Waste management in Australia faces three major challenges: generate less waste; re-use and recycle more effectively; and keep as much hazardous waste out of the environment as possible.
The term waste has two meanings: the inefficient use of resources; and materials deemed to be at the end of their usable life that are discarded, rejected, unwanted or surplus . These concepts are related; the amount of waste is directly related to the characteristics of the materials purchased and how they are used.
Public sector entities produce significant amounts of waste from their diverse functions and operations. In 2009-10, waste produced from office-based operations exceeded 4000 tonnes, comprising paper and cardboard, packaging, co-mingled or mixed recycling, organic, hazardous and landfill waste . While two decades ago commercial recycling facilities were limited, there is now a well-established recycling and recovery industry in Australia for common consumer and packaging items. Resource recovery and recycling are generally considered to have a positive impact on the environment through saving resources, avoiding impacts associated with the extraction of virgin materials for use in manufacturing and reducing the impacts arising from waste disposal to landfill sites.
Waste disposed to landfill can be detrimental to the environment through the contamination of groundwater and soil and the generation of greenhouse gas emissions, including methane from the decay of biodegradable materials. The increased awareness of these impacts and the anticipated rising cost of landfill levies have seen a greater focus on programs for the effective recovery of materials . These programs also improve resource efficiency and reduce demand for raw materials. Efforts to increase recycling are underpinned by strategies to minimise the amount of waste generated and maximise the amount recycled and, thus, diverted from landfill sites
|Implementing an effective waste minimisation strategy allows entities to reduce the environmental impact of their operations and reduce costs.|
 Definition adapted from the National Waste Report 2010, Glossary, p.361.
 The former Department of Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts, National Packaging Covenant Annual Report, 2009-10, p.3
 Landfill levies in the Australian Capital Territory (ACT) have increased annually for the past 10 years. The ACT Government is currently committed to making recycling cheaper than landfill costs to encourage resource efficiency.
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