NSW waste and recycling performance data for the 2021-22 financial year

The waste and recycling performance data inform NSW’s performance on improving waste outcomes including reducing waste generation and increasing recycling by diverting materials from landfill. The data are a vital source for industry, community and government to decision-making and policy.

The EPA collects data under legislation through the Waste and Resource Recovery Portal (WARRP). The introduction of the WARRP and supporting regulation reform requiring mandatory reporting for most resource recovery facilities has significantly improved the quality of data collected and published in NSW, ensuring its reliability through controls outlined in the 2021–22 Data Quality Statement.

Key findings

In 2021–22, total waste generated per capita dropped to 2.53 tonnes, compared to 2.65 in the previous year. Over the reference period from 2015–16 to 2021–22, the total waste generated per capita has fluctuated between 2.43 tonnes to 2.53 tonnes, peaking at 2.75 tonnes per capita in 2018–19.

From 2015–16 to 2019–20, Municipal Solid Waste (MSW) generation per capita remained relatively steady at 0.55 tonnes per capita, with a slight increase in 2020–21 possibly due to stay-at-home health orders before returning to the pre-pandemic trend in 2020–21. It is likely that post COVID-19 pandemic saw people spending less time at home which reflected an upward trend in MSW tonnes generated.

The Commercial and Industrial (C&I) waste generation remained relatively steady across the reference period and remained at 0.57 tonnes per capita in 2021-22.

Construction and Demolition (C&D) waste generation decreased from the previous year down from 1.48 to 1.40 tonnes per capita. The drop can be attributed to significant operational challenges in the construction sector, including disruptions caused by storms and floods across NSW from October 2021 to April 2022 and a two-week industry-wide shut down in response to COVID-19 health orders.

The clean-up of waste arising from the March 2021 floods continued into 2021–22 and additional flooding events across most of NSW between October 2021 and April 2022 resulted in approx. 135,000 tonnes of waste received by waste facilities in the regulated area compared to 60,000 tonnes of waste received in 2020–21. 

Figure 1 illustrates the waste generation per capita, in total and across the three waste streams for the 2015–16 to 2021–22 financial years.

Figure 1

In 2021–22, 21 million tonnes of waste were generated, a decrease of 1 million tonnes from the previous year. Most of this waste originated from construction and demolition (C&D) activities, with the impact of storms and floods likely contributing to the decrease compared to the previous year.

Figure 2 illustrates the tonnes of waste generated, by waste stream for the 2015–16 to 2021–22 financial years.

Figure 2

Figure 3 illustrates the tonnages of each waste stream and the portion of each stream that is recycled and disposed. Notably, the construction and demolition (C&D) waste generation increased more relative to other waste streams between 2015 and 2021 and dropped in 2021–22.

Figure 3

Recycling performance in NSW

In 2021–22, the overall recycling rate for NSW was 65%, primarily driven by a strong 80% recycling rate in the construction industry. Total tonnes diverted from landfill dropped while tonnes disposed to landfill has remained relatively steady.

Figure 4 illustrates there was slight decrease in recycling rates for MSW (43% from 44%) and a larger drop for C&I waste (49% from 53%) compared to the previous year, while C&D recycling rates remain strong and increased slightly from 79% to 80% in 2021–22, however relatively unchanged over the seven-year period.

Figure 4

Figure 5 shows the waste recycled, by waste type and waste stream for the 2021–22 reporting period.

Figure 5

Waste diversion from landfill in NSW

The total waste diversion from landfill in NSW was 65% in 2021–22, accounting for nearly 13.5 million tonnes diverted.

Figure 6 illustrates the total tonnes recycled and disposed from 2015–16 to 2021–22. In the absence of alternative diversion options across the seven reporting periods, the diversion rate is the same as the recycling rate referred to above.

Figure 6

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