Friday, August 31, 2012

Recycling is BETTER

Many working in the waste industry including recycling tend to believe that recycling is a better option.

Now there is Australian data to back that up.  Recycling is BETTER.  More jobs in that sector, substantial energy savings - 241 million Gjoules per year, plus water and greenhouse gas generation savings.

These are substantial benefits.

Yet in the NT we seem to be stuck in a time warp, with little progress other than send it to landfill.  Even the greenwaste is inadequately managed with the monster piles created in Darwin inadequately dealt with to use productively as a source of nutrients and carbon for agriculture, mining site rehabilitation and similar issues, including simple issues of land cover to protect the surface from erosion and the loss of soil into waterways.  Come on construction can do better, so can the landfill site operators.

Mulch is expected to be in short supply in both WA and SA in future years if not already, due to significant market development by commercial companies and use of product in both commercial and domestic horticulture and agriculture. 

Then there are other materials such as glass and metals.  The latter are valuable and there is an effort to recycle generally, but what of glass and used tyres?  Both have had commercial development yet are not embraced.  Used tyres especially are a valuable component for civil construction and erosion management [ see ].  Locally there has been a recent report on using glass in civil construction - but is it happening?  So far, it seems no.

Locally we can do much better.

There is a link to the full report below. However, one view of the report is that it has excluded any details on tyre recycling, data on organics recycling is somewhat dated and it lacks much direction on where the industry might go.  A lot of collated data, but I am not sure how useful it really might be, although it fills a lot of report space.

Recycling trumps landfills

These figures come as results of the release of the Australian Recycling Sector Report, prepared by consultancy Net Balance for the Department of Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities.

The lengthy and far-reaching report covers recycling processes and markets, the economic value of the industry, its environmental benefits, the regularity environment, standards, industry barriers, data collection and a future outlook.

Australian Council of Recycling CEO Rod Welford said the study "confirms [recycling] generates more jobs than landfill". Key aspects of the report are summarised below.

Volumes and dollars
The report draws on the most recent figures reporting that 26 million tonnes of material was recycled in Australia in 2008/2009. The study quoted the Inside Waste Industry Report 2011-2012, noting from this volume the value of recycling in Australia was around $6.145 billion.

Most of this revenue (50% or so) is attributed to the sale of recovered materials, but the report cautions markets are highly variable. More than half ($3.8 billion) of the revenue from recycling was generated in NSW and Victoria.

The contribution of the recycling sector to Australian employment is estimated at a little less than 1% - meaning approximately 22,000 people (full time equivalents) are employed in recycling in Australia.

This equates to 9.2 full time employees for every 10,000 tonnes of waste processed.

Environmental Benefit
While recycling remains a relatively small employer in Australia, the report makes clear the environmental benefits of recycling are considerable.

In total, the report estimates recycling generate approximately 241,000,000 GJ-equivalent of energy savings. This is enough energy to power around five million homes.

Other key environmental savings estimated include 172 gigalitre of water, equivalent to 10% of Australia's water consumption and 15 million tonnes of greenhouse emissions as a carbon dioxide equivalent.

Barriers to improvement
A summary of the barriers impeding greater recycling put a lack of investment in recycling and limited infrastructure as the primary challenges facing the sector.

A lack of business recycling uptake, the distance of materials to markets and consumer behaviour are also key barriers.

The full report can be downloaded from the DSEWPC website. Further information on the Australian recycling industry is also available in the Inside Waste Industry Report 2011-2012.

No comments: