Business, Earthmoving News

New report reveals Australia’s materials use

CSIRO has released a new report on the country’s material use, highlighting opportunities to transition to a more circular and sustainable economy

CSIRO’s new Australian Material Flow Analysis to Progress to a Circular Economy report details how Australia uses its resources, linking human consumption to environmental impacts, which can inform approaches to resource efficiency, waste minimisation and greenhouse gas abatement.

It found that Australia’s circularity rate – the measure of efficiency in which resources are reused and recycled within a system – is half (four per cent) that of the global average (eight per cent).

CSIRO scientist and report author Dr Alessio Miatto says Australia’s material footprint refers to the total amount of raw materials required to support the country’s goods and services.

“Over the last decade, Australia has successfully reduced its material footprint, increased its circularity rate, and curbed air emissions,” Miatto says.

“However, the Australian economy uses four times the materials to fulfil each person’s needs compared with the world average.

“Australia’s circularity rate has increased marginally, from 3.5 per cent in 2015, to now closer to four per cent. However, it remains at half the global average.

“These metrics highlight opportunities to transition to a more circular and sustainable economy.”

  • Subscribe to our free weekly newsletter to receive the latest news in the earthmoving industry
  • Never miss a great deal and subscribe to our monthly magazine
  • Download a free copy of our latest digital magazine to catch up on the biggest news and developments in the earthmoving industry

The report used data on economy-wide material flows for 2019 to provide insights into Australia’s circular economy potential.

It found that housing and transport make up half of Australia’s material footprint, with food responsible for another 22 per cent.

“In 2019, Australia extracted and harvested 2,587 million tonnes of materials,” Miatto says.

“These virgin materials were supplemented with 119 million tonnes of imports and 39 million tonnes of domestically recycled materials. More than half of these materials were exported to other countries.”

Dr Heinz Schandl, who leads CSIRO’s circular economy research, said Australia could double its circularity rate if we were to employ circular economy opportunities in housing, mobility, food and energy provision.

“We need to consider efficiencies in the way we measure, process and use our materials,” Schandl says.

“Australia currently recycles 39 million tonnes of materials, which is about half of all materials captured through municipal, industrial, and construction waste schemes. The other half is going to landfill which is a lost opportunity.

“To bolster circularity, we need to focus on increasing our recycling throughput. We also need to rethink how we use materials, from designing products that use less material to schemes that extend the lifetime of products.”

Send this to a friend