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Construction materials account for around half of all materials used worldwide. A total of 18 million tonnes of construction and demolition waste was generated in Australia, with a resource recovery rate of 66%, in 2010-11.* The municipal solid waste stream, or waste collected from households and councils through kerbside waste and recycling collections, represented the lowest waste generation and recovery rate, at 51 per cent.

The Australian Government is committed to improving resource efficiency by reducing the impact on the environment of waste disposal; improving the management of hazardous wastes; avoiding the generation of hazardous wastes and addressing clean-up issues. 

Australia’s National Waste Policy heralds a coherent, efficient and environmentally responsible approach to waste management in Australia. The policy outlines an approach towards producing less waste for disposal and managing resource recovery to deliver economic, environmental and social benefits by 2020. 

The deployment of existing and innovative technologies for better waste avoidance, reprocessing and recycling can provide benefits to business, industry and consumers such as saving money, water and energy and avoiding greenhouse gas emissions and pollution. Re-use of resources and adoption of Circular Economy thinking can also conserve virgin and finite resources and generate new opportunities and jobs.

Recovery rates of greater than 75% are being achieved in some of the best-performing regions in Australia, and in some of the projects gaining third party certification through rating tools such as the GBCA’s Green Star or ISCA’s IS rating scheme. Materials such as clean excavated material, concrete, bricks and timber in waste streams represent a business cost through waste disposal and transport. There are also hidden costs such as the value of lost raw materials and the value-added cost from labour and energy.

Tools such as NABERSWaste can also help to measure, examine and improve the operational waste generated by buildings.

* Data from Australian National WasteReporting