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SA’s waste survey reveals highs and lows of recycling and organic waste

South Australia’s Recycling Activity Survey 2017-18 has revealed that 87 per cent of the material recovered through diversion, is recycled in the state. South Australians are diverting 4.49 million tonnes of material from landfill each year.

Soil, masonry, organics, metal, cardboard and paper, glass and plastics make up the most diverted materials.

Minister for Environment and Water, David Speirs, said the increase in the state’s diversion rate is driven by an increase on the back of state infrastructure projects.

Masonry and soil contributed 30 per cent, or 1.35 million tonnes, to South Australia’s recycling activity and were mostly generated by the construction and demolition (C&D) sector.

Organics was the third greatest contributor to South Australia’s recycling activity at 1.1 million tonnes, or 24 per cent.

Organics were predominately generated by the commercial and industrial (C&I) sector.

C&I organics included large volumes of timber, meat rendering and other industry residues.

Metals remained the fourth greatest contributor by weight, remaining at 7 per cent in 2017-18. Most metals were sourced from the C&I sector.

Following this, was cardboard and paper, remaining at 5 per cent; and glass, at 1.3 per cent. These materials were sourced from the municipal and C&I sectors.

Since 2003, the recycling rate has improved by nearly 22 per cent and resource recovery has increased from about 2 million tonnes to just over 4.4 million tonnes a year.

However, there has been a slight increase in waste to landfill from 2016-17 to 2017-18, as well as an increase in waste generation per person.

During 2017-18, the amount of waste received at landfills in South Australia increased slightly to 0.88 million tonnes – from 0.87 million tonnes in 2016-17. This represents a per capita waste-to-landfill rate of 505 kg per year, which is in line with 2016-17. Waste to landfill in tonnes per $1 million GSP decreased from 8.4 in 2016-17, to 8.3 in 2017-18.

Speirs said while all of the long-term key indicators are trending in the right direction, South Australians need to remain vigilant.

“We still have room to improve. South Australia set an ambitious target in 2003 to reduce waste to landfill by 35 per cent by 2020 and we’re at 29 per cent. We’re close to that goal, but we need to do more.

“Despite considerable impact for the recycling industry as a result of China’s National Sword policy, South Australia’s recycling industry is transitioning by implementing measures to improve the quality of the materials recovered and diverted, and by educating the public on the importance of recycling,” Speirs said.

One area that needs improvement is diverting food and organic waste. The survey showed that as much as 40 per cent of the material from household bins, sent to landfill, is food and organic waste.

Despite organics from the C&I sector being the third greatest contributor to South Australia’s recycling activity, it is let down when it comes to household waste.

“By improving this, we will reduce greenhouse gases while contributing to a more circular economy here in South Australia, which is not only good news for the environment, but for creating jobs as well,” Speirs said.

The report looks at recycling in the state in detail from 2017-18, and it compared statistics from previous years.