National waste and recycling management

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Waste management and recycling challenges
High Priority Initiative
Efficient Markets
Problem/Opportunity timeframe
Near term (0-5 years)
Proposed By
Infrastructure Australia identified initiative
Date added to the IPL
26 February 2020


Around 67 million tonnes of waste was generated in Australia in 2018, of which 37 million tonnes (55%) was recycled. This is below the target recycling rates (of 70%) set out in the Waste Avoidance and Resource Recovery Strategy 2014-21.

Constraints on the collection and processing of recyclable waste led to recyclable waste ending up in landfill, contributing to the shortfall. These constraints include:

  • lack of space for transfer facilities

  • the ability of material recovery facilities to process and sort co-mingled, highly contaminated waste (particularly for communities in remote and regional Australia)

  • under-developed domestic reuse markets as a result of previous over-reliance on the export of waste to international markets.

The environmental costs of greenhouse gases and leachate from recyclable waste entering landfill are significant and are set to rise with a growing population.

In addition, limited landfill capacity and sorting facilities are increasing logistics costs as waste is being transferred greater distances for processing and disposal.

Proposed initiative

The initiative involves a coordinated strategy between all levels of government and the market to identify a program of investment in new waste recovery and reprocessing infrastructure.

This aims to meet the long-term needs of Australians and to foster innovation and adoption of emerging technologies.

Next steps

Proponent(s) to be identified.