Each financial year, the EPA collects data under legislation through the Waste and Resource Reporting Portal (WARRP). Introduction of the WARRP and regulation reform that requires most resource recovery facilities to report using the portal instead of voluntary surveys have significantly improved the quality of data collected and published in NSW.
The data helps track NSW’s performance on improving waste outcomes including reducing waste generation and increasing recycling by diverting tonnes from landfill. To ensure the quality of the dataset, we implemented controls which are outlined in the 2019–20 Data quality statement (PDF 282KB).
What does the data say about waste performance?
Waste generation in NSW
Between 2015–16 and 2019–20, total waste generated per capita rose from 2.42 tonnes to 2.65 tonnes. This was mostly due to increased construction activity (1.32 tonnes to 1.52 tonnes per capita), with Municipal Solid Waste (MSW) and Commercial and Industrial (C&I) waste generation per capita remaining relatively unchanged during this period.
There was a decline in waste generation per capita from the previous year, with C&D dropping from 1.65 tonnes per capita in 2018–19 to 1.52 tonnes per capita in 2019–20. This is mostly due to a drop in contaminated soils and asbestos containing materials being disposed to landfill. Over the same period, there was a small increase in C&I waste per capita from 0.55 to 0.58.
Figure 1 shows the waste generation per capita, in total and across the three waste streams for the 2015–16 to 2019–20 financial years.
The 2019–20 bushfire season in NSW impacted 50 Local Government Areas and resulted in significant clean-up and disposal of bushfire generated waste. Predominantly mixed waste and asbestos contaminated waste were disposed to landfills. The additional tonnes of bushfire generated waste that were disposed in the non-levy area (NLA) represented 9% of total waste disposed in the NLA for FY2019–20. The additional tonnes of bushfire generated waste disposed in the Metropolitan and Regional levy area represented 2% and 3% of total disposal for FY2019–20, respectively.
The COVID-19 pandemic coincided with March, April, May and June of FY2019-20. Factors such as people spending more time at home during the pandemic reflected a slight upward trend in MSW disposed, however it was largely indistinguishable over the whole 2019–20 period. C&I and C&D waste volumes showed minor fluctuations, which could not be directly attributed to the pandemic during the 2019–20 period. Overall, the pandemic had a negligible impact on the 2019–20 waste performance dataset as there was no clear effect on waste generation, recycling and disposal.
In 2019–20, just under 22 million tonnes of waste was generated, a decrease of 370,000 tonnes from the previous year. The majority of this waste originated from construction and demolition (C&D) activities. Figure 2 shows the tonnes of waste generated, by waste stream for the 2015–16 to 2019–20 financial years.
Figure 3 shows the tonnages of each waste stream and portion of each stream that is recycled and disposed. The Figure also clearly shows the increase in the C&D waste stream across 2015–16 to 2019–20 and the high portion of this stream that is recycled.
NSW recycling performance
The overall waste recycling rate for NSW during 2019–20 was 64%, driven largely by a strong recycling rate of 76% achieved in the construction industry. Total tonnes diverted and tonnes disposed has remained relatively level.
Figure 4 shows that recycling rates have improved slightly for MSW from 42% to 43% and increased from 47% to 52% for Commercial and Industrial (C&I) waste. C&D recycling rates remain strong, however relatively unchanged over the four-year period.
Figure 5 shows the waste recycled, by waste type and waste stream for the 2019–20 reporting period.
NSW waste diversion from landfill
In 2019–20, the total waste diverted from landfill was 64% representing 14 million tonnes. Figure 6 shows the total tonnes recycled and disposed from 2015–16 to 2019–20. In the absence of alternative diversion options across the five reporting periods, the diversion rate is the same as the recycling rate referred to above.