The 2013 Report on the State of Waste and Recycling in Queensland, prepared by Queensland Government’s Department of Environment and Heritage Protection, shows a clear and steady upward trend in waste recovery and recycling in the state, over a ten-year period.

While this is a welcoming trend, when taken in context, Queensland still has one of the worst recycling rates and has the highest per capita rate for waste generated in the country. More than 32 million tonnes of waste is produced in Queensland every year, and only about a third of the recoverable waste is actually recycled.

Compared to previous years, this year’s report was based on refined survey methods and additional data validations, and gives great insight into the current waste management situation in Queensland.

Business Sectors – The Worst Recycling Offenders

While domestic kerbside recycling programmes have been hugely successful in the state, in the business sector it is still often the case that waste is sent to landfill instead of being recycled.

According to the report, 2.7 million tonnes of commercial and industrial waste were generated in Queensland in the 2012-13 period and only less than 4% of this was recovered by various programmes. Most of the wastes separated at source were recovered while mixed wastes showed high rates of disposal.

The rates of recovery of batteries, ferrous and non-ferrous metals, mineral oils, tyres, other rubber products and plastics were very low, whereas glass, vegetable oils, paper, cardboard and chemicals showed a high recovery rate.

Timber and green wastes, construction debris like concrete, bricks, tiles and asphalt had the highest rates of recovery (almost 100%) and were sent to end users.

Trends In Paper, Cardboard and Packaging Recycling

Collection of recyclables like glass, paper and cardboard show a slight decline (295000 tonnes in 2010-11 to 270000 in 2012-13) from previous years, but this has been attributed to changing consumption patterns, decline in newspaper circulation, and the use of lightweight glass products.

On the other hand, during the same two year period, recycling amounts for plastics, aluminium and steel increased from 24500 tonnes to 33000 tonnes. These three streams recorded the highest per-capita increase in recycling rates reaching an amount of 7.16kg per person.

Waste Strategy Targets For 2020

According to the Queensland Government waste strategy targets for the decade (2010 to 2020), recycling targets have been set as 60%. Some drastic measures seem necessary to make the target achievable.

The lack of dedicated processing infrastructure for waste sorting and recovery for large-scale industrial waste, and the varied, mixed composition of the generated wastes has been found to be the major reason for the low rates.

Small businesses, especially those in multi-tenanted buildings, often have little control over waste recovery. Many small business owners also lack the expertise or the capacity to effect major changes in how they approach waste.

Priority Hotspots

Batteries, tyres, fluorescent lights, gas bottles, hazardous and organic wastes, packaging wastes, electronic recycling and garden wastes have been declared as the priority hotspots that require special attention.

Accordingly additional collection programmes, infrastructure development for waste processing, awareness campaigns, voluntary product stewardship schemes, as well as fines or disposal bans are being considered for these areas.

Where T2 Environmental Can Be Of Help

Considering our collective interest in reducing landfill waste and increasing recovery and recycling in Queensland, T2 Environmental helps businesses come up with comprehensive strategies for waste and recycling management. This not only helps businesses reduce their operating and waste handling costs in the long run, but also helps fulfil their social and environmental obligations and move towards sustainability.

We welcome your call on 1300 578 707 to discuss your specific waste management goals and how to achieve them.