Urban environmental efficiency refers to how well the built environment encourages the efficient use of natural resources—land, energy and water—and the reuse and/or recovery of waste. In this section, the changing ‘efficiency’ or ‘intensity’ over time is analysed, providing some context to the Increased consumption section.
Waste generation and recovery
Between 2006–07 and 2010–11, Australia continued to generate more waste, with waste generation increasing from around 44 megatonnes to around 48 megatonnes per year—an increase of just over 9 per cent. Population increased by just over 7 per cent during this period, suggesting that, up until 2010–11, waste continued to be generated at a faster rate than population growth. In 2010–11, this averaged around 2.1 tonnes per person per year (DoEE n.d.[a], ABS 2016a).
Despite an overall increase in waste generation, Australia’s total disposal tonnage decreased from about 21.5 megatonnes to about 19.5 megatonnes (about 9.5 per cent) between 2006–07 and 2010–11. During this period, the resource recovery rate in Australia increased from 51 per cent to 60 per cent. The quantity of material recycled increased significantly from 21.4 megatonnes to 27.3 megatonnes per year, or by about 27 per cent. The total proportion of Australian households recycling during this period remained fairly constant (97 per cent in 2012); however, the proportion of households recycling certain household items showed increases. Between 2006 and 2012, there was an increase in the proportion of households recycling cans (from 85 to 91 per cent), and smaller increases in the proportion of households recycling paper, cardboard, newspapers, and plastic bottles or containers. Also, in 2012, nearly one-quarter of Australian households recycled electronic equipment (e-waste recycling data were not previously collected by the Australian Bureau of Statistics) (ABS 2009, 2012b).
Overall, the amount of waste recycled increased from around 1.0 to around 1.2 tonnes per person per year between 2006–07 and 2010–11 (DoEE n.d.[a]).
Waste used for energy recovery also increased between 2006–07 and 2010–11, from about 1.32 megatonnes to 1.52 megatonnes (DoEE n.d.[a]).