Media Release

Waste not, want not: Towards a Waste Free Future

November 18 2020

Australia needs to completely rethink its approach to waste – to consider it not as an accident, but as a design flaw in the products and services we consume.

That’s the argument of a major new report produced by the Australian Academy of Technology and Engineering (ATSE).

Australians create around 67 million tonnes of waste each year.

The National Waste Policy Action Plan sets a target of an 80 per cent average recovery rate from all waste streams by 2030, but ATSE’s report ‘Towards a Waste Free Future‘ found that Australia will struggle to meet that if it focuses on recycling alone.

ATSE Chief Executive Office Kylie Walker said the report makes clear more effort is needed at the start of a product’s lifecycle.

“Australia can become waste free, but only if we shift the focus to waste avoidance,” Ms Walker said.

“We should be designing products from the start so that they have a long and productive first life, and can then be re-used, repaired, or made into something else once they reach the end of that first life.

Following extensive consultation, ATSE believes there is huge potential for technology to support the design of products and services that make the most of finite resources, with positive effects for the economy, society and the environment.

“Moving to a more circular economy would have enormous benefits – not just for the environment but also for jobs creation,” Ms Walker said.

“It’s been estimated that just a 5% increase in material efficiency in Australia could produce a $24 billion increase in the economy.”

Research and consultation for this report has revealed the work that needs to be done on the economic, policy and regulatory frameworks to incentivise investment and innovation in the waste and resource recovery sector. It’s also found that Australia already has the necessary skills and will to make this transformation.

Note to media: The report ‘Towards a Waste Free Future’ can be found here.

Media contact: Liz Foschia liz.foschia@atse.org.au or 0419 976 903

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