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How Bad Is Australia's Waste Problem?
Statistics From ABC's War On Waste

Statistics on this page:
Episode 1 & 2 | Episode 3 | Episode 4: Turning the Tide | The Battle Continues: Episode 5, Episode 6, Episode 7

War On Waste: The Battle Continues
Stats from new 2018 episodes are here!

Statistics will be updated within a couple days after release of each new episode. Click here for the latest.

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In case you weren’t aware, Australia has a huge waste problem. In the ABC’s recent series War On Waste, Craig Reucassel revealed some of the alarming statistics regarding the rubbish situation in Australia (affecting Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane and all Australian cities). It’s definitely a series worth checking out, if you missed it you can catch up on iView. Here at Same-Day Rubbish Removal, we found some of the statistics particularly interesting and had trouble finding a copy of them – so we made our own notes, and have put together a public resource that we hope you find helpful. Below are some of the most interesting statistics.

War on Waste Infographic War on Waste Infographic War on Waste Infographic War on Waste Infographic

The Numbers - Stats from Episode 1 & 2

  1. Australia is one of the most wasteful countries in the developed world
  2. Every year the waste we generate is growing at twice the rate of our population
  3. Australia uses over 10 million plastic bags a day – plastic bags are causing huge problems in our oceans
  4. 85% of soft plastics from bags and packaging ends up in landfill
  5. Australia pioneered recycling programs in the 60s starting initiatives such as Clean Up Australia Day
  6. The average Australian family throws out over $3.5k worth of food every year – that’s about a tonne!
  7. Australia produces enough food each year to feed around 60 million people (over twice our population), yet many Australians struggle to put food on the table.
  8. 3.3 million tonnes of food waste produced every year, 2.6 million of that from households. This is enough to fill the MCG 6 times!
  9. Approximately 1/5th of bought food is thrown away – one in every five shopping bags!
  10. On average 1/3 of household rubbish is food waste
  11. When food rots in landfill it lets off methane, which is 25 times more potent than the C02 produced by cars
  12. If 1% of the population composted food scraps instead of throwing them in the bin, it would save 45 million kgs of CO2
  13. Australians eat 5 million bananas a day, making it the number 1 selling supermarket product. A large percentage of bananas don’t reach the shelves.
  14. Australian supermarkets and other retailers send approximately 170k tonnes of food to landfill each year
  15. If global food waste was a country, it would be the third largest green house gas emitter behind China and the US

Episode 1 - Highlights

Shocked by the amount of bananas that had to be disposed of, Craig researched Woolworths’ banana cosmetic standards, and found some documents. He quoted ‘Slightly arched with blunted butt end’ as the requirements for bananas. You can see Woolworths’ full banana specifications for yourself here. It’s definitely something to consider when you’re buying food – if you see a straight or oversized banana, buy it, and support the use of imperfect fruit and vegetables.

Craig also tried out dumpster diving with the dumpster diving granny, it was amazing to see how much good food supermarkets dispose of. The two of them brought back enough food to feed several people. There is considerable hygiene risk, so we don’t recommend trying this yourself, but it was certainly an interesting thing to see.

Episode 2 - Highlights

Craig tried to push his plastic bag ball into parliament but was turned away - he had quite a hard time getting in contact with the environment minister or premier. His illustration sends a clear message, but it was unfortunate that he wasn't able to have more MPs see it.


A few people from the community chatted to a recycling specialist Craig organised, who gave them a test about what could and couldn't be recycled. Some of the answers were quite surprising, but understandably it can be confusing. Each state has different standards about what can be recycled due to the various companies that actually do the recycling.


Craig did a test to see where recycled plastic bags go. The first test he did with Woolworths had his tracker end up in a landfill facility, so he tested another two to check that this wasn't just an error. The next two did end up at a recycling centre, but according to the centre they don't actully recycle plastic bags. Craig couldn't get a clear answer on what happens, but it's possible that they're sent overseas for recycling.


War on Waste Plastic Bag Ball

In 2003, Coles Bay in Tasmania was the first town in Australia to ban the plastic bag. Craig and team visited the first shop to do so. The rest of Tasmania has also since banned the plastic bag, however, it was sad to see that many places have found a loophole and are just handing out thicker bags!


Craig went for a dive in Sydney Harbour to clean up and see how much rubbish was down there - they collected heaps in only one short dive. It is estimated that if current rates continue, by 2050 there will be more plastic in the oceans than fish.


70% of rubbish that is sent to landfill could be repurposed or recycled. Craig visited a fix it workshop that helps people fix items for free so that they don't have to throw them out. 80% of items that enter the workshop are sent home fixed.


Overall the episode was quite inspiring, encouraging people to think twice before they throw things out. We should all try to support the many initiatives like Replas as well as make sure our items are fixed or recycled!


Episode 3 - Coffee Cup & Clothing Waste Statistics

Fast Fashion, Fast Landfill

In Episode 3 many more alarming statistics were shared. One of the main factors was fast fashion - something people don't often think of as a waste problem. When throwing away clothes, we need to think about all the resources that went into making it - water, energy, cotton, transport, etc.

  • Australia is one of the most wasteful countries in the developed world
  • 6,000 KG of clothes are thrown out every 10 minutes in Australia — goes straight to landfill
  • 36,000KG of clothes are thrown out every hour
  • This could fill the MCG with clothes over two and a half times every year
  • 2700 litres of water to produce one item of clothing – enough drinking water for 3 years
  • The Smith Family warehouse process discarded clothing – 13 million KG of clothing every year
  • Some of these clothes are recycled, used as rags, etc. – 30% goes to waste
  • Three-quarters of clothing purchased is thrown out within a year

Coffee Cups - A Garbage Nightmare

Craig also shared some shocking statistics regarding the disposable coffee cup. He used a tram full of coffee cups to demonstrate how many coffee cups are thrown out every half hour. This was an important reminder as to why we should bring our own reusable coffee when we go to coffee shops.

  • 1 billion coffee cups are used in Australia every year - these are not recycled
  •  This is enough to circumnavigate the world two and a half-times
  • Most people don't realise that coffee cups can't be recycled
  • 50,000 cups are used every half hour.
  • Most coffe shops don't offer discounts for bringing a reusable cup (find a shop that does!)

If we all played our own small part by buying quality clothes and wearing them longer as well as only using our own reusable coffee cup, huge results could be seen.

Episode 4 - Turning the Tide

If you haven't had a chance to see this latest episode, you'll be relieved to know that since earlier in the year when the original episodes were broadcast, there has been some positive change. There's still a long way to go though! We wrote down some of the stats that stood out to us below:


Bottles and Cans Need to be Canned

  • 17 Billion Bottles and Cans used by Australia every year – less than half are recycled
  • 15 thousand bottles and cans are thrown away every single minute
  • In 1 day we waste enough bottles and cans to stretch over 4,000KM – that’s the whole way across Australia
  • It takes around 400 years for plastic to break down in water, and even then it ends up in tiny pieces that are harmful to marine life
  • Glass is infinitely recyclable
  • Only 56% of the glass we use in Australia gets Recycled
  • It only took 15 minutes to fill a massive bag with bottles from the Yarra river
Compressed Waste

There is an easy way to improve this - South Australia has had a container deposit scheme for 40 years which has helped them have the highest recycling rate in the country. The scheme encourages people to bring back containers - millions of them, with a return rate of over 80%. With the 10c/bottle buy back, around $58 million has been returned to the community in the last year. This scheme clearly works and should be introduced to all states.

Food Waste has Improved!

It's hard to track if there has been a significant change in the wider community regarding food waste, but there has been some great innovations throughout the community including some new innovations at Lancaster Bananas.

We look forward to seeing what action has been taken when the next installment of the War on Waste is released, but for now, we've put together a short list of all the most alarming statistics that were shared in War On Waste: Turning the Tide.

  • Less misshaped bananas have been getting wasted.
  • Harris Farm can take 2 pallets of misshaped bananas a week
  • Reduction in waste hasn't affected normal sale lines
  • Misshaped bananas are sold for less than half the price of other bananas, so should be popular!
  • Waste at the banana farm has been dramatically reduced
  • Seconds bananas are now sent next door to create a gluten free banana flower. Only takes about 20 minutes for banana flower to be produced.
  • There's nothing wrong with what is inside rejected bananas - the most important part.
  • Unfortunately there hasn't been any change in Coles and Woolworths fruit and veg standards
  • Supermarkets have pledged to phase out plastic bags as a result of pressure.
  • Coffee cups recycling is improving
  • 7 Eleven are working on a system to help recycle the 70 million coffee cups they sell each year
  • There have been a lot of positive changes so far, but there's a lot more that can be done yet!

War on Waste Episode 5: The Battle Continues

What an episode! There were so many stats shared in the first episode of War On Waste for 2018, and we've managed to compile all the important points below.

When the War On Waste first started it seemed like an un-winnable battle - since then we’ve seen some big changes:

  • Supermarkets have finally banned single use bags
  • Supermarkets are starting to understand that size doesn’t matter when it comes to fruit and veg (bananas included!).
  • Reusable coffee cups are becoming the trend and are helping to reduce our waste.

However, when it comes to waste, there are some big challenges on the horizon. There’s a long way to go, with issues arising like the Chinese changes to waste recycling.

Rubbish Footprint

Plastic Waste: Our Biggest Challenge

  • We’ve generated 6.3 billion tonnes of plastic. Only 9% has been recycled and 12% incinerated. 5 billion tonnes in landfill or polluting our environment. Our oceans and waterways are being choked with plastic waste.
  • 660 thousand tonnes of plastic waste every year are created by Australians.
  • Plastic straws are a major problem, and don’t get recycled. If they make their way into our waterways they pose a massive problem.
  • Guess how long it takes Australian households to throw out 1 tonne of plastic waste? 1 month? 1 week? 1 day? 10 minutes? Nope! 1 minute! It takes only 1 minute for Australians to produce 1 tonne of plastic waste.
  • In one day, we produce enough plastic waste to fill an entire beach. We need to do better.
  • Only 20% of Australian household plastic waste is recycled.
  • Plastic is designed to last forever. However, we’re often using single-use plastic items for only a couple of minutes.

It’s truly shocking the size of the problem, and when you add commercial and industrial waste in Australia, there's another 30% in terms of plastic waste production again.

The Plastic Bottle Battle

  • 1 billion plastic water bottles are bought in Australia every year
  • 1 million bought every minute worldwide
  • Only 20% of plastic bottles are recycled.

Robinet - Bottled Tap WaterPerhaps tap water needs a makeover? (see screenshot) Craig put tap water to the test - many people couldn’t even tell the difference when tap water was in a trendy brand bottle ('Robinet'). This great water that everyone loved comes FREE from your tap!

What's Really in the Bottled Water You Buy?

  • All our water is essentially from the same place. It’s a closed cycle. It all has to come from rainwater at some point.
  • Bottled water is classified as a food product and held to different standards to tap water. It varies from brand to brand.
  • Spring water must come from ground water
  • Unless specified, bottled water may not be fluoride free
  • Tap water has a relatively high concentration of minerals, often more than bottled water.
  • Acidity levels: Some brands of bottled water are quite acidic. Mount Franklin bottled water has a PH of 3.7, which is quite acidic.
  • Fluoride: 0.9 mg per litre in Gold Coast tap water. Some brands tested had slightly more than that.
  • #BYOBottle

Plastic bottles and straws were certainly the target throughout the show, however, there were plenty of other related facts and statistics which we found very interesting. Some of the scenes throughout were quite sad, seeing the state of the environment in various places.

    Ocean Crusaders Sorting Junk
  • Cleaning up the rivers of plastic waste. Ocean Crusaders found 5 tonnes of rubbish in the Yarra River in 5 days recently.
  • We have to vacuum our river banks of garbage. What has the world come to?! We’ve gotten used to this sort of unnatural practice becoming the norm.
  • 7.5 tonnes of plastic waste were found when Craig joined the Ocean Crusaders cleaning the Yarra this year.
  • We need to do the right thing with our plastics.
  • Recyclable Meat Packaging
  • China has banned plastic recycling imports. Councils around the country are grappling with how to deal with not being able to export plastic waste any longer. Contaminated waste is a major issue.
  • Recycling plastics is confusing! Craig showed how it can be difficult to know what can and can’t be recycled for different products like plastic bottles and meat trays.
  • Planet Ark has been trying to come up with a standard for recycling. This would mean clearer labelling on packages.
  • 63% of fresh meat is bought packaged at supermarkets. Meat trays sometimes can, and sometimes can’t be recycled.
  • The recycling labels are often tiny and need to be larger.
  • Of a sample of 9 meat trays, only 2 could be recycled for certain. 7 of the 9 sampled were completely unclear, and likely can’t be recycled.

Straw No More Campaign

Plastic Straws: A Problem that Numbers 3.5 Billion

  • How many plastic straws are thrown out every year in Australia? An estimated 3.5 billion!
  • The very first plastic straw you ever used is still somewhere on Earth.
  • Molly Steer from Cairns started ‘Straw No More’. Molly is on a mission to get rid of plastic straws after becoming aware of the major issues they cause.
  • She convinced her school to get rid of them.
  • She then followed on with other schools and has convinced over 90 other schools to get rid of plastic straws.
  • Molly and Craig found 179 straws in about an hour!
  • Injured Turtle from Plastic
  • Plastics are having a devastating impact on the Great Barrier Reef.
  • It’s believed over half of all sea turtles are being harmed by plastic waste, for example, by eating a plastic bag. People might use a plastic bag for 5 or 10 minutes, and these can impact a turtle for life.
  • A single turtle can ingest a massive amount of plastic waste over its life, and it can all accumulate, and have devastating impacts.
  • “All animals are suffering from plastics”.
  • Craig visited a number of pubs in Sydney asking owners how many straws they used. One pub owner said they used about 10,000 straws a month.
  • Craig asked people to put the straws out of sight, keeping them behind the counter and only giving them out when people ask. Most pubs agreed, and they also put up Straw No More signs.
  • Kiama High School Rubbish Sorting
  • One pub was using 190,000 a year VS 32,000 after putting the straws behind the counter.
  • Many schools around Australia are battling to deal with their waste problem.
  • Kiama High School is one of those, currently sending almost all of their waste to landfill.
  • They separated out 1 week’s worth of the school’s rubbish.
  • The school was throwing out 9 tonnes of rubbish a week to landfill. It costs them $2,300 a month for sending all that waste to landfill.
  • They found almost 100KG of paper, over 302 straws, 76 unwanted videos, over 1,700 bottles and cans.

War on Waste: The Battle Continues Part 2

Chinese Export Waste

China's Recycling Ban

In this episode, Craig started by visiting a recycling plant and seeing the impact that China’s changes to their waste importing laws has had on Australian recycling.

  • With China’s changes to recycling policy, Australian recycling plants used to get $200-400 a tonne for recycled plastic. This has now fallen through the floor to only $0-135 a tonne, and often nothing.
  • Similarly, paper has gone from being sold at $300-400/tonne to now only $0-30/tonne.
  • For some of the lower grade plastics, there is no market at all, meaning they are currently being sent to landfill.
  • Some companies are working on trying to recycle low grade plastics back into usable fuels and hopefully we’ll hear more about this in the future!
  • There are talks in the government about getting rid of single use packaging by 2023 and making recycled packaging by 2025 – this isn’t really enough, we need to do everything we can to stop this plastic waste ASAP.

McChokey the Turtle

A Visit from McChokey

Craig followed up with the Straw No More campaign and took a visit to McDonald's.

  • Every day in Australia, over 1 million people visit McDonald's. If half of those people use a straw, that’s around 350 straws every minute, or 182 million straws a year.
  • Craig takes ‘McChokey’, his plastic straw turtle to McDonald's headquarters to encourage them to act on removing straws from their 900 Australian restaurants. He is quickly asked to leave.
  • He then visits McDonald's School of Management who say they don’t take deliveries and send him back across the road.
  • After trying to call the McDonald’s CEO, Andrew Gregory, Craig sets out to see if it’s possible to get a McDonald's drink without a straw. It can be done. He can drink without a straw, just like any other normal cup!
  • McDonald's has committed to phase out straws by 2020 and is also trialling paper straws.
  • You can sign a petition at

Household E-Waste

E-Waste: Australia's Fastest Growing Rubbish Problem

  • Globally there have been 50 million tonnes of e-waste produced this year alone.
  • 700 thousand tonnes of this is made in Australia.
  • These items are full of recyclable products – plastics, glass, and precious metals.
  • 90% of this waste doesn’t have a dedicated recycling program.
  • Our streets are littered with microwaves, fridges, ovens, old monitors, computers and more when coucil collection is on.
  • Craig visits a family to demonstrate how much e-waste the average family produces.
  • The average family generates a lot of e-waste - over 10 years, a family of 5 produces around 1.4 tonnes! That’s massive.
  • This includes monitors, batteries, printers and more.
  • E-Waste Recycling Plant
  • Craig sets out to see if e-waste recycling actually works, by planting a GPS tracker on a number of devices that he drops in for recycling, including a council recycling yard, Harvey Norman, and 3 Officeworks outlets.
  • Craig visits MRI after seeing that’s where his e-waste ended up – this company recycled over 10,000 tonnes of e-waste over the last year.
  • A collection of 50,000 phones can contain up to 1 KG of gold.
  • Companies like MRI are doing a great job at recycling e-waste as they can recycle almost all components, however, there are still thousands of tonnes being wasted and sent to landfill every year.
  • Globally up to 80% of e-waste is illegally dumped. E-waste junk yards can leak lead and mercury into the environment and can be quite hazardous. In third world countries, e-waste is oftentimes even burnt, which can have major negative side effects on people’s health.

Old Mobile Phone Car

Mobile/Smartphone Waste: Time to Smarten Up

  • Currently in Australia we only recycle 10% of our mobile phones. Most Australians don’t know how to recycle their phone.
  • In the last decade we’ve hoarded 11 million mobile phones.
  • There are more unused phones than people in Australia (25 million old phones!)
  • To draw attention to the problem, Craig drove around a car that was covered in old phones. This certainly got him some attention, but there needs to be more attention given to this issue.
  • We now replace our mobiles every 18-24 months on average.
  • If we lined up all our unused phones, they’d stretch further than the distance between Sydney and Perth.
  • We need to get our phones out of draws and into recycling. When phones aren’t recycled, we’re losing resources like precious metals including gold, platinum and aluminium.
  • UNSW Recycling Micro Factory
  • A tonne of phones contains 63 times more gold than a tonne of ore.
  • Craig manages to find 8 old phones in his own home - something he wasn't proud of.
  • Australia has a free phone recycling system called Mobile Muster, but many people don’t know about it. It’s funded by the major telco companies.
  • Craig checks several phone stores to see if they offer mobile phone recycling, but one-third of the stores had no recycling box at all!
  • Craig visits UNSW to see their micro-factory that recycles mobile phones.
  • To make something new out of an old phone, the first thing they have to do is ‘blow it up’ with a fragmenter. This separates the phones plastic, glass and metal and only takes about a minute.
  • Using the recovered materials, they can then make ‘coil’ for 3D printing out of the recycled plastic, that they can then make into mobile phone cases, glasses and more. People need to think of e-waste as something that could become a new product, not WASTE!

Roadside IKEA Furniture

Cheap Furniture, Expensive Problem

  • We’ve become a throw-away society with so much cheap furniture available that isn’t built to last.
  • Over 85% of furniture we put on the curb isn’t recycled and is instead sent to landfill.
  • Craig goes ‘scouging’ – stopping items from going to landfill. They find all sorts of unwanted household waste like old TVs, CDs, rugs, clothing, furniture and much more. Many of the items are almost new. He’s very interested in a large pile of IKEA furniture he came across while ‘scouging’. Time for old fast furniture to meet its maker!
  • Over 900 million people visit an IKEA store every year.
  • In Australia alone IKEA sells over $1.5 billion of furniture annually.
  • IKEA sell a bookcase every 5 seconds.
  • Craig shows the IKEA Australia CEO, Jan Gardberg, all the discarded IKEA furniture he found. Gardberg said he doesn’t want to see his brand on the street. A significant amount of IKEA furniture goes into landfill.
  • Craig challenges the CEO to allow old furniture to be dropped off to IKEA stores in exchange for a voucher, or to be repaired. Gardberg said “We want to do this because it’s the right thing to do.”
  • IKEA is aiming for Zero Waste to landfill.
  • Craig also contacts several other furniture companies like Fantastic Furniture, AMART, Kmart and Target.

Batteries for Recycling

Battery Recycling (and Lack Of!)

  • 11,000 tonnes of batteries end up in landfill every year.
  • Only 3% of batteries are recycled in Australia! In comparison, Switzerland recycles around 70% of their batteries.
  • ALDI offers a battery recycling scheme. The government really needs to act here and introduce a more widespread recycling system.

Container Deposit Scheme

Big School Improvements

  • Kids are now splitting their waste into recycling categories (recycling, food waste and landfill).
  • The kids are trying ‘Trash Free Thursday’
  • Craig and some students take one days worth of bottles into the container deposit scheme and figure out that they can make $300 a week. This money will be used to buy hand blow dryers to remove the waste that paper towels have been making.

War on Waste: The Battle Continues Part 3

Plastic Packaging

Plastic Bags and Packaging

Since the War On Waste started last year, the big supermarkets have stopped using single use plastic bags, and replaced them with thicker reusable bags that cost 15c each. However, since the ban, Coles have started handing these thicker bags out for free! Craig investigates what can be done about these issues.

  • Overseas, people have started ‘plastic attacks’, campaigning against the excess packaging used - Craig joins a passionate group who want plastic free products who are doing their own plastic attack.
  • In a plastic attack, shoppers buy food in packaging, put the loose produce in their bags and leave the plastic packaging behind in a visible place at the store.
  • The group goes to an Aldi store where items like celery only come in plastic forcing shoppers to buy plastic. Some items like avocadoes come both loose or in packaging.
  • Bananas come in plastic packages despite having their own natural packaging! It's a similar situation for corn where the natural packaging has been removed and then wrapped in plastic.
  • They then piled up all their plastic wrapping, and none of the staff even noticed.
  • Plastic Attack
  • Next the plastic attack group went to Woolworths where so much of the organic produce was wrapped in plastic. Same as the odd bunch – all wrapped in plastic.
  • Woolworths even have wrapped up apple pieces!
  • The trolley full of plastic waste was just as bad as the pile of plastic at Aldi.
  • Each time the group does a plastic attack and speak to staff about it, the staff respond that the store is trying to reduce their plastic packaging and will pass on concerns to management.
  • Shop plastic free and tag #plasticfreeproduce
  • Coles and IGA have a lot of plastic packaging too. Craig recommends buying plastic free produce whenever possible.

Plastic Bottles

Australian Recycling

Craig continues his investigation into the recycling situation in Australia after China's ban. Australia is being forced to find new ways to recycle the contents of our yellow bins. Craig meets with the CEO of the Waste Management Association of Australia, Gayle Sloan.

  • Gayle points out that this is our chance to use this waste for new jobs and opportunities.
  • There are no requirements in Australia that packaging is recycled – it can just be sent to landfill.
  • Supermarkets need pressure from customers to reduce packaging waste and food waste.
  • There is also a need for policy drivers. If 10% of packaging was made from recycled material, we would see a massive change in the recycling industry.

Left Over Food

Food Waste

Australia is sending 5.3 million tonnes of food waste to landfill every year, which is equivalent to 220kg per person. 2.2 million tonnes is from commercial and industrial sources – supermarkets, cafes, fast food outlets, etc.

  • Craig meets with Dianne McGrath from RMIT at a shopping centre food court.
  • Dianne has found in her research that 29% of Australians leave food on their plate when they eat out.
  • Diners leave around 15% of their meals at the food court. With around 2.5 billion meals being served each year – that quickly adds up!
  • There’s tension between feeling bad for leaving food, but being too ashamed to ask for a doggy bag.
  • There’s a right to take a doggy bag – every state has legislation that permits doggy bags!
  • In her research, Dianne ate leftovers from other people’s plates for a whole week and drank from their coffee cups.
  • Of commercial food waste 40% of food waste happens in the kitchen, 2% is spoilage, and 58% is food that is left on the plate.
  • Craig goes undercover as a food court cleaner to see how much food he can collect.
  • Even though there were many other cleaners collecting food, Craig was able to quite easily collect a huge amount in a very short time. All the food would have otherwise just gone to landfill.

Compost Processor

Some Places have Taken Action

Craig visits the Degraves Street laneway to see what they’re doing about food waste.

  • All of the food waste previously was sent to landfill. There was around 700kg sent to landfill every day until recently. They’ve reduced this by around 70%.
  • The underground facility processes laneway leftovers from 100 restaurants and cafes and turns their waste into compost.
  • The system is a joint project between Melbourne City Council and Citywide.
  • Cafes and restaurants sort their waste into three categories - food waste, coffee grounds, and recyclables.
  • 40% of what they usually take is coffee grounds.
  • Since the facility launched in 2013, they’ve diverted 392 tonnes from landfill. In a year it now diverts over 130 tonnes of food waste alone.
  • Landfill Reduction Chart
  • The War On Waste got the conversation started and more restaurants have got involved in the project. Additionally, restaurants appear to be more conscious about their waste and in some cases have been able to reduce their waste.
  • The recycling team do several pickups per day.
  • All food waste is loaded into a machine that uses aerobic digestion to break down the waste.
  • It breaks down into very little – mulch and water. The waste water is pumped to a facility where elements are extracted to create a biogas for energy.
  • Coffee grounds are heated in a dehydrator and turned into a high-quality soil conditioner.
  • The facility currently collects scraps from 100 cafes, but the team want it to grow to capacity.

Organics Waste Truck

Home Organic Waste

  • Households throw away 3.1 million tonnes of food away every year. Despite this fact, many councils still haven't got onto organics recycling.
  • 60% of residential waste sent to landfill is food or garden organics.
  • There are 20,000 times more tonnes of food waste going into landfill than plastic bags.
  • There needs to be organics collections at every household in Australia. Education is also needed to help people sort their rubbish.
  • Composting is a great employer of people, you employ 3 more people for recycling than landfill.

Penrith has diverted around 250,000 tonnes of waste from landfill by having green bins, and these have saved the council millions of dollars.

  • Kate Bradshaw’s job is to check bins and that they have the right types of waste being put in them.
  • Craig and Kate together checked bins to see whether people had done the right thing.
  • Kate said that through education, contamination has dropped from about 30% down to around only 4%.
  • Organics Bin Inspection
  • Residents have saved $17 million in rates by putting their food waste and garden clippings in their organics bins. This has also been better for the environment by reducing carbon emissions, as well as producing useful compost you can buy.
  • People did like to know the environmental impact, but were more concerned about the economic impact.
  • They put a sticker on a bin that had the incorrect junk inside so that the owners could know that they’re doing the wrong thing.
  • They talked to one man in the neighbourhood who said he loved the system, although he did have a plastic grape bag in there!
  • Share the tag #nofoodtolandfill
  • There are only 69 councils in Australia that recycle food waste. Hopefully the rest will get on board.

It's Up to the States t-shirt

Government Action on Recycling

Craig continues looking into the recycling situation and speaks to the Federal Ministor for the Environment, Josh Frydenberg. Last time Craig met, he palmed most issues off to the states.

  • Josh says the government is currently doing a stocktake of recycling systems in Australia to see if they can scale things up since they can’t export to China any more. They’re not yet sure what is being done or can be done in Australia regarding recycling.
  • More than $200 million has been invested into waste-to-energy projects. Unfortunately no mention is made of money being put towards recycling.
  • The government is committed to targets of compulsory recycled packaging.
  • There is a goal of halving food waste by 2030. Buried food waste produces 7.6 million tonnes of carbon dioxide annually.
  • States regulate landfill – so it’s their decision, not the federal government’s.
  • Craig gives Josh a shirt that says ‘It’s Up to the States’ as he again palmed most things off to the states.

Korean E-waste Recycling

Where Does E-Waste Go?

With e-waste growing three times more than other waste problems, Craig follows up what happened to the e-waste he dropped off for recycling a few months ago.

  • The people weren’t at the house where the TV ended up. But Craig did manage to track down the owners, and they had actually taken the tv from the bin and fixed it! A better result than recycling.
  • Other trackers ended up in Korea. Craig wasn’t sure if they were at a recycling facility so he had a Korean translator help him. The first facility takes gold, copper and silver from items to make semiconductors.
  • The second company they checked with was an industrial waste recycling centre. They couldn’t call the company so they sent an email instead. Unfortunately they didn’t receive a reply.
  • Craig wanted to check with the CEO of MRI about why the waste had gone to Korea and if these recycling facilities were legitimate.
  • The CEO was well aware of the company, they are an accredited recycling facility.
  • Craig was happy that his items had gone to the right place.
  • Jim Puckett had a different story with some of his recycling being tracked going to a bad recycling facility in Thailand. Using illegal Burmese workers, living in cardboard boxes, horrific sanitary conditions, and were only being paid a tiny wage.

Fortunately, for the most part, items are being recycled properly. Check the Recycling Near You website for your closest drop zone.

Grill'd Straw Removal

Straw No More

Craig goes to check on how the straw no more campaign is going with the different pubs that put straws behind the counter.

  • Unfortunately, straws were still sitting on the bar counter for just about all the places Craig had visited.
  • Craig met with the founder of Grill’d, which has been using 1.7 million straws a year. This is a lot smaller than McDonald's 200 million.
  • Grill’d are going to eliminate all straws from their restaurants, other than some paper straws they’ll have available for people with disabilities who may require them.

Kiama High School Changes

Craig heads back to Kiama High School to see if they’ve worked out how to deal with their slushie straw problem and how they've progressed overall with their waste production.

  • The students again sort through the rubbish from the landfill bins to see if there has been significant change.
  • They collect a weeks’ worth of rubbish from the bins — there was a lot less waste than last time!
  • Previously, the school was paying up to $2300 a month to send their junk to landfill.
  • 12 weeks later there’s a lot less waste. The students sorted it all out into the different categories.
  • Last time it took around 4 hours to sort the waste. This time it took less than 1 hour.
  • School Rubbish Reduction
  • They went form throwing away 100kg of paper waste to only 10kg.
  • 42 bags of soft plastic to 8 bags.
  • 20 bags of paper towels to 3 bags.
  • 300 straws to 80 straws.
  • 30 uneaten sandwiches to 14 sandwiches.
  • 1750 bottles to only 296.
  • The changes have saved the school up to $700 a month in landfill costs and is earning them a total of $600 by taking their bottles to a Return and Earn collection facility.
  • The school tuckshop has done a lot to change and now they use paper straws for their slushies. However, the students don’t really like them because they go soggy.

The War Isn't Over

Craig finished the program by saying that he has found it all somewhat depressing, but more uplifiting to see the big changes that are being made. We need to keep up the pressure on government to make changes. The series might be over for now, but don’t stop fighting the War On Waste!

Declare Your Own War On Waste

For more interesting statistics about rubbish in Australia, see some of the other statistics we’ve shared on our website. There are lots of things that you can do to help combat the serious rubbish problem we have in Australia, for some of these ideas check out the War On Waste website. If you live in Sydney and have a rubbish problem of your own, we offer the service you need. Declare your own War On Waste and call Same-Day Rubbish Removal today on 0402 737 046.

Learn More — See Our Infographics

If you'd like to see more statistics from the War On Waste or about waste in Australia, click on the infographic links below to view these great resources.

War On Waste Infographic StatisticsRubbish Removal Sydney Infographic Statistics


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