National waste and recycling management

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National waste and recycling management

Waste management and recycling challenges
Early-stage proposal (Stage 1)
Efficient Markets
Problem/Opportunity timeframe
Near term (0-5 years)
Proposed By
Infrastructure Australia identified proposal
Date added to the IPL
26 February 2020
national waste and recycling management


Around 67 million tonnes of waste  was generated in Australia in 2016–17,  of which 37 million tonnes (55%) was recycled. This is below the national  resource recovery target of 80% by 2030, which was set in the 2019  National Waste Policy Action Plan.

Constraints on the collection and  processing of recyclable waste –  including product design and lack of sufficient demand – 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.

In March 2020, all Australia’s governments agreed to a ban on the export of waste-paper, plastic, glass and tyres. This means Australia must recycle an additional 650,000 tonnes of waste plastic, paper, glass and tyres onshore by 2024 putting further pressure on waste recovery and processing infrastructure. 

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.


The proposal 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. There is also an opportunity to use recycled content in infrastructure projects.

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

The Australian Government has committed $190 million to a new  Recycling Modernisation Fund, and nominated Recycling and Clean Energy as one of six National Manufacturing Priorities. These efforts aim to support investment in new infrastructure to sort, process and remanufacture materials such as mixed plastic, paper, tyres and glass. 

Next steps

Proponent(s) to be identified.