Analysis of Australia’s municipal recycling infrastructure capacity

Analysis of Australia’s municipal recycling infrastructure capacity

A new government report has found collection and recycling services have limited capacity to process certain types of waste, including plastic and organics.

The Federal Government in October released an Analysis of Australia’s municipal recycling infrastructure capacity which assessed the infrastructure and capacity of local governments as well as materials recovery facilities.

The report draws on information and data from the newly-released National Waste Report 2018 and six other analyses commissioned by the Department of the Environment and Energy.

Some of the key findings are that most Australians have access to municipal waste management and recycling, but kerbside municipal waste collection and recycling services are not available to most communities in remote and regional Australia.

Australia’s recycling infrastructure is generally capable of managing current volumes of waste, but collection and recycling services have limited capacity to process certain types of waste.

For example, it notes only 10 local government areas have municipal kerbside collections that can accept all types of recyclable plastic and plastic bags. It also highlights that 58 per cent of Australian households have no access to kerbside collection of organic.

Most of the nation’s materials recovery facilities lack technical capacity to sort commingled, highly-contaminated municipal waste into specific materials types that have low levels of contamination.

Some large businesses have responded to new international waste market restrictions, but most collection and recycling operators remain “vulnerable” to changing markets.

Broken down by stream, paper and cardboard recovery is considered relatively high (60 per cent) and about 92 per cent of local government areas (LGA) provide infrastructure for kerbside collection.

Plastics is considered low with only 12 per cent recycled and 27 per cent of councils (146 LGAs) have no infrastructure for kerbside recycling of plastic waste.

Metals recovery and recycling rates are considered high, with five million tonnes recovered for recycling in 2016-17, representing a total recovery rate of 90 per cent.

Around 56 per cent of Australia’s glass packaging is recovered, considered to be reasonable given the low commodity value when compared to plastic or cardboard.

“Existing collection and processing infrastructure is generally equipped to process current volumes of Australia’s recycled materials. However, current infrastructure is not well equipped to process all forms of recyclable waste, particularly all forms of recyclable plastic and organic waste,” the report says.

“Opportunities exist to increase Australia’s capacity to manage organic waste, including through provision of new infrastructure supporting kerbside collection of organic material, and processing those organics into compost and other products.

“There are also opportunities to develop infrastructure that enables alternative waste treatment options, such as removing organic waste from the landfill bin. Better management of organic waste will also reduce contamination in co-mingled bins and increase resource recovery rates.”

You can read the full report here.