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 mandatory reporting for most resource recovery facilities has 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 material from landfill. The data is also a vital resource for industry, community, and government to inform decision making and policy. To ensure the quality of the dataset, we implemented controls which are outlined in the 2020-21 data quality statement.
What does the data say about waste performance?
Waste generation in NSW
Between 2015–16 and 2020–21, total waste generated per capita has risen from 2.43 tonnes to 2.65 tonnes, with a peak of 2.75 tonnes per capita in 2018–19. From 2015–16 to 2019-20 Municipal Solid Waste (MSW) and Commercial and Industrial (C&I) waste generation per capita has remained relatively unchanged. The overall rise being mostly attributed to an increase in construction and demolition (C&D) activities (1.32 tonnes to 1.52 tonnes per capita).
In 2020–21, NSW saw that trend change with MSW waste generation per capita increased by 50kg while C&D generation per capita dropped by 40kg. The COVID-19 pandemic saw people spending more time at home which reflected an upward trend in MSW tonnes generated. In addition, C&D waste showed some noticeable reduction in generation and disposal in 2020-21, potentially a result of reduced construction activity during lockdowns.
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 the clean-up and disposal of 115,000 tonnes of bushfire generated waste in the regulated levy area. The clean-up of bushfire waste continued through 2020-21 and in the regulated levy areas, an additional 30,000 tonnes was disposed.
In March 2021 there were significant storm and flood events across NSW. These events resulted in 56,000 tonnes of storm and flood waste being disposed in the regulated levy area. The disposal of bushfire generated waste and storms and flood waste was made levy exempt through natural disaster exemption provisions in the Protection of the Environment Operations (Waste) Regulation 2014.
In 2020–21, just over 22 million tonnes of waste was generated, a slight increase of 162,000 tonnes from the previous year. The majority of this waste originated from C&D activities. Figure 2 shows the tonnes of waste generated, by waste stream for the 2015–16 to 2020–21 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 2020–21 and the high portion of this stream that is recycled.
NSW recycling performance
The overall waste recycling rate for NSW during 2020–21 was 66%, driven largely by a strong recycling rate of 76% achieved in the construction industry. Total tonnes of material diverted and tonnes disposed has remained relatively constant.
Figure 4 shows that recycling rates have improved slightly for MSW from 42% to 44% and increased from 47% to 53% for C&I waste. C&D recycling rates remain strong, however relatively unchanged over the six-year period.
Figure 5 shows the waste recycled, by waste type and waste stream for the 2020–21 reporting period.
NSW waste diversion from landfill
In 2020–21, the total waste diverted from landfill was 66% representing nearly 14.5 million tonnes. Figure 6 shows the total tonnes recycled and disposed from 2015–16 to 2020–21. In the absence of alternative diversion options across the six reporting periods, the diversion rate is the same as the recycling rate referred to above.