of construction and demolition materials within the site.
New South Wales (NSW)
NSW’s $802.7 million ‘Waste Less, Recycle More’ initiative is supporting investment in areas ranging from to regulation aimed at increasing recycling and reducing litter and illegal dumping. After the ban on exporting different wastes in 2019, NSW invested nearly $23 million in new and upgraded infrastructure that will reprocess materials impacted by the ban.
Northern Territory (NT)
C&D and C&I streams continue to make up the majority of waste generated. As a result, NT is identifying opportunities to implement targets for use of recycled material across all government procurement and construction and maintenance activities. Recyclers of these waste types therefore have a fantastic opportunity.
The NT is also following the National Waste Action Plan by providing more opportunities to recycle waste across the region, including remote areas. According to Waste Management Review, this includes a recent $2.3 million investment to improve waste processing facilities. Additional funding from industry has raised the total investment to $8.3 million.
Another point to keep an eye on: The NT plans on strengthening legislative frameworks to minimise recycled material going to landfill.
In 2022, Queensland raised its waste levy of $75 per tonne to $85 per tonne of waste disposed of at a landfill. This applies to municipal, C&D and C&I waste. Expect an annual increase of $10, at least until 2026–2027, when it will hit $135 per tonne.
Queensland’s waste strategy has set three targets for 2050:
- 25% reduction in household waste
- 90% of waste recovered
- 75% recycling rates across all waste types
The government is also supporting the national waste agenda to build resilience into international market fluctuations and drive improved recovery.
South Australia continues to be one of Australia’s better performers at recycling material and reducing landfill disposal. Yet recyclers face market challenges as international prices drop for mixed fibre and other commodities. The bans on waste exports imposed by the former Council of Australian Governments will add further pressure to finding on shore solutions for resource recovery.
However, the State is focusing on developing a Circular Economy through innovation and best practice in resource recovery and remanufacturing.
Tasmania presents challenges to waste management due to its relative isolation and smaller population. To encourage reuse or recycling, the government implemented the Waste and Resource Recovery Regulations 2022. It outlines the operational and data requirements of landfill and resource recovery facilities and includes:
- The introduction of a landfill levy
- Data reporting requirements, infringements and penalties
- Some application of funds from the Waste and Resource Recovery Account
The landfill levy will be introduced over a four-year period, with the intention of starting at $20 per tonne and rising to $40 and then $60 at two yearly intervals. These amounts are to be expressed in fee units and will adjust in real terms through time.
In 2018 19, Victoria’s waste and resource recovery system managed 15.33 Mt  of material. This was 6% more than the previous year. Around 4.57 Mt of waste were sent to landfill and 10.77 Mt (70%) of materials were recovered for recycling.
The increase is attributed to the amount of C&D waste resulting from land development and public transport infrastructure works.
For more than ten years, Western Australia has continued to improve the proportion of waste diverted from landfill. Not surprisingly, this trend corresponds to the sizable increases to the waste levy over the same period.
And it should also surprise no one that of all industries, the C&D waste sector has responded the most to these increases. In 2020, the sector reported that they had exceeded the Waste Strategy C&D material recovery target of 75%. However, as pointed out by the Department of Climate Change, Energy, the Environment and Water, this recovery rate can most likely be attributed to the under-reporting of stockpiled materials.
Current trends include the government’s encouragement of the use of recycled C&D products in road construction and other civil projects.
How to respond to these changes
With all States and Territories becoming more proactive in addressing waste and recycling, you must have the ability to respond quickly. That requires that you work with agility. Digitalisation is critical. With cloud-hosted software, you can find unimaginable advantages.
Creating significant efficiencies
Through digitalization, you can realize optimum efficiencies to reduce operating costs and expand margins. Examples of what you can do:
- Automate compliance monitoring and reporting in real time. If any non-compliance issues occur, you can address them right away.
- Streamline and automate processes, such as planning and scheduling your collection routes. With intelligent optimization, you can insert orders and update schedules and routes in real time. In short, you can reduce:
- Planning time: up to 75%
- Mileage: up to 25%
- Hours driven: up to 25%
- CO2 emissions: up to 25%
- Number of vehicles needed: up to 15%
- Connect every area of your business and collect meaningful data. The data gives you insights into your business so that you can make evidence-based decisions as market conditions change. You can quickly identify areas that may be affected by legislative changes and develop plans to address them. Capture data at the weighbridge – and every point along the way to track KPIs. This is about gaining a 360-degree view of your operations.
- Reduce waste levies. Implementing artificial intelligence (AI) not only improves the quality of materials and therefore, your sales price, but it can potentially divert more material from landfill. For example, AMCS Vision AI analyses materials and finds any contaminants and tells you a material’s composition. You can make better decisions from there.
- With mobile technology, drivers can store documents digitally, record the condition of materials with images, capture digital signatures and send them immediately to the office for automated billing.
- Monitor driver behaviour and engine performance to improve safety, reduce fuel usage, and keep vehicles well maintained.
- Improve cash flow and enable customers to self-serve through your company-branded web portal. They can pay online so that you receive payment faster, request services, and review their account information, reducing call traffic and the administrative costs tied with each call.
These are just some examples of what working digitally with AMCS solutions can do for you. Nor does any of it require a large, upfront investment, so it’s quite easy to ramp up quickly and get started.
Addressing issues with C&I and C&D waste
With so much attention on C&I and C&D waste throughout Australia, companies handling these waste streams need to respond now to take advantage of opportunities opening up – and to ensure compliance.
Enterprise-grade, cloud-based software designed for these sectors should be your starting point. Specifically, AMCS Platform for the Construction & Industrial Industry or AMCS Platform for the Construction & Demolition Industry.
Both are best-in-class scalable platforms that address all of the complexities of these industries to help you respond to regulations, reduce the waste levies you pay, stop revenue leakage, and lower your operating costs.
Manage both customers and subcontractors in real time. Track each asset to understand the profitability of each container with vehicle technology, and price structure to maximize your ROI. With AMCS Platform for the Construction & Industrial Industry, you can also utilize dynamic real-time planning and scheduling to eliminate inefficient routes with empty trucks. Other features give you integrated weighbridge operations, compliance reporting and handle material sales, from invoicing to brokerage.
Get the full story and learn what else these invaluable platforms can do for your business. We urge you to get in touch today to find out more. Alternatively, you can download the solution brochures or request a demo below.
 The data given by the Australia’s Department of Climate Change, Energy, the Environment and Water is not always consistent. As they explain in their 2020 report, this is due to differences in how measurements are carried out and scopes considered. (This is also the case with all organisations reporting worldwide.)
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