How Big is the Global Recycling Industry?

Recyclers, are the lifeblood of the Tradr platform. These guys are the legends of “closing the loop” and preventing new consumer products from ending in landfill or the incinerator. They help bring added value to these unwanted materials by breaking them down in materials that can be reused again and again. Recycling Centres are the foundation upon which the “Circular Economy” is built upon.

So How Does the Recycling Process Work?

Here in Australia, we are fortunate enough to have the choice of a few bins to put our household waste materials in. It differs from state to state, however in general we have “general waste”, “recyclable containers” and “green waste”. These bins get picked up and emptied into a dump truck, then taken back to a recycling centre (Material Recovery Facility (MRF)) to be sorted into their separate material streams and then processed to be made into new material to be used by Sustainable Producers.

Thanks to Planet Ark for the coolest recycling diagrams (2015)

Things That Slow Down the Recycling Process

When households don’t know what to actually put into each of their colour-coded bins, it becomes a massive problem for the recycling industry. These rogue items are called “contaminants” and severely disrupt the efficiency of the recycling centre process. The biggest culprit is plastic bags and soft plastics, followed by other contaminants such as food, clothing, polystyrene, nappies, garden waste and E-Waste.

Thanks to Planet Ark for the coolest recycling diagrams (2015)

What Happens to the Waste After It is Recycled?

Once the household waste gets to the recycling centre, the waste streams are sorted and processed. The materials are processed so they become more pure and can be used by sustainable producers to be re-manufactured into new products! A great example of this is the Australian Paper mill out at Maryvale, Victoria, Australia. Here the waste paper is collected, sorted, cleaned, and refined into high quality paper — this paper is purchased by businesses and schools all around Australia and the consumers of this product can’t even tell it was recycled in the first place!

Thanks to Planet Ark for the coolest recycling diagrams (2015)

So How Much Waste Paper is PlanetArk and Australian Paper Recycling Per Year?

The Maryvale paper mill has the capacity to process 80,000 tonnes of waste paper from landfill and recycling centres per year, potentially saving 230,000 tonnes of carbon emissions. The processing of waste paper at this plant has generated 246 permanent Victorian jobs, AUD$51 million to Australian GDP, and AUD$19 million to household incomes in the area. Recycling, when compared to landfill, generates three times more jobs (3.2 to 1). This recycled material is cheaper to purchase for Sustainable Producers than buying their virgin material counterparts.

How Big is the Australian Recycling Market?

In 2014–2015 Australia produced 64 million tonnes of waste, with almost 60% of this recycled and 40% was disposed.

Trends in waste generation and fate, Australia 2006–07 to 2014–15: Source National Waste Report 2016

Percentage of Council Waste Recycled & Incinerated by Country

Thanks to Planet Ark for the coolest recycling diagrams (2015)

Overall, Australia is actually not doing too bad when compared to our the rest of the world. The above statistics show Australia is doing pretty well in the percentage of waste that is recycled/composted. Whereas, when compared to Europe and their incineration rates, we are far behind. Why is this? Well, a quarter of all European non-recycled waste is incinerated, which leads to less waste reaching landfill. According to PlanetArk, this was basically due to Europe having greater population than Australia, and less available land to put landfill zones, therefore driving an increased adoption of incineration techniques. In Australia back in the 1970’s the tendency to burn waste was dropped due to pollution concerns.

Although incineration is better for the environment than landfill on the waste processing hierarchy, it is still better to reuse and recycle. The economics of running an incineration plant, basically require high volume at high capacity for it to be financially viable. That is why countries like Germany (72 plants), Sweden (31 plants), Denmark (29 plants) and Sweden (31 plants) are able to import waste from other countries to incinerate them. As most of Denmark cities own an incinerator, there is actually financial cost if their plants aren’t running at full capacity, which has led to Denmark having one of the highest per capita waste generation rates in Europe at 80% (Source 2015).

A big thing to point out here, the inverse of the column graph show that 35% of Germany’s waste is not being recycled. 43% of Belgium’s waste is not being recycled. 49% of Australia’s waste is not being recycled!

Why is that? It’s because the products being produced are not sourced from recollected waste. The products are not designed to be 100% recyclable. This is the main aim of Tradr, to bring transparency to waste material flows, to close the circular economy loops, to bring the world closer to a society that generates zero waste.

The Vision — 100% Recycled Products and 0% Waste

Humanity needs to get to 100% Recycled and 0% Waste. It is the only way we can sustain planet Earth. Hopefully we will have learnt this lesson on planet 1.0 by the time we deploy our teams to the Moon base and subsequent Mars exploration sites.

So How Big is the Global Recycling Market?

Comparison of waste generation and fate per capita, Australia and selected OECD countries: Source National Waste Report 2016
Comparison of MSW generation, disposal, recovery and composting per capita in selected OECD countries

Australia’s ranking in the above comparison graph based of Municipal Solid Waste (MSW) is as follows:

  • 18th globally — MSW recovery rate
  • 9th globally — MSW generation per capita
  • 12th globally — MSW recycling per capita
  • 6th globally — MSW disposal per capita

Somehow Canada produces the most waste per capita and disposes over 60% of it! Looks like we may need to launch there first!

Did you know the global average of waste generated per person is 1.2kg per day?

The top five in the developed world for daily waste generation per person (as of 2012) was:

  1. New Zealand (3.68kg)
  2. Ireland (3.58kg)
  3. Norway (2.80kg)
  4. Switzerland (2.61kg)
  5. United States (2.58kg)

The ultimate top five producers of waste per person per day included:

  1. Trinidad & Tobago (14.40 kg/capita/day)
  2. Kuwait (5.72kg)
  3. Antigua and Barbuda (5.5kg)
  4. St. Kitts and Nevis (5.45kg)
  5. Sri Lanka (5.10kg)
There were approximately 7 billion on Earth during 2012, when the above figures were assessed. With an average waste generation per person per day of 1.2kg, the humans on planet Earth created 8.4 BILLION kg of waste with an average recycling rate of 50%, means we incinerate/landfill 4.2 billion kg’s of waste per day!?!?

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