Measuring the environmental, economic and social impacts of reuse

We have partnered with Charitable Reuse Australia to produce the most comprehensive study into the reuse sector in NSW.

The report, Measuring Reuse Activity and Impacts in NSW, provides an in-depth look into the industry’s environmental, economic, and social contributions. This research is the first of its kind and estimates NSW reuse activity in 2022-23 for organisations such as op shops.

Working together towards a circular economy

The EPA is prioritising the transition to a circular economy – a shift away from the take, make, dispose model for materials and embracing a circular model where we recycle, repair, repurpose and of course, reuse. It is through working together that we will achieve a circular economy over the next 20 years, and this report shows how beneficial the transition will be.

Job opportunities, cost-of-living relief, charity support, and reduced carbon emissions are just some of the significant benefits the reuse sector brings. Thanks to the amazing work of our reuse organisations, 107.7 million second-hand items were rehomed, and more than 1,500 full-time jobs were generated, including helping people who often face challenges finding employment.

Key findings

The findings will help government, industry and the community making data-informed decisions and find innovative pathways for products and materials. The report will also assist the EPA as a regulator to make better policy decisions, whilst also helping charitable and commercial reuse organisations build capacity to scale their environmental, economic, and social impact.

Reuse activity in NSW in 2022-23

  • generated 81 times more jobs than landfill per tonne
  • generated 25 times more jobs than recycling per tonne
  • reused an estimated 107.7 million secondhand items
  • saved the NSW community an estimated $432 million through selling and providing secondhand goods, compared to buying new items
  • saved an estimated 321,000 tonnes of CO2
  • diverted an estimated 49,900 tonnes of products from landfill to reuse
  • sold or donated secondhand goods that are reused valued at approximately $243 million

How was the data collected and reported?

  • This project adopted the National Reuse Measurement Guidelines (Monash University) to quantify this reuse activity and associated impacts.
  • Data on reuse volumes were collected via a survey with NSW reuse, using point-of-sales data wherever possible.
  • A subset of data was also collected on repair prior to reuse.

The project estimated reuse activity across different types of reuse organisations such as op shops, second-hand clothing shops, rent-a-racks, reclaimed timber shops and commercial collectors/ exporters. Online marketplaces are separately reported.

The data does not include pawnshops, commercial second-hand furniture shops, salvage yards, or council reuse shops.

The reuse sector and NSW as a whole is leading the way in our transition towards a circular economy, setting an example for other Australian states to follow.

  • The project is an initiative of Charitable Reuse Australia in partnership with the NSW EPA. 
  • Rawtec was engaged to lead research for the project with support from the Project Working Group, Expect Advisors and Survey Support Team, and input from the reuse organisations.