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Waste industry reduces GHG emissions

In recognition of National Recycling Week, the National Waste and Recycling Industry Council (NWRIC) has released its report highlighting the sector’s progress of contributing to reducing Australia’s greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. 

The report – Greenhouse Gas Emissions in Australia’s Waste and Recycling Sector provides a review of how the sector has been contributing and of its future forecasts to reduce the sector’s emissions by an additional 60 per cent by the end of the decade. 

NWRIC engaged Ricardo Energy Environment and Planning (Ricardo) to measure the carbon footprint of Australia’s waste and recycling industry. Ricardo modelled historical data from numerous data sources, including the National Greenhouse Accounts and the National Waste Data Report. Data was also verified with supplementary data provided by NWRIC members directly. All historic figures and forecasts are representative of Australia’s entire waste sector. 

NWRIC CEO Rick Ralph says the report independently quantifies and provides confidence that the waste and recycling sector is on track towards zero emissions by 2050.” 

“Australia’s waste and recycling sector has seen a 45 per cent reduction in its greenhouse gas emissions over the past 30 years and is on target to reduce these by an additional 60 per cent by 2030,” he said. “This would take sector’s emissions down to around 4 million tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent emissions (Mt CO2-e) from the estimated 10 Mt per annum today, representing about 2.9 per cent of Australia’s total emissions.” 

Australia’s net GHG emissions from all sectors was 465 Mt CO2-e in 2020–21. The waste sector’s emissions accounted for 2.9 per cent (10 Mt CO2-e) of Australia’s net inventory emissions in 2020–21. This was a decrease in contribution from 3.7 per cent in 1989–90. 

“NWRIC industry members are committed to sustainability and adopting emissions targets, mainly through decarbonising their energy sources as well as heavily investing in circular economy projects,” Ralph said. 

Annually across multiple platforms of innovation and investment, NWRIC members are contributing significantly to avoided emissions of more than 4.787 Mt CO2-e per annum. Council members are investing heavily in multiple projects such as methane capture at landfills, alternative fuel production, recycling and refining of waste oils, in-vessel compost operations, reprocessing secondary materials that replace virgin materials in remanufacturing, or recycling scrap steel to make new green steel – a real and demonstrable contribution in support of the Federal Government’s 2030 and beyond targets. 

Fast tracking and scaling technical innovations, government support and partnerships with other industries and supply chains will continue to see an increase in recovery and avoided emissions. 

NWRIC members are committed to monitor and identify future opportunities to avoid emissions with a target for a negative net carbon emission balance by 2050. 

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