New research shows most Australians recycle to reduce landfill or because they believe it’s the right thing to do, yet very few realise recycling contributes $15.5 billion to the Australian economy.
In a national survey of 1,000 Australians aged 14-64, only 8% of participants correctly estimated the economic value of recycling, while 80% underestimated or said they didn’t know its value.
The report from not-for-profit environmental organisation Planet Ark argued that transitioning to a circular economy would be beneficial during the COVID-19 economic recovery phase, providing an estimated $23 billion boost to Australian Gross Domestic Profit by 2025.
Planet Ark deputy CEO, Rebecca Gilling, said the majority of councils surveyed for the study reported more general waste in kerbside bins as a result of COVID-19.
“Recycling is valuable both environmentally and economically, and is more important than ever in light of the coronavirus pandemic,” she said.
Every 10,000 tonnes of materials recycled created 9.2 jobs, whereas when the same materials went to landfill it created just 2.8 jobs, Planet Ark reported.
Three-quarters of Australians were concerned about waste, however, motivations to recycle differed.
Reducing landfill was most important for older people, whereas for younger generations it was the potential to combat climate change and save wildlife that was the most inspiring.
The study found women were more likely to recycle than men, and Australians in regional areas were more likely to take action than city dwellers.
Planet Ark’s head of circular economy programs, Ryan Collins, said every Australian could help make resource recovery part of the national and local economic recovery.
“What we call waste is a sign of inefficiency,” he said.
Waste in the ACT halved around the turn of the century, when waste sent to landfill reduced from nearly 60% of total waste in 1996 to 30% in 2004, according to the ACT Waste Management Strategy 2011-2025.
The goal of the current strategy is to achieve full resource recovery and a carbon neutral waste sector.
During National Recycling Week, 9-15 November, the ACT Government is sponsoring a variety of free online and face-to-face workshops and events.