This service is
Carbon Neutral
Close button

19 Australian Recycling and Waste Statistics for 2023

June 8, 2023
Cover Image

Australia has a complicated relationship with plastics and recycling. If the latest data is any indication, we unfortunately have the dubious honour of having the highest waste rate of single-use-plastic per capita anywhere in the world.

With over 76 million tonnes of waste produced every year — and an average recycle rate of under two-thirds (63%) — Australia is currently far from the mark when it comes to recycling and reducing waste.

In this article, the experts at Ridly will investigate and explain some of the most essential Australian recycling statistics for 2023. As Sydney’s leading rubbish removal provider, we’ll also look into some of the initiatives and goals that will be implemented in a bid to reduce, reuse, and recycle in Australia in the coming years.

Waste Generation and Management Statistics Australia

  1. Australia produces approximately 76 million tonnes of waste each year

    According to the latest data from Australia’s biennial 2022 National Waste Report, Australia generated a whopping 75.8 million tonnes (Mt) of waste, or around 2.95 tonnes per person in the 2020/21 reporting period. These figures represented a 3% increase in the previous report and indicate that in spite of best efforts, a growing population and consumerism is continuing to drive waste figures.

  2. Building and demolition materials are the biggest contributor to waste

    According to the latest data, building and demolition materials are the biggest contributor to Australia’s waste, with 25.1 Mt of recorded in the 2020/21 reporting period. Organics (14.4 Mt), ash (12.0 Mt), and hazardous waste (7.4 Mt) were the three biggest categories after building and demolition materials.

  3. Waste is outgrowing recycling in Australia

    According to Hon Tanya Plibersek, Australia’s Minister for the Environment and Water, Australia’s waste growth rate is higher than our recycling rate. “Waste is increasing, but the proportion of waste we’re recycling isn’t. Every bit of rubbish that ends up in landfill is a missed opportunity to contribute to a circular economy in which nothing is wasted.”

Australian Government Recycling Statistics

  1. Victoria has pledged to invest $515 million in recycling

    The Victorian government will invest more than half a billion dollars between 2020 and 2030 to deliver the biggest reform and transformation in the state’s history.

  2. Australia will invest $250 million in recycling facilities in 2023

    Australia’s Minister for the Environment and Water, Hon Tanya Plibersek, announced that Australia would continue to invest in infrastructure and state-of-the-art advanced recycling solutions to sort, process and remanufacture plastic, glass, paper, and tyres into valuable new products.

Resource Recovery Rates Statistics Across Australia

  1. South Australia has Australia’s highest resource recovery rate at 80%

    South Australia boasts the highest recovery rate of any state or territory in Australia at 80%. It should come as little surprise that the state that has been responsible for spearheading Australia’s recycle-and-earn initiative for more than 30 years is leading the way with Australia’s highest resource recovery rate at 80%. The South Australian government have also pledged for zero avoidable waste to end up in landfill by 2030.

  2. The Northern Territory has Australia’s lowest resource recovery rate at 19%

    The Northern Territory is responsible for Australia’s lowest resource recovery rate at just 19%. In a bid to overcome the less-than-successful Waste Management Strategy for the Northern Territory (occurred between 2015–2022) which set no specific targets, the NT government have recently launched the Circular Economy Strategy which will roll out between 2022-2027 and strengthen regulatory waste framework, including for hazardous waste. The Circular Economy Strategy will also phase out and ban certain problematic single use plastic products by 2025.

  3. Recycling rates for metal materials are the highest at 87%

    According to the most recent data, recycling recovery rates were highest for metals (87%), followed by building materials (81%), paper and cardboard (62%), organics (58%), and glass (59%).

  4. Recycling rates for plastics are the lowest at just 13%

    Australia has a complicated love affair with plastics. In spite of consistent steps to increase recycling rates and cut down on single use packaging, plastics continue to lead the way with the lowest recycling recovery rates.

Australia's Export of Waste and Recycled Materials

  1. China is the primary destination for Australia’s waste and recovered materials

    Despite imposing import restrictions that have drastically affected the global market for waste and recovered materials, China continues to be the primary destination for Australia’s waste and recovered materials. Total exports of waste and recovered materials have remained at around the 4.5 Mt/yr level over the past 10 years.

  2. Australia’s plastic exports have fallen by 41% since between 2016-2022

    China’s import bans have played a big role in reducing the amount of plastic that is exported from Australia each year. In fact, since the export restrictions came into effect in 2021, Australia’s plastic exports market have fallen from a peak of 182 kt in 2016–17 to 107 kt in 2021–22.

  3. Australia exported 102 kt of discarded textiles in 2020–21

    Australia exported some 102 kt of discarded textiles in 2020–21 – almost entirely comprised of discarded clothing items. The fast fashion economy has a lot to answer for when it comes to the growth of discarded textiles in Australia over the last decade. Some two-thirds of Australia’s discarded textiles in 2020–21 was sent to the United Arab Emirates.

Plastic Waste Recycling Statistics

  1. Australia produces 3.5 million tonnes of plastic waste each year

    According to the latest data from 2020, the total plastic waste generated in Australia that year was approximately 3.5 million tonnes.

  2. 84% of plastic waste is sent to landfill

    In Australia, a staggering 84% of all plastic waste is sent to landfill and less than 13% is recycled properly — a sure sign that Australia needs to rapidly implement a plastic recycling scheme whilst also cutting down on the 3.5 million tonnes of plastic waste added to our country each year.

  3. 130,000 tonnes of plastic waste end up in Australia’s ocean each year

    A whopping 130,000 tonnes end in Australia’s ocean each year. Given that more than 80% of Aussie’s reside by the ocean, it should come as little surprise that we need to do our due diligence when it comes to disposing of plastic waste to ensure it doesn’t end up in our oceans.

  4. 99% of seabirds worldwide will have ingested plastic by 2050

    According to research conducted by Australia’s Department of Climate Change, Energy, the Environment and Water, some 99% of seabirds worldwide will have ingested plastic by 2050.

  5. Plastic in oceans is predicted to outweigh fish by 2050

    Another distressing statistic from Australia’s Department of Climate Change found that the amount of plastic in our oceans will outweigh fish by 2050 at the current rate of progress.

  6. Bottled water contributes 60,000 tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions each year

    Australian’s have a complicated (and lengthy) love affair with bottled water. According to the latest data, some 600 million litres of bottled water are purchased every year in Australia and are responsible for generating 60,000 tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions.

  7. Australians have the highest single-use plastic waste per capita globally

    Australia has the highest consumption of single-use plastic waste per capita. On average, Australian’s will use 60-kilograms each per year which puts us in front of the second highest country, the United States, for plastic use volume.

Final Thoughts

When it comes to recycling, reducing, and reusing, one thing is clear – Australian’s have a long way to go. While state-level initiatives will help to send the right message form the top down, each of us have a responsibility to cut down on single-use-plastics and ensure that we are disposing of recyclable materials in a responsible matter so that they don’t continue to clog up our landfills. If, like many Australian’s, you find yourself in a position to dispose of recyclable materials, get in touch with an eco-friendly rubbish removal company like Ridly that can help to facilitate an environmentally friendly disposal of these materials.

Together, we can all do our part to reduce, recycle, and reuse materials that can have a big impact on Australia’s recycling statistics for the coming years.

Let Ridly give you a hand

Call us on 0488 846 336, or request a quote:

And add some images below! (Optional)

By submitting you accept our terms & conditions.