Australian Waste, Recycling and Reuse Statistics for 2022

Lena Milton – 28 April, 2022

As the amount of waste Australia produces increases year by year, it becomes increasingly important that we find creative ways to recycle and upcycle all kinds of materials. Despite increasing focus on recycling, there is a long way to go to account for the large amount of waste we’re creating.

Numbers can tell an interesting story about how we dispose of old materials, and rising trends in recycling, reuse and upcycling. This article will breakdown everything you need to know about waste in Australia to help us understand the tremendous opportunities that lie in creative reuse.

We’ll begin by taking a look at how waste is produced and reused in 2022 in Australia.

Key Takeaways

  • Australia produces around 76 million tonnes of waste every year, a number that is increasing.
  • Around half of all annual waste, 38.5 million tonnes, is recycled.
  • Construction creates 16.8% of Australia’s total annual waste. The construction industry produces the second largest amount of waste by industry behind manufacturing.
  • Around 76% of all construction and demolition waste in Australia is recycled.
  • Australia’s second hand economy was valued at $46 billion in 2020.

Australian waste statistics

  • Australia produces around 76 million tonnes of waste every year, a number that is increasing.
  • Around 27% of Australia’s waste goes to landfill. This can have negative local environmental impacts, and reduces our ability to create a circular economy.
  • The amount of money spent on waste services (the collection, transport and processing of waste) has increased since 2016, and is now over $17 billion.
  • Australian households create over 12.4 million tonnes of waste each year.
  • Individuals contribute large percentages of organics, textiles, glass and plastic waste. For example, regular households contributed 72% of all glass waste (about 1.2 million tonnes of glass) and around 90% of all textile waste (247,000 tonnes).

Source: Waste Account, Australian Bureau of Statistics

Australian recycling statistics

  • Around half of all annual waste, 38.5 million tonnes, is recycled. A small percent is sent to energy recovery, the process by which we create heat, electricity or fuel from waste, or exported.
  • 6% of Australia’s waste (4.4 million tonnes) was exported in 2018-19.
  • E-waste, or electronic products at the end of their lifecycle, can have environmental and health impacts if not properly tested and recycled. Out of 539,000 tonnes of e-waste created annually, about half is recycled.

Source: Waste Account, Australian Bureau of Statistics

Construction and demolition waste statistics Australia

  • The construction industry, which spends the most on waste services, spends around $2 billion on waste services annually. This number increased by 35% since 2016-17.
  • Construction produces around 12.7 million tonnes of waste in a single year. 
  • Construction and demolition together (sometimes referred to as C&D) created around 27 million tonnes of waste in 2018-19 (44% of Australia’s total waste). This represents a 61% increase in waste since 2006-2007.
  • Construction and demolition waste is the largest source of waste in Australia.
  • Construction creates 16.8% of total waste annually. The construction industry produces the second largest amount of waste by industry behind manufacturing.
  • Construction creates 87 tonnes of waste per million dollars added to the economy. This is the third largest “waste intensity” behind electricity and manufacturing.
  • Construction waste has increased by 22% since 2016-2017.

What percentage of building and housing waste is recycled in Australia?

  • Around 76% of all construction and demolition waste in Australia is recycled.
  • The materials that are recycled and have the highest recovery rates include masonry materials (81% recovery rate) and metals (76%).
  • Some have argued for the creation of dedicated construction waste recycling plants. For example, a facility proposed in Sydney in 2021 is intended to process around 250,000 tonnes of waste per year.
  • In 2011, the Department of Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities published the “Construction and demolition waste guide – recycling and re-use across the supply chain,” which aimed to increase reuse in the construction industry by creating reuse markets.
  • In 2014, the State of NSW set a target to increase C&D waste recycling from 75% in 2010-11 to 80% by 2021-22.

Source: Waste Account, Australian Bureau of Statistics, 2020 National Waste Report

Demolition approvals by state

  • Between 2016 and 2021, 107,294 residential buildings were approved for demolition in Australia.
  • Demolitions in Australia are rising. In a study that ended in March 2021, demolitions increased from 5,548 in June 2016 to 6,140 in March 2021.
  • 95.1% of all residential buildings approved for demolition in Australia were houses.

Here are the statistics for demolition approvals by state.

Australian Bureau of Statistics (2021) ‘Types of dwellings approved to be demolished, June 2016 quarter to March 2021 quarter’, National, state & territory level dwelling demolition approvals, accessed 28 April 2022.
  • New South Wales and Victoria had the largest number of demolitions.

New South Wales

  • 28,499 dwellings were approved for demolition between 2016-2021.
  • New South Wales had the highest proportion of houses approved for demolition, compared to other residential building types.
  • From March 2020 to March 2021, New South Wales saw a 76% increase in demolition approvals.


  • 37,102 residential buildings were approved in Victoria between 2016-2021.
  • Demolitions in Victoria fell to 1646 in September 2020, but this rose to 1845 approvals in March 2021, representing a 17.4% increase.


  • Queensland had 13,401 buildings approved for demolition since 2016. The highest number of approvals occurred in September 2020 at 785.

South Australia

  • 12,565 residential buildings were approved for demolition in South Australia between June 2016-March 2021. Like Queensland, the highest number of demolitions were approved in September 2020.

Western Australia

  • 12,199 residential buildings were approved for demolition in Western Australia between June 2016-March 2021. This number was highest in December 2020, at 829 approved demolitions.

Tasmania, Northern Territory, Australian Capital Territory

  • The number of approved residential demolitions in these three areas were much lower than others, with 490 in Tasmania, 319 in the Northern Territory and 2,719 in the Australian Capital Territory.
  • There were large spikes in numbers of approved demolitions in the Australian Capital Territory in 2017 and 2019 due to public housing redevelopment projects.

Source: Building Approvals, April 2021, Australian Bureau of Statistics

Salvage yards in Australia

A high proportion of C&D waste recycling is downcycling. For example concrete and masonry crushed into aggregates.

Recovery of high value materials that can be upcycled or used without reprocessing is not yet prioritised in Australia. Deconstruction to salvage reusable windows, doors, flooring, roof timbers, masonry, appliances and fixtures is carried out by a few teams in each state.

If items are recovered, there are a falling number of salvage yards to onsell them. Longstanding salvage yards in Melbourne and Sydney closed down in the last decade. The yards that remain are adjusting to increased internet use and consumer demand for better organisation and communication.

Below are The Junk Map’s lists of recycled timber, recycled brick and general demolition salvage yards in each state.


Melbourne Salvage Yards and Recycled Building Materials Suppliers in Victoria

New South Wales

Sydney Salvage Yards and Recycled Building Materials Suppliers in NSW


Brisbane Salvage Yards and Recycled Building Materials Suppliers in Queensland

Western Australia

Perth Salvage Yards and Recycled Building Materials Suppliers in Western Australia

South Australia

Adelaide Salvage Yards and Recycled Building Materials Suppliers in South Australia

Source: The Junk Map

Salvage articles and interviews

The Junk Map works with recyclers around Australia. See the links below for a selection of articles and interviews with salvage yard owners and upcyclers. More on our blog.

Going Digital: How Renovators Paradise Became Australia’s Most Visited Salvage Yard

Modern Salvage: Why We Should Pay a Fair Price for Secondhand Materials

Ugly Town: Why We Need a Closer Look at Utility Building Demolition

Banking on Rust: Rob O’Brien’s Journey from Finance to Junk in Perth

Deconstructing, Moving and Rebuilding a Heritage Shearing Shed in Victoria

Tip Top Team: Why a Loyal Crew is Thor’s Biggest Asset

Size of the second hand economy in Australia

  • Australia’s second hand economy was valued at $46 billion in 2020. This is higher than any other year.
  • The second hand economy has grown by $21 billion since 2011.
  • 48% of Australians report being concerned about how buying new impacts the environment. This is an increase of 39% since 2019.
  • 85% of Australians have items in their home that they no longer want, and could sell.
  • The most common pre-owned items sold are clothing, shoes and accessories at 53%. Tools, gardening equipment and DIY items make up about 21% of the second hand economy.

Source: Gumtree Second Hand Economy Report 2020

Waste-reducing methods for construction and demolition

Prefabrication is a construction method that uses building parts that are fabricated off-site and then brought in to construct a full building.

  • Studies have shown that prefabrication can reduce construction waste by between 52-70%, depending on the materials used.

Deconstruction is the practice of taking apart a building in order to reuse the materials. It differs from demolition because it is focused on being able to reuse the materials in the future.

  • Reuse and recycling of residential building materials is higher than commercial and industrial buildings.
  • Generally, around 50-80% of building materials are salvaged in Australia during demolition of residential buildings.
  • Asbestos is the main contaminant to consider in deconstruction planning.
  • Researchers in Australia are currently experimenting with using Building Information Modeling (BIM) technology to identify materials in a deconstruction project to increase the amount that is recycled.
  • In the 2000s, over 1000 homes in Melbourne were relocated, rather than demolished.

Sources: Crowther 2000, Ge et al. 2017, Meibodi et al. 2014

In summary, while Australia has a long way to go in terms of making construction and demolition less wasteful, councils and consumers are looking at ways to improve resource recovery. The second hand industry will have an important role to play.

Lena Milton, Environmental Science Writer & Editor from Massachusetts, United States

Lena Milton is a freelance writer covering sustainability, health and environmental science. She writes to help consumers understand the environmental and ethical challenges in everyday life so we can find viable solutions for both.

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