Recycling can save Australian businesses $

16 February 2015

Each year Australian businesses send 7 million tonnes of waste to landfill at a total cost of $1.8 billion. This waste stream contains many materials that are readily recoverable, often for less than the cost of disposal – so on that basis alone, why aren’t more businesses looking to recycle? We look at what are the barriers to commercial and industrial recycling and what tools are available to increase recovery rates.

In 2013-14 it is estimated that Australian businesses and industry generated a total of 17.13 million tonnes of waste, which represents just under one third of the total waste generated across the country.  Recovery rates of the commercial and industrial (C&I) waste stream vary from 8% to 89% across the states and territories with a national average of 60%, leaving approximately 7 million tonnes to be disposed of to landfill (Inside Waste Industry Report 2014-2015).

The composition of the C&I waste stream is diverse and includes many readily recoverable materials that are currently being lost to landfill, such as organics, paper and cardboard, plastics, metals, glass and construction materials. 

STEINERT equipment solutions can help prevent this ‘mixed bag’ of waste being disposed of to landfill from a collection service area, subjecting this particular waste stream to a process of sorting, recovery or treatment and retrieve these potentially valuable resources where possible. The goal of every processing operation is to produce clean, market-ready end products and STEINERT have continued to develop new and to enhance existing separation technologies in response to the demands of these global industries using:-

•             traditional magnetic separation (magnets and eddy current separators)

•             refining separation via innovative sensor sorters and UniSort range


What are the costs of C&I?

Based on the Inside Waste Industry Report’s estimated state-by-state costs for the collection, transport and disposal of C&I waste, disposal of the remaining 7 million tonnes is costing Australian businesses approximately $1.8 billion each year.  In some areas, the cost to collect, transport and recycle C&I materials is up to $110 per tonne less than the cost of landfilling – so, if much of this waste stream is easily recovered, why aren’t more businesses looking to recycle?


What are the issues for business recycling?

A report released by the Federal Department of Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities in early 2013 - A study into commercial & industrial (C&I) waste and recycling in Australia by industry division -  identified three primary barriers to recycling for business:

1.     Cost – The cost of waste disposal is insignificant when compared to other expense items so it is not a priority area for many businesses to address.  There is also a misconception that recycling is more expensive along with the perception that it will take up more staff time.

2.     Culture and business process – There is often a lack of understanding of the composition of the waste stream and a disconnect between the point of generation and the decision maker.  Changes to internal processes may also be required which can incur a cost.  In addition, personnel need to be engaged and motivated to bring about change.
3.    Waste collection - Recycling services may not be easily accessible, particularly in regional and remote areas and small businesses often find it a challenge to engage in effective recycling. 

Other issues that may influence a business’s ability to recycle include space and volume - SME’s often don’t have the space to source separate and the volume of material in each individual stream may not be enough to justify the extra effort required.  Markets for recyclates can also be unstable, affecting the availability of recycling services for businesses.


What is being done to support C&I recycling?

Most state and territory governments have in place a variety of tools to encourage recycling in businesses.  These include: policies and strategies with increased recovery targets; restrictions and landfills bans; educational programs; financial incentives and grants. 

There is an increasing number of state and federal programs (too many to list here) available to support businesses to identify opportunities for improved environmental practices whilst enhancing productivity and saving money.  Some of these are also complemented by grant programs to provide businesses with access to expert advice as well and to contribute towards the cost of recycling equipment and infrastructure.

Recent advancements in sorting technologies also mean that a higher rate of recovery is possible at alternative waste treatment (AWT) facilities or ‘dirty’ material recovery facilities (MRF’s), reducing the need for source separation and the associated challenges for businesses.

The make-up of the commercial and industrial waste stream presents a great opportunity to increase recycling rates in Australia but in the past, the implementation of recycling initiatives has been a challenge for businesses.  Government drivers, programs and technological developments are cutting through these barriers, presenting businesses with ways to cut costs and demonstrate their commitment to the environment at a time when consumers are increasingly aware of the environmental impact of the goods and services available to them.