Waste & Materials

Every product we buy represents an investment of the energy, water and material resources required to make it. Waste is basically the unwanted stuff left over once we’ve used the product. It might be packaging, food waste or broken household items.

Managing waste and recycling is really just a part of managing material resources. The reasons why we reduce waste and recycle are:

  • to keep the materials needed to make new products in circulation in the long term, partly to ensure the on-going supply of these materials,
  • to avoid sending waste to landfill and, in doing so, avoid the environmental impacts of landfill,
  • to ensure better resource productivity for the material resources we mine or grow, and
  • to gain the benefits of using recycled materials in manufacturing, for example, the energy savings of using scrap metal instead of virgin material to make metal products.

The average Australian household throws out 15.7kg of garbage and recyclable items every week.

Source 1997 Beverage Industry Environment Council National Recycling Audit and Garbage Bin Analysis.

The 1997 BIEC national waste study found that the proportions of the different types of garbage/recyclables by weight were:
paper and cardboard 23.6% (generally recyclable)
food waste 23.5% (avoidable and/or compostable)
green waste 20.2% (compostable and/or recyclable through green waste collections)
other 12.3% (clothing & household items can be given to charity)
glass 8.4% (recyclable)
plastics 6.1% (mostly recyclable)
contamination 2.6% (landfill)
steel 2.4% (recyclable)
liquidpaper board 0.5% (recyclable)
aluminium 0.3% (recyclable)
hazardous 0.2% (special collections)

You’ll see from the comments in brackets that there are alternative ways to deal with many waste materials instead of sending them to landfill. Your choice of products, the materials they are made from, how you use them and ultimately how you dispose of them can make a difference environmentally.