Highlights of the National Waste Report 2016

The report provides national, state and territory data on waste quantities, sources, and management for 2014-15. In addition, it presents the most reliable trend data on waste quantities that has been compiled in Australia, extending back to 2006-07. It also includes international comparisons, an account of current and emerging waste issues, and contributions from key industry associations the Waste Management Association of Australia, the Australian Landfill Owners Association, the Australian Council of Recycling, and the Australian Organics Recycling Association.

The data was mostly supplied by the states and territories with additional input from industry and national government sources. States and territories entered their data into a custom Excel workbook using an agreed framework that transparently converts and supplements their data to a nationally consistent presentation. A similar compilation method was applied to data from five other financial years to generate the trend. The 2014-15 workbook, including the trend data, was released simultaneously with the National Waste Report 2016 and is available at the same web address.

The report and workbook were prepared by Blue Environment and Randell Environmental Consulting under contract to the Department of the Environment and Energy.

Total waste quantities

In 2014-15, Australia produced about 64 million tonnes of waste, the equivalent of 2.7 tonnes per capita. The proportion recycled was 58%. Excluding fly ash, the total was about 53 million tonnes, or 2.2 tonnes per capita, with 61% recycled (Figure 1).

The figures for energy recovery are higher than those reported by the states and territories because the Australian government method considers the production of energy from landfill gas a type of recovery. The estimated quantities of waste that generated this energy are included under ‘energy recovery’, rather than disposal.

Figure 2 presents national quantity trends between 2006-07 and 2014-15, the upper chart including fly ash and the lower excluding it. In both figures, the overall quantity of waste increased and there is a trend towards more recycling and more energy recovery. However, energy recovery declined in the last year of the series due to a fall in the quantity of landfill gas collected. Including fly ash, the annual quantity of waste per capita declined slightly but excluding fly ash, waste per capita increased by an average of 0.8% per year.

The rates of increase shown differ significantly from some previous analyses. The ABS 2016 Australian Environmental-Economic Accounts estimate that waste quantities increased by an average of 7.7% per year between 1996-97 and 2013-14. We understand this estimate relied on sectoral estimates of ‘waste intensity’ per unit value added. The data in the National Waste Report 2016 covers a shorter period but is collected directly and is likely to be more accurate.

Waste quantities by source stream

Figure 3 shows that in 2014-15 Australia produced the equivalent of 565kg per capita of municipal waste, 831kg of construction and demolition waste, 459kg of fly ash, and 849kg of other commercial and industrial waste. The recovered proportion was more than half for MSW and almost two-thirds for C&D and C&I waste (excluding fly ash).

Figure 4 shows the trends in waste generation and fate by source stream. Generation of MSW changed little over the nine years despite increasing population. Generation of C&I and C&D waste increased on a total and per capita basis. The recovery rate rose across all three streams, albeit only marginally for C&D waste. The fall in MSW per capita is linked to a decline in use of glass packaging, lighter plastic packaging and falling newspaper circulations.

Waste quantities by material

Figure 5 shows waste generation and fate by material in 2014-15. Masonry material, organic wastes and fly ash were the largest waste streams, representing nearly two thirds of waste generated. The highest recovery rates were of metals, masonry materials and paper and cardboard. The lowest rates were for plastics, ‘other’ and fly ash. Trend analysis presented in the National Waste Report 2016 shows that some significant material streams – paper and cardboard, glass and fly ash – are declining. Waste metals, organics and plastics also appear to be reducing, at least on a per capita basis. Masonry materials from demolitions, on the other hand, are increasing.

Establishing the national waste data system

A robust system for collating waste data nationally has been sought since the 1990s. Various ‘one-off’ national collations were produced during the 2000s, but coverage and their compilation methods were not wholly consistent. In 2010, the Department of the Environment and Energy established a framework compilation method in consultation with the states and territories. This was transparently applied to generate the data for the original National Waste Report 2013, based on 2010-11 data. Afterwards, to improve transparency and consistency, the Department developed the workbook used for this new iteration of the report. This workbook was also applied to previous data sets back to 2006-07, again with the cooperation of the states and territories. As a result, for the first time, Australia now has:

  • an agreed compilation method for national waste data that can readily be reused;
  • a reasonable waste data trend extending back nine years; and
  • the ability to maintain the data trend should methods or assumptions need to change in future.

Dr Joe Pickin is a director of the consultancy company Blue Environment. He co-authored and was primary data analyst for the National Waste Report 2016. Contact: joe.pickin@blueenvironment.com.au or 0403 562 621.

This article was originally published in the August issue of Inside Waste and the National Waste Report 2016, which can be found here, was released on August 11.

A resourceful inquiry

In April 2017, the NSW Parliament’s Planning and Environment Committee established an inquiry to examine the waste industry, with particular reference to energy from waste technology. The inquiry is looking at the provision of waste disposal and recycling services, the impact of waste levies and the capacity to address the ongoing disposal needs for our state’s waste needs.

What has struck me about the Inquiry is the level of engagement and the contribution of private industry players, local governments, industry associations and consulting firms. While the inquiry has some way to go, there appears to be a level of consensus from initial submissions. Read more

Time for action: getting industry out of the corner

Speaking to industry players including NSW EPA director waste and resource recovery Steve Beaman, ACOR CEO Grant Musgrove, WCRA executive director Tony Khoury, Polytrade Rydalmere manager Nathan Ung, Bingo Industries CEO Daniel Tartak and Dial A Dump chief executive Ian Malouf, Four Corners’ “Trashed” showed viewers scenes of waste management practices, saying these would “seriously threaten the community’s faith in the billion-dollar recycling industry.”

Fixing the broken

Turning first to glass recycling, Four Corners took viewers inside Polytrade’s facilities where thousands of tonnes of glass are being stockpiled, and some landfilled, instead of being recycled. Read more

Innovative hub for advanced recycling proposed for Fyshwick

CRS has proposed the comprehensive solution to significantly increase recycling, reduce landfill and produce renewable energy to power Canberra homes. The project includes the construction of a freight rail terminal to take trucks off roads.

The $200 million factory will process Canberra’s waste streams – particularly unprocessed municipal solid waste and commercial industrial waste currently going to Mugga Lane landfill – to divert more than 90% of the waste that is currently going to landfill, significantly increasing ACT’s recycling, while also generating electricity from waste.

The waste-to-energy plant would be a joint venture with electricity retailer ActewAGL and would seek a feed-in tariff from the government for the electricity produced.

According to the project director Ewen McKenzie, the government’s recognised the landfill issue in Canberra and has been working hard over the last 10 years to try and identify alternative solutions to their landfill problems.

“We saw an opportunity to take the European experience and looking at other ways to handle our waste streams,” McKenzie said.

“There’s a lot of landfill diversion initiatives going on in Europe that have been successful for some time, so we are taking up a proven model from Europe and applying it to the ACT circumstance.

“We’ve identified a big site in Fishwick that we want to connect to the rail system to allow us to move recyclables, because currently there aren’t a lot of reprocessing plants in Canberra.

“Connection to the rail system is very difficult in Canberra and there really isn’t one at the moment for container handling, so we are looking at incorporating that in the proposal.”

The concept is a response to the ACT government’s call for innovative and sustainable proposals on how best to improve recycling and reduce landfill in the ACT, as the Mugga Lane tip has limited space available in future.

CRS has put a scoping document to the government and is now preparing an environmental impact assessment, including a health impact study, which McKenzie hopes to have released for public comment within a couple of months.

The project would divert trucks carrying rubbish to Mugga Lane to Fyshwick instead, where they would enter via Ipswich Stree, dump their loads indoors, with negative pressure to minimise smell, and leave via the back of Lithgow Street.

Rubbish would be sorted to extract recyclables, before being used to fuel the waste-to-energy plant.

Mugga Lane currently accepts about 300,000 tonnes of rubbish a year, and McKenzie said 90% of that could be diverted to Fyshwick. Of the 270,000 tonnes a year that comes in, he expected about 20% would be recyclable, leaving more than 200,000 tonnes to be burned for energy.

It would produce up to 30MW a year, sufficient to power 28,000 homes and is being touted as a green solution that would put Canberra at the forefront of waste management.

Four percent of the amount going into the plant would be left as residue and returned to landfill. Read more

Inside Waste (Aug): From journo to president

Now, Re.Group’s business development manager, former Inside Waste journalist and editor, and former Hyder Consulting (now Arcadis) consultant is the Waste Management Association of Australia’s (WMAA) new president – and quite possibly the association’s youngest president as well.

Inside Waste (IW) caught up with Lamb in the August issue, now ready for download, to find out how his first few weeks as president had gone and what some of the challenges and opportunities were for WMAA. Read more

Increasing landfill efficiency

The Dulverton Landfill manages 60,000 to 70,000 tonnes of waste a year and it is also home to the state’s largest composting facility, processing around 30,000 tonnes of organic waste per year. It’s a relatively small operation compared to its interstate counterparts, but one which follows prudent environmental management.

Mat Greskie, Dulverton Landfill CEO, says its landfill operation undergoes rigorous environmental testing. He explains that every aspect of the company’s landfill operation is aimed at optimising airspace, which helps extends the life of the landfill and reduces the carbon footprint.

“Unlike many sites that only cap their landfills at the end of the cell life, we use a different capping methodology which is to cap two or three times throughout the year to keep leachate generation to a minimum,” Greskie said. Read more

Bulk bag dischargers, a big help in the rubber crumbing process

Flexicon Corporation, which designs and manufactures bulk handling equipment and custom-engineered and integrated plant-wide systems, is in the business of helping recyclers improve their efficiency post-crumbing, through its bulk bag dischargers.

The company’s Bulk-Out Bulk Bag Discharger system promises to change the way bulk material is stored and shipped, and says the system overcomes limitations of outdated designs, ultimately improving safety, cleanliness, and convenience for the recycler.

There are three models in Flexicon’s Bulk-Out Bulk Bag Discharger range – the BFF Series dischargers with a bag lifting frame for forklift loading and unloading of bulk bags, the BFC Series dischargers with a cantilevered I-beam, electric hoist and trolley for loading and unloading of bulk bags without the use of a forklift, and the Half Frame series, which requires operators to load bags. The first two, the company says, are the most popular options. Read more

Closing the loop of Magnetic Island

Speaking to Inside Waste after winning the Waste Management Association of Australia (WMAA) Transfer Stations Excellence Awards at the 2017 Australian Landfill & Transfer Stations Innovation and Excellence Awards in March, Matt McCarthy, manager of Townsville City Council’s Waste Services, said the facility has been a long time coming and a lot of planning and work was done over 10 years.

“Ten years ago, we knew we were running out of landfill space and we needed to do something more, so a lot of community consultation was undertaken around the waste management strategy for Magnetic Island, and we surprisingly got a lot of support from the community – I think it was 98% support for a transfer station,” McCarthy said. Read more

Heads of EPA discuss national approaches

At a Waste Management Association of Australian (WMAA) NSW industry update earlier this month, NSW EPA director waste and resource recovery Steve Beaman said HEPA – an informal organisation – decided to form this waste working group as discussions within COAG tended to focus on issues such as container deposit schemes and plastic bag bans, and there is “a bit missing where there’s a need for regulatory policy and for the states to get together to harmonise.”

Beaman told attendees the working group would meet “fairly frequently” and as a start, would be principle-based although the intent is to get into the details “fairly quickly” Read more

Uncovering the issues that waste managers face

Speaking at Waste 2017 in Coffs Harbour in April, former Local Government NSW (LGNSW) senior policy officer, Mark McKenzie – he left LGNSW shortly after the conference and is now a City of Canterbury Bankstown councillor – offered insights into waste management and planning, and discussed the issues faced by councils in NSW.

McKenzie noted that one of the biggest issues that councils face during the planning process is being caught in the middle and having to deal with competing stakeholders.

“Council might have a wonderful strategy mapped out to the nth degree – its future growth, the types of businesses involved, how many residences, all of those sorts of things – but you still have all of the impositions put on you on all of the aspects of the waste management and planning,” McKenzie said. Read more