The 2019 Australian Infrastructure Audit has examined some of the challenges faced by Australia’s waste sector, including growing pressure due to population growth, export bans and heightened environmental awareness.
The audit, released 13 August, also considers the energy, transport, telecommunications, water and social infrastructure sectors and outlines Australia’s challenges and growth opportunities over the next 15 years.
According to the audit report, Australia is one of the world’s largest waste generators, producing 9 per cent more waste per person than comparable countries.
“We have achieved limited progress on waste reduction or on recycling more waste material back into useful products,” the report reads.
“Our waste management is often poorly planned, and the sector is under increased pressure as waste generation increases and the capacity of infrastructure declines.”
The report highlights a lack of mature markets for private investment in recycling and waste disposal.
“There is a chance to capitalise on increased demand for recycled products and larger economies of scale as waste generation increases,” the report reads.
“Developing a domestic market could improve recycling rates and the sustainability of Australia’s waste disposal.”
The report also explores the limited number of new waste facilities, waste transportation challenges and patchwork government regulation.
“New solutions are needed, yet the market settings required to achieve the best outcomes have been slow to crystallise,” the report reads.
“More will need to be done to ensure the right mix of waste management and infrastructure assets is deployed.”
To meet Australia’s long-term needs, the report argues significant investment is needed in waste recovery and reprocessing infrastructure.
“Such investment could also stimulate local economic activity through the creation of jobs, new products and tax revenue, while retaining valuable resources within the local economy and reducing reliance on virgin materials,” the report reads.
“Greater commercial focus on the development of waste markets could encourage greater innovation in the sector, complementing existing priorities of pollution control.”