Management of Household Plastic Waste in Wollongong, Australia: The Role of Selective Waste Collection Systems
In addition to increasing requirements to adopt more circular economy approaches, Australian municipal waste management systems also face challenges due to the loss of capacity to export waste overseas. Accordingly, these systems will require effective sorting and collecting of waste. Selective Waste Collection (SWC) is the collecting and sorting of household recyclable waste. The study aimed at investigating how SWC systems in an Australian municipality (Wollongong) are organised and their role in the proper management of household plastic waste. For this purpose, we mapped the household plastic waste management system and characterised every SWC system in terms of, e.g., weight and type of plastic collected. We estimated that only about 20% of the household plastic waste generated in 2018–2019 was collected via the SWC systems. Our investigation enabled us to estimate Wollongong’s household plastic waste generation, recycling rate, and final disposal; identify the gaps in knowledge and challenges faced by the systems; and offer recommendations to overcome them. The challenges include contamination, insufficient community awareness, and lack of consistent waste data. Our recommendations include a transition from a commingled to a non-commingled system. The results provide a useful approach and crucial information for performance evaluation, strategy, and planning purposes.
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University of Wollongong