Waste management and recycling in Australia
Waste is defined as materials or products that are unwanted or have been
discarded, rejected or abandoned. Waste includes materials or products that are
recycled, converted to energy, or disposed. Materials and products that are
reused (for their original purpose and without reprocessing) are not waste
because they remain in use.
Waste typically arises from three streams:
domestic and municipal—includes all household waste and waste
collected in public places;
commercial and industrial waste from all business and industrial
activities and public institutions; and
construction and demolition—includes all waste from the building
and construction industry.
Waste can be classified by composition such as glass, paper, organic,
metal and plastic. This report discusses solid waste rather than liquid or gaseous
waste. Given the limitations of the committee, and the recent decisions by
China relating to the import of recycled material, the inquiry and the report also
generally focused on the flow of materials; rather than organics. As such there
is only a summary examination of food waste and methane avoidance or
collection. This is not to diminish this as an issue.
This chapter outlines: the waste management and recycling sector in
Australia; and considers waste generation and the fate of waste; deficiencies
in waste data; and the regulation of waste.
The key framework underpinning waste management policy and practice in
Australia is the waste management hierarchy, which ranks the ways of dealing
with waste in order of preferences.
The waste management hierarchy ranks strategies in order of preference
from avoiding the creation of waste as the most desired outcome, and disposal
as the least desired outcome.
Figure 2.1—Waste hierarchy
Waste Management Association of Australia, Submission 52, p. 2.
Waste avoidance includes actions to reduce the amount of waste generated
by households, industry and government. This strategy is intended to maximise
efficiency and avoid unnecessary use of virgin materials through changes in
Where avoiding or reducing waste is not possible, the re-use of products
is preferred. This avoids the costs of energy and other resources required for
recycling. It includes initiatives such as items being re-sold or donated to
Recycling of materials to make the same or different products keeps
materials in the productive economy and provides beneficial environmental
outcomes through reducing the need for virgin materials and waste disposal such
as landfill. Recycling includes re-processing where items are processed and
used to produce new items of the same material (e.g. glass bottles being used
to create new bottles) and processes where items are used to create new
products (e.g. glass bottles being crushed and used as road-base). Not all recyclable
materials are able to be reprocessed (e.g. construction and demolition material).
Where recycling or reprocessing is not feasible, it is sometimes possible to
recovery the energy from the material and utilise that energy in other
Figure 2.2—Construction waste
recycling and glass reprocessing
Source: Suez Australia and
Material which is unable to be re-used, recycled, reprocessed or
recovered for energy should instead be treated to minimise environmental and
health and safety impacts. The waste hierarchy also recognises that some types
of waste such as hazardous chemicals or asbestos cannot be safely recycled or re-used
and instead, direct treatment or disposal is the most appropriate management
The waste management and recycling sector
The four key areas of activity in the industry are:
waste collection and transfer;
sorting of waste;
recycling (turning into new product) and reuse; and
the final disposal of waste that cannot be recycled or reused
The industry is comprised of private firms and government enterprises.
Local government, for example, typically manages waste collection and transfer,
and may provide landfill facilities. However, in many locations, local
government has outsourced these activities to the private sector.
Recycling is dominated by the private sector. Some of the major
companies undertaking recycling in Australia include Visy, ResourceCo, Cleanaway,
and Suez. The materials recycled and reused are extensive and range from
organics, paper and glass to metals, electrical waste and building materials.
The Waste Management Association of Australia submitted that the waste
and resource recovery industry employs 50,000 (full time equivalent) people and
contributes over $50 billion per annum to the Australian economy.
The size of the sector varies across the jurisdictions. The South Australian
Government noted that the waste industry in South Australia has an annual
turnover of about $1 billion, contributing around $500 million to Gross State
Product and employs approximately 5,000 people.
The Australian Council of Recycling stated that the recycling industry
directly employs over 20,000 people and indirectly almost 35,000 people.
Employment rates vary with the type of materials being recycled; organics
recycling and composting businesses directly employ over 3,500 people,
while tyre recycling businesses employ around 250 people.
The information provided above gives a very broad outline of the waste
management and recycling industry in Australia. However, some submitters commented
that it is not a cohesive single industry 'but rather a range of industries
with multiple sectors'. This characteristic was seen as being important in
policy development. Equilibrium, for example, commented that 'previous national
reviews have at times simplified the opportunities for policy intervention and
reform, or non-intervention'. Equilibrium explained:
...[it] should be noted, the waste industry is a market
primarily interested in the collection and transport of waste. Those companies
in this market that own and operate disposal facilities remain focused in the
main on landfill and not resource recovery.
Within the waste industry there are sectors that focus on the
collection and transport of waste from particular sources (household, commercial
and industrial and construction and demolition), particular waste streams
(putrescible, solid inert, liquid waste) and through particular methods
(collection trucks and receptacles of different types).
The recycling industry is primarily interested in the
capturing materials that have a further economic value or for which a fee can
be charged in order to process the material and avoid landfill. Players in the
recycling industry are not commonly collectors and transporters, they are
mainly receivers of the material that specialise in handling and processing.
Like the waste industry, in the recycling industry there are
sectors that focus on the collection and transport of waste from particular
sources (household, commercial and industrial and construction and demolition)
and particular waste streams (for example paper, plastics, organics, e-waste, mattresses,
tyres and paint and chemicals).
Equilibrium concluded that the 'distinctions are important because the
different industries have fundamentally different drivers and require different
policy responses'. Without accounting for these different operations and
objectives, policy may lead to negative or unintended consequences for waste
management and recycling industries.
Quantity of waste generated and the fate of waste in Australia
Waste generation is closely linked to population size, household income
and economic activity. It is therefore unsurprising that waste generated in
Australia has increased significantly over the last decade: in 2006–07, 57 million
tonnes of waste was generated; in 2014–15 this had increased to 64 million
The following discussion provides an overview of waste generation and
the fate of waste for 2014–15 and is drawn from the Australian National Waste Report
Discussion on the development of the National Waste Report and the adequacy of
data on waste generation and recycling is provided at paras 2.36 to 2.61 below.
In 2014–15, about 64 million tonnes of waste (including fly ash
and hazardous waste) were generated, which is equivalent to 2.7 tonnes of waste
per capita. If fly ash is excluded, 53 million tonnes of waste were generated,
which is the equivalent of 2.25 tonnes of waste per capita. The amount of waste
generated falls to 46 million tonnes with the exclusion of hazardous waste.
Trends in waste generation between
2006–07 and 2014–15
Over the period 2006–07 to 2014–15, waste generation (including fly ash)
increased by 11 per cent (from 57 megatonnes to 64 megatonnes). This is an
average increase of 1.2 per cent per year. However, given the growth in
population during this period, waste generation per capita declined by 3 per
The trend in waste generation changes if fly ash is excluded: waste
generation increased by 23 per cent over nine years (from about 43 megatonnes
to 53 megatonnes). This is an average of 2.3 per cent per year. With
population growth, this represents a waste generation per capita increase of 7
per cent over the period, or an average of 0.8 per cent per year.
The National Waste Report 2016 also provides data on waste generation by
state and territory. As would be expected, overall waste quantities correlate
with population and gross state product: New South Wales, Victoria and
Queensland produce the most waste. Per capita, when fly ash is included,
Queensland generated the most waste per capita (3.3 tonnes). When fly ash is
excluded, Western Australia and South Australia were the highest generators in
2014–15, producing over 2.5 tonnes per capita and Tasmania the lowest with
Generation by waste stream
The National Waste Report 2016 provides data on three main waste
streams: municipal solid waste, other commercial and industrial waste, and construction
and demolition waste. Fly ash is generally counted as commercial and industrial
waste. Table 2.1 provides data on waste generation by stream.
Table 2.1: Waste generation by stream, 2014–15
||Kg per capita
|Municipal solid waste
|Other commercial and
industrial (excluding fly ash)
|Construction and demolition
Source: Australian National
Waste Report 2016, p. 15.
Analysis of the trends in waste generation indicates that less municipal
solid waste per capita is being generated, while more commercial and industrial
waste and construction and demolition waste are being generated. The National
Waste Report 2016 commented that the decline in municipal solid waste is linked
to the decline in printed paper and glass packaging, and the expansion of
Generation by material type
The report also provides an analysis of waste materials. This indicates
that the three major waste materials in Australia are masonry
(17 megatonnes), organics
(13 megatonnes), and fly ash (11 megatonnes). Other waste materials generated
include hazardous waste (7 megatonnes), paper and cardboard (5.3 megatonnes),
metal (5.2 megatonnes), plastic (2.5 megatonnes), and glass (1.1 megatonnes).
The report went on to note that the composition of waste is changing.
Some significant waste streams—paper, cardboard, glass and fly ash—are
diminishing. Metals, organics and plastics also appear to be declining, at
least on a per capita basis. Masonry materials from demolitions are increasing.
The fate of waste in Australia
The National Waste Report 2016 provides data on the fate of waste: disposal;
and through energy recovery and recycling.
Overall, 37.3 megatonnes (58 per cent) of waste generated in
Australia in 2014–15 were recycled or recovered for embodied energy. Excluding
fly ash and hazardous waste, 28.3 megatonnes (61 per cent) were recycled or
recovered for embodied energy. A total of 27 megatonnes (21 megatonnes
excluding fly ash) of waste were disposed of. Disposal was principally through
landfill—22 megatonnes (excluding fly ash). The report noted that some of this
waste is recorded as 'energy recovery' because some landfill gas is used for
Analysis by jurisdiction indicated that South Australia has the highest resource
recovery rate (almost 80 per cent) followed by the Australian Capital Territory
(75 per cent), then Victoria (69 per cent) and New South Wales (65 per cent). Western
Australia, Tasmania and Queensland (excluding fly ash) recovered about 50 per
cent. The Northern Territory had the lowest recovery rate at an estimated 28
Trends in the fate of waste
During the period 2006–07 to 2014–15, the quantity of material recycled
in Australia increased significantly:
from 27 megatonnes to 35 megatonnes (an increase of 30 per cent)
or 1.4 per cent capita per year; and
excluding fly ash, from 23 megatonnes to 30 megatonnes (an
increase of 32 per cent) or 1.6 per cent per capita per year.
Energy recovery also increased markedly from about 1.4 megatonnes to
2.3 megatonnes, or an average of 6 per cent per year. Energy recovery per
capita increased by an average of 4.4 per cent per year. However, the 2016
report commented that there appears to have been a significant decline in gas
recovery in the last year of the period.
During the period 2006–07 to 2014–15, disposal fell slightly from 29 to
27 megatonnes (8 per cent). Excluding fly ash, disposal increased by 9 per
cent from 19 to 21 megatonnes, which represents an average decline per capita of
about 0.6 per cent per year.
Fate of waste by waste stream
The 2016 report provides an analysis of the fate of waste by waste
stream which is outlined in Table 2.2 below.
Table 2.2: Fate of waste by stream, 2014–15
||Kg per capita
||Kg per capita
||Kg per capita
|Municipal solid waste
|Other commercial and industrial (excluding fly ash)
|Construction and demolition waste
Source: Australian National Waste Report 2016, p. 15.
The report provided trends in the fate of waste by waste stream from
2006–07 to 2014–15:
Municipal solid waste: Recycling and recovery increased and
disposal fell for the period.
Other commercial and industrial (excluding fly ash): While there
was an increase in quantity, most of this increase was recycled.
Construction and demolition waste: While there was an increase in
quantity, most of this increase was recycled.
Analysis of the recycling of waste materials by type indicates that
there is significant recycling (70 per cent) of masonry which is the largest category
of waste material generated.
Plastic generation was reported to have dropped by 14 per cent over the period
2006–07 to 2014–15. However, only about 14 per cent was recovered in 2014–15.
Adequacy of data on waste management and recycling
State and territory governments are responsible for collecting data on
the generation of solid waste and the fate of waste within their jurisdiction. The
need for adequate data on waste management and recycling was seen as being fundamental
to the development and implementation of effective waste policy. The Local
Government Association of Tasmania commented:
It is vital that the nation is aware of all waste generated
and its final destination (be that landfill or diversion processes). Accurate
data allows for targeted programs to be developed, improved public education
programs and planning of services, resources and infrastructure. It also
enables worthwhile targets to be set that are based on reliable information
However, gaining an accurate national picture of waste and recycling has
National Waste Reports
In its September 2008 report on the management of Australia's waste
streams, the then Standing Committee on Environment, Communications and the Arts
commented that 'understanding and quantifying the impact of waste streams and
their economic, environmental costs is central to effective national waste
policy development'. However, the standing committee found that there was 'a
lack of national data on many waste issues that would otherwise underpin the
sustainable management of Australia's waste streams'.
In November 2008, Australia's environment ministers, through the
Environment Protection and Heritage Council (EPHC), released the National
Waste Policy: Less waste, more resources. The policy was agreed to by all
Australian environment ministers in November 2009 and was endorsed by the
Council of Australian Governments (COAG).
The policy sets direction in six key areas including 'Providing the evidence–Access
by decision makers to meaningful, accurate and current national waste and
resource recovery data and information to measure progress and educate and
inform the behaviour and the choices of the community'. The policy contains
sixteen strategies with the final strategy being to publish a three yearly
waste and resource recovery report, underpinned by a system that provides
access to integrated national core data on waste and resource recovery.
The first national waste report was published in 2010 using data for
2006–07. As 'waste and recycling data are generated in variable ways by a range
of agencies', the report commented that there were 'wide disparities in the
detail, geographic coverage, scale, time frames and scope of the data'. Limitations
to the data were identified and readers were advised 'to exercise a degree of
caution when using the information in the report'. While noting that the data
collection did not provide comprehensive national data on waste and recycling, the
report was viewed as 'a first step toward establishing baseline data and
developing a strong and comprehensive knowledge base on waste management and resource
recovery in Australia'.
Following evaluation of the 2010 report, a methodology was agreed to
assist in comparing data across different state and territory data sets, noting
that differences in definitions, classifications and approaches to waste data
exist between states. This methodology was used in the compilation of the
National Waste Report 2013 which used 2010–11 data.
The most recent report—Australian National Waste Report 2016—was
published in June 2017.
The 2016 report covers two data years (2013–14 and 2014–15). The report notes
that some of the data from the states and territories was supplemented, and
sometimes replaced, by national industry data or other nation estimates.
In addition, it was stated that:
Because waste data is often difficult and expensive to
collect, the requirements, scope and mechanisms for collecting and reporting
waste data vary across jurisdictions, industries and fates. The level of
uncertainty in some of the presented data is likely to be high. For example...the
composition of waste to landfill is estimated on the basis of periodic audits
at a few landfills. In recognition of these limitations, data is generally
presented to only two or three significant figures.
Data quality differences between the states and territories were also
reported. Three areas of data quality differences were identified:
Data on waste to landfill: Jurisdictions with controlled fees or
landfill levies tend to have more comprehensive data on waste to landfill.
Queensland also provides good data while that from Western Australia is
restricted to the Perth area.
Data on recycling: Data from the ACT, New South Wales,
Queensland, South Australia, Victoria and Western Australia is collected
through surveys of the recycling sector and produced thorough data. However, New
South Wales was unable to provide accurate recycling data for 2014–15 due to quality
difficulties with the survey.
Hazardous waste: Comprehensive data is provided by New South
Wales, Queensland, South Australia, Victoria and Western Australia through
their hazardous waste tracking systems. However, the Queensland data was found
to have significant quality problems. 
Notwithstanding the differences in data quality between jurisdictions, the
2016 report stated that that data presented in the report is the most accurate
The consultants undertaking the management of waste data and reporting
for the Department of the Environment and Energy—Blue Environment—were also
commissioned to research and propose improvements to the National Waste Report.
Blue Environment published a report in March 2018 documenting the agreed
improvements to national waste reporting.
The 65 agreed improvements included:
inclusion of data on local government waste management, product
waste, tip shops, litter and dumping, container deposit schemes, mining waste,
stockpiles, approved long-term storages, waste infrastructure and international
increasing the depth of the detail and discussion, particularly
of the key data areas of waste generation, recycling, energy recovery and
restructuring the national waste report to focus on these key
data areas and remove the distinct sections on each state and territory (whilst
maintaining and reporting state and territory data).
Australian Bureau of Statistics
A number of publications on waste management were produced by the Australian
Bureau of Statistics (ABS). For example, Waste management services Australia
2009–10 provided estimates of the financial performance of waste management
services businesses and organisations. It also provided information on waste
facilities operated, waste activities undertaken, quantities of waste received
and processed and factors hampering resource recovery.
The Western Australian Government commented that this series provided a
valuable assessment and there would be value in the ABS producing such reports
on a more regular basis.
In 2014, the ABS produced the Waste Account, Australia 2010–11.
The Waste Account presented 'integrated monetary and physical waste information
using an internationally recognised conceptual framework to assist in informing
waste policy and discussion in Australia'. ABS commented that due to budget
constraints, ABS ceased its Waste Account.
ABS noted the benefits of the Waste Account, commenting that it 'informs
on changes to waste management and resource recovery flows over time and in
response to government initiatives and to regulatory, pricing and taxation
changes. Importantly, it identifies these changes in relation to various community
members (e.g. households, industries) impacted by these changes'. In addition,
the Waste Account reports on the economic performance of the waste industry
itself, for example, changes to revenue streams and cost profiles. This was
seen as being especially useful in response to changing regulatory and business
Need for improved waste and recycling
It was acknowledged that data collection has improved over time and that
work is continuing to improve the data sets.
However, submitters noted that problems still remain with the data being
collected. MRA Consulting Group, for example, commented that 'data is
notoriously poor around waste generation and diversion'.
Further, that the latest National Waste Report uses 2012–13 or 2014–15 data
depending on the jurisdiction.
Mr Andrew Doig, Chief Executive Officer, Australian Sustainable Business
Group (ASBG), told the committee that 'getting the right data collection is
something that Australia lags behind in. For example, the United States has
been doing that since the 1970s'.
Local government associations provided examples of continued difficulties with
data. The Local Government Association of Tasmania submitted that waste data is
currently not collected in a standardised manner across different waste facilities.
Similarly, the Western Australian Local Government Association submitted that the
collection of data on landfill, resource recovery and recycling in Western
Australia is via four data sources which are not reconciled with each other
'causing confusion on what the recovery rates actually are'.
The ASBG commented that available data from the jurisdictions is poorly
aligned due to significant differences in the definitions of waste, recycling
types and other variations. It was also stated that data quality is
questionable as some jurisdictions 'tend to measure recycling rates and
diversions in ad hoc frequencies and manners of execution'.
The importance of establishing consistent definitions was raised with
the committee. Mr Spedding, Chief Executive Officer, National Waste and
Recycling Industry Council (NWRIC) stated:
If we could get our definitions right, we could come up with
a national program and we would then have the ability to look at not so much
waste on a localised or state basis but on a national agenda.
The importance of data to the industry was outlined by Mr Spedding, NWRIC,
who commented that industry required accurate data for planning and forecasting
when considering investment in facilities. Mr Spedding stated:
You need the data to be able to demonstrate that the volumes
are there, because when you go to the bank and you put your financials on the
table, what basis and security have you got that these volumes will continue.
Having a very haphazard system doesn't assist the industry at all...Good data is
a fundamental for good planning, and we don't have it.
Both MRA Consulting and Equilibrium also maintained that accurate data was
important to inform investment decisions. MRA Consulting stated that companies
are being asked to make investment decisions, some involving millions of
dollars, on data that is five years old.
Equilibrium noted that in the past, investment has been undertaken on the basis
of poor data and this has resulted in the failure of some of those investments.
Re.Group also commented on delays in the publication of data and stated
that it is 'a considerable frustration' that there are significant delays in
the publication of data, and that 'industry would appreciate additional efforts
to ensure more timely access to this information'.
Submitters noted that Strategy 16 provides that the three yearly report
be underpinned by a system that provides access to integrated national core
data on waste and resource recovery. The Australian Sustainable Business Group
The main point is that even collecting the information on
waste generation and landfill diversion is not properly comparable across each
jurisdiction. This is despite data management being a key policy position under
the National Waste Policy. Consequently, the Commonwealth should continue on
with the National Waste Policy's drive to further assist and influence
jurisdictions to adopt nationally consistent waste data and quality control to ensure
comparability with quality data. Aspirational national recycling diversion
rates will first require standardised measurements before they can be
considered and ultimately agreed to.
The Local Government Association of Tasmania similarly commented that
the National Waste Policy needs to continue to address Strategy 16 as a
The committee also received suggestions as to how the collection of
waste data could be improved. For example, some submitters called for the reinstatement
of the ABS Waste Account.
Mr Ritchie, MRA Consulting, stated that the collection of waste data
should be undertaken by an independent body—the ABS—rather the Department of
the Environment and Energy. Mr Ritchie explained:
...it's bigger than the department of the environment. This is
an industry issue. We need to raise waste out of being—firstly, it needs to be
recognised as something of a quasi-essential service, but, secondly, it should
be sitting in industry policy. The appropriate place for the data to sit is ABS...It
shouldn't be a four- or five-year protocol development. And it shouldn't be, in
my view, put to a consultant to try and jerry-build a dataset out of voluntary
surveys that states or councils provide. It's got to be a mandated system,
because we're talking about big infrastructure. We are talking about essential
Export of recyclable material
Australia exports recyclable material to over 100 countries
including Vietnam, India, Malaysia, Indonesia, China and Bangladesh. In total
in 2016–17, Australia exported 4.23 mega tonnes of recycled materials.
The three main types of recycled material exported were metals, paper
and cardboard, and plastics. Table 2.3 provides an overview of the export of
these three categories of recycled materials for 2016–17.
Table 2.3: Export of metals, paper and cardboard and
plastics, 2016–17 (tonnes)
|Vietnam (share of
||India (share of
||Malaysia (share of
||Indonesia (share of
||China (share of
||Bangladesh (share of
||Total for all
|Paper and cardboard
|China (share of
||Total of all
|Hong Kong (share of
||Total of all
Source: ABS, International Trade; Parliamentary Library.
Restrictions of the export of waste
From January 2018, China implemented restrictions of imports of 24 types
of solid waste, including various plastics and unsorted mixed papers, and the
setting of more stringent standards for contamination levels.
Blue Environment has provided preliminary data on Australian exports of
wastes affected by National Sword. As noted above, 1.27 megatonnes of waste
were exported to China in 2016–17. National Sword restrictions affected 1.25 megatonnes
(99 per cent) of the Australia's recyclables exported to China.
The three major categories of affected recyclables were:
metals – 203 thousands of tonnes;
paper and cardboard – 920 thousands of tonnes; and
plastics – 125 thousands of tonnes.
The impact of the restrictions are discussed in greater detail in
Regulation of waste and recycling in Australia
All levels of government are involved in managing waste and recycling to
protect the environment, secure public health and safety outcomes, and to avoid
the loss of public amenity. In summary, responsibilities can be
categorised as follows:
Local governments are most directly involved in the management of
waste and recycling through arrangements for its collection, processing and
State and territory governments have primary responsibility for
regulating domestic waste management. Matters that the states and territories
regulate include conditions for operating a landfill facility and the
imposition of landfill levies.
The Australian Government has a role in providing national
leadership and coordination, and ensuring that Australia's international
obligations regarding waste are met.
This section provides a brief overview of the roles and responsibilities
of each level of government.
As the Australian Local Government Association explained, local
governments have 'a long history and expertise in municipal waste management'.
The services provided by local governments vary between different councils
and depend on the regulatory framework of their state or territory. In general,
however, local governments can:
provide a range of services directly, including waste collection,
waste disposal, kerbside recycling, management of landfills, and gas capture
and co‑generation of power;
provide waste management services as part of a cooperative body
with other local governments;
contract waste management contractors to undertake waste
undertake other programs to reduce the amount of waste going to
landfill, such as the collection of green waste to produce compost; and
support other initiatives, such as product stewardship, the
introduction of container deposit schemes, and community education programs.
State governments also require local governments to provide data on
waste and recycling,
and to address small scale, non-hazardous illegal dumping.
Various submissions provide insight into the day-to-day waste and
recycling services that local governments provide. For example:
The Adelaide Hills Region Waste Management Authority (AHRWMA)
advised that its three member councils provide kerbside waste and recycling
services, as well as a green waste service in township areas. A landfill
facility with an onsite resource recovery and transfer station is owned by one
of the member councils (the Rural City of Murray Bridge) and operated by the
The Brisbane City Council contracts its waste and recycling
services to industry contractors. The Council owns one landfill, the management
of which it contracts to industry, and also utilises a privately-owned
State and territory governments
State and territory governments regulate waste and recycling in their
jurisdictions by imposing licence conditions for waste and recycling facilities
and the transportation of waste;
imposing landfill levies; providing incentives for recycling;
and undertaking environmental protection measures, such as enforcement activity
in relation to large scale illegal dumping and dumping of hazardous waste.
State legislative frameworks governing waste and recycling are complex
and involve multiple pieces of legislation and policy instruments. To
illustrate, the legislation and policy frameworks referred to in the Government
of South Australia's submission are listed at Box 2.1.
|Box 2.1: State legislation
and policy frameworks relevant to the regulation of waste and recycling in
Environment Protection Act
1993 and associated regulations
- Local Government Act 1999
- Local Nuisance and Litter
Control Act 2016
- Green Industries SA Act 2004
South Australia's Waste Strategy
- Environment Protection (Waste to
Resources) Policy 2010
(Movement of Controlled Waste) Policy 2014
- EPA Guidelines for
Environmental Management of Landfill Facilities (Municipal Solid Waste and
Commercial and Industrial General Waste) 2007
- 30-Year Plan for Greater
- Waste and Resource Recovery
Australian Government, Submission 36, p. 31.
The submissions to this inquiry provided by state and territory
governments outline the legislative and policy arrangements in their
jurisdictions in detail.
As noted above, state and territory governments have primary
responsibility for regulating domestic waste management. As recycling is
closely integrated with waste, the Australian Government also considers that
the state, territory and local governments are 'in the best position' to make
decisions on recycling regulation and to respond to market developments.
The Australian Government's formal regulatory role largely relates to
Australia's international obligations where the external affairs power provides
a constitutional basis for legislation.
The Australian Government has also taken a national leadership and coordination
role in certain regulatory matters.
The Department of the Environment and Energy (the department) explained
that the international agreements relating to solid waste management focus on
wastes that are 'especially hazardous or of significant risk to the
environment'. These agreements include:
the Basel Convention on the Control of Transboundary Movements of
Hazardous Wastes and their Disposal (the Basel Convention); and
the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants (the
Commonwealth legislation is in place to regulate the export and import
of hazardous waste; the management of industrial, agricultural and veterinary chemicals;
dumping and incineration at sea of waste; ozone depleting substances; and
product stewardship for used oil.
In addition, the department works with state and territory governments to
ensure that legislation and reporting are in place so that Australia can fulfil
its implementation, reporting and compliance obligations under the
National leadership and
Despite its limited constitutional responsibilities regarding waste and
recycling, successive Australian governments have taken a role in these
matters. The department indicated that the Commonwealth generally contributes
when there are:
national issues where Australian Government action is 'the most
effective and efficient intervention, especially where there are risks posed by
hazardous substances to human health and the environment';
issues 'affecting multiple jurisdictions that would benefit from
a coordinated approach or national harmonisation of policies, guidelines or
standards that cannot be achieved without Australian Government support';
'domestic market failures or absences of a market that require
national policy or partnership programs'; and/or
information on a national scale is required.
However, it should also be noted that a number of submitters were
critical of the lack of leadership provided by the Australian Government. These
issues will be explored in Chapter 7.
The National Waste Policy was agreed to by Commonwealth, state and
territory environment ministers in November 2009. As noted earlier, the Policy
sets national policy direction up to 2020 with 16 priority strategies
identified. Overall, the Policy aims to:
avoid the generation of waste, and reduce the amount of waste
(including hazardous waste) for disposal;
manage waste as a resource;
ensure that waste treatment, disposal, recovery and re-use is
undertaken in a safe, scientific and environmentally sound manner; and
contribute to the reduction in greenhouse gas emissions, energy
conservation and production, water efficiency, and the productivity of the
One of the outcomes of the National Waste Policy is the Commonwealth
taking on an additional regulatory role as part of a national approach to
This has been achieved through the Product Stewardship Act 2011, which
establishes a national framework for co-regulatory and mandatory product
stewardship obligations, and for the accreditation of voluntary product
The department is currently reviewing the Product Stewardship Act.
National coordination of waste issues is also provided for by the
National Environment Protection Council (NEPC). The NEPC is established under
the National Environment Protection Council Act 1994 (NEPC Act) and
mirrors legislation in the states and territories. The NEPC Act provides a
framework for the NEPC to make National Environmental Protection Measures
(NEPMs) about the environmental impacts associated with hazardous wastes, or
the re-use and recycling of used materials. These provide national standards to
support a coordinated approach, with NEPMs implemented by individual
Relevant NEPMs include:
the National Environment Protection (Movement of controlled waste
between States and Territories) Measure 1998—this NEPM establishes a nationally
consistent system for tracking the movement of hazardous wastes; and
the National Environment Protection (Used Packaging) Measure
2011, which seeks to encourage re-use and recycling of used packaging materials
by supporting and complementing the voluntary strategies in the Australian
Finally, the Australian Government has worked with the states and
territories to develop a National Food Waste Strategy. This Strategy, which was
released in November 2017, aims to achieve a 50 per cent reduction in food
waste by 2030.
Navigation: Previous Page | Contents | Next Page