Why waste matters | Environment Victoria

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Why waste matters

Waste, or rubbish, is what people throw away when they feel they no longer have a need for it. Almost everything we do creates waste – at home, in the community, socially and at our places of work.

This process – of using up the earth’s natural resources to make products and throwing them away shortly after – is not sustainable. Our consumption levels directly impact the kind of world we’ll leave for future generations. And as consumers, we can think about how we can get more out less. We can also consider how we can make products that last longer and how we can use our waste for other things rather than throwing it away.

Waste is a valuable resource.

Victorians produce a lot of waste.

Our growing economy and increasing demand for energy and resources has brought prosperity and wellbeing to many Australians. It has also resulted, however, in more waste being produced than ever before.
According to Sustainability Victoria, Australia is one of the highest producers of waste per person in the world. In recent decades, this has been further complicated by an increase in the number and diversity of products available to consumers.

As a result, the waste we’re sending to landfill is increasingly diverse and toxic. It is also more difficult to dispose of. Every three months, the Victorian economy produces enough waste to fill the Melbourne Cricket Ground completely – from the playing field to the top of the stands. While recycling rates are increasing, our population and consumption rates have also increased, causing the amount of rubbish we produce to stay the same.

In Victoria a total of 10.3 million tonnes of waste was generated in 2006-2007. This was across all sectors, including commercial and industrial (33 percent), construction and demolition (40 percent), and household waste (27 percent). That averages out to 2000 kg of waste per person in Victoria (or 540 kg per person in household waste).

Of this, only 62 per cent is recycled. The rest ends up in landfill. While this is a good recycling rate, we can do better. Nearly 4 million tonnes of waste is still ending up in the dump. 

Did you know…

Almost 99 percent of everything we buy becomes waste within six weeks of purchase. Every wheelie bin of waste we produce from our home, equates to 70 wheelie bins of waste from the mining, manufacture, production and sale of the materials in that bin. 

Let’s turn it around.

Increasing population, economic growth and high levels of consumption are making the problem bigger. Melbourne’s population is expected to increase to 4.3 million by 2030. Unless we turn this around, Victoria’s environment will have to absorb an extra 235,000 tonnes of waste a year.

Waste is a social and ethical issue as well as an economic and environmental one. Our consumption habits, purchasing choices and disposal practices are part of the problem.
We can keep working on reducing the amount of waste we produce and make a real positive impact on our environment.

Read more about things you can do now to produce less waste
Read more about why waste matters
Learn more about recycling and landfills
Try these handy tips and halve your rubbish


The Story of Stuff by Annie Leonard. You've gotta see this
Natural Capitalism by Lovins, Lovins and Hawken. Check it out


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