National Typology and Measurement Priorities for Waste Prevention in Australia

As part of the National Waste Policy, Australia aims to reduce the total amount of waste generated in the country by 10% per person by 2030.

Initially, this may not seem like a lot, but does amount to approximately 300 kilograms of less waste per person at the same time that our economy will grow.

Recognised as the key facilitator of achieving circularity in the Australian economy, ‘waste prevention’ is an essential means for the current waste infrastructure to cope with existing and anticipated future demands; thus, reducing waste’s impacts on our terrestrial and marine environments.

Waste prevention is acknowledged as a top priority by most stakeholders. However, Australia is faced with the problem of having no direct or primary measurement of waste generation or prevention. Furthermore, there is no standardised or widely used set (or typology) of waste prevention activities commonly adopted by governments and other waste and resource recovery stakeholders in Australia. This raises issues around the ability to accurately  understand overall trends in waste avoidance, or in individual activities like reuse and repair, thus potentially hindering national goals of reducing the amount of waste generated in the country.

This project builds on BehaviourWorks’ research characterising a common set of waste avoidance activities (e.g. reuse, repair, share) and work for the Victorian government to measure waste avoidance as part of the Recycling Victoria policy.

The challenge:
Identify, define and prioritise the range of waste prevention activities that occur within a circular economy, in order to develop measurement methods to eventually feed into national waste reporting.
Australian Government Department of Climate Change, Energy, the Environment and Water (DCCEEW)

Our goals

To develop a nationally agreed typology of waste prevention activities with an Australian circular economy.

To develop and test methods for measuring waste prevention activities and outcomes, including at national and sub-national scales. 

What we did

We engaged with relevant stakeholders to develop an agreed set (or typology) of waste prevention activities in Australia - the National Typology, prioritised into a set of eight 'core' waste prevention activities that sit at the top of an Expanded Waste Hierarchy:

We then partnered with the University of Technology Sydney (UTS), who conducted a literature review to understand how other localities, governments, and organisations have attempted to measure, or are currently measuring, waste prevention, and then designed an overarching, technical measurement method.

Following this, we developed a series of methods for measuring the adoption of household waste prevention behaviours and organisational waste prevention activity, and piloted a National Household Survey to establish a baseline of national waste prevention behaviours for the community

The work was collated into the National Framework for Understanding, Measuring and Communicating Waste Prevention Activity, supported by a series of underlying technical research reports, which are available on the Department's website.

National Framework documents

Finally, in a related piece of work, we conducted a desktop review and stakeholder engagement to identify current data on the amount of waste prevention activity occurring in Australia. We then drafted the first Waste Prevention chapter to appear in a National Waste Report, sharing the Expanded Waste Hierarchy and a summary of available data. The full details of identified waste prevention activity are included in the following:

Summary of Australian waste prevention activity 2022

What’s next

Now that the National Framework for Understanding, Measuring and Communicating Waste Prevention Activity is available on the Australian Government website, it is hoped that it will feed into future waste prevention and evaluation efforts by stakeholders from across the public, private, and community sectors.

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