New report finds waste growth outstrips population rise

A landfill site full of waste product
MRA Consulting Group’s newly-published State of Waste 2016 report shows that waste generation has increased by six time the accompanying growth of the Australian population over the past 20 years.

The consultancy’s fourth annual review of current trends and forecast of anticipated activity in the waste management sphere found that during the period 1996 to 2015, the number of Australian inhabitants rose by 28 per cent but the amount of waste produced grew by 170 per cent.

Although its analysis found waste is growing at a compound rate of 7.8 per cent a year, MRA found encouraging signs for diversion from landfill. It reports that the recycling rate is increasing at a faster rate than ever, with the country now recycling around 58 per cent of waste streams produced. For the first time since 2005, its analysis showed a decline in tonnages of waste sent to landfill.

The report author, Mike Ritchie, acknowledges how states with the strongest landfill levies are supporting improved recycling rates, but that the economics of recycling need to be fixed to achieve each state’s recycling targets and compound diversion from landfill.

“One of the main frustrations of the waste sector is that plenty of new recycling/recovery technology is available, the sector has the appetite for capital investment, but the main barrier remains government willingness to shift market economics,” said Mr Ritchie. “Only where recycling is commercially viable, will companies invest.”

In terms of horizon scanning for the sector, MRA said it “reasonably expects” energy from waste to gradually replace landfill as an ultimate disposal option for residual waste. It also identified opportunities for recovery of more material from household waste, especially around food and organic material and community engagement projects.

Mr Ritchie concludes the report by saying: “Recycling rates are rising, alternative technologies are emerging, infrastructure is being built and with it jobs and economic returns. However, the fact is we are underperforming relative to State Target expectations.”

State of Waste 2016 and the 2013-2015 reports are available from the MRA Consulting Group website.

Mike Ritchie, Director – MRA Consulting Group Mike Ritchie, MRA Consulting

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