Facts and figures

Facts and figures on recycling, waste, transport and energy usage in Australia.


  • There are 40,000 sheets A4 sheets of paper in 1 tonne of paper
  • Approximately 600,000 tonnes of paper and cardboard are sent to landfill in NSW each year - this equates to 1,800,000 cubic metres of landfill space
  • Recycling 1 tonne of paper and cardboard saves approximately 13 trees and 1,438 litres of oil
  • Every 100 reams of recycled office paper that is printed double sided saves 2 trees, more than a tonne of greenhouse gas and almost a cubic metre of landfill space
  • Producing paper from recovered fibres consumes 60% less energy and 55% less water than manufacturing paper from virgin pulp


  • Australia produces over 1 million tonnes of aluminium, accounting for about 8% of world production
  • 5 tonnes of bauxite (aluminium ore) are used to make 1 tonne of aluminium drink cans
  • It takes 95% less energy to make aluminium from scrap than from virgin materials
  • Producing 20 aluminium cans by recycling uses the same amount of energy as 1 can produced from virgin material
  • Recycling one aluminium can saves enough energy to run a 100 watt bulb for 20 hours, a computer for 3 hours, or a TV for 2 hours
  • The production of 1 tonne of aluminium consumes 14,000 kWh of electricity, equivalent to 4 years electricity consumption for an average household
  • Steel can be recycled over and over again, it does not deteriorate with recycling
  • Recycling steel requires 80% less energy than steel made from virgin material
  • It takes around 15,000 steel cans to form 1 tonne of recycled steel


  • Each tonne of glass made from recycled materials saves 1.1 tonnes of raw materials
  • Glass can be recycled over and over again, it does not deteriorate with recycling
  • Recycling 1 glass bottle saves enough energy to run a 100 watt light bulb for 4 hours, a computer for 25 minutes, a TV for 20 minutes, or a washing machine for 10 minutes
  • Australia manufactures more than 1 million tonnes of glass per year but only about 33% of this is recycled
  • Recycled glass requires 40% less energy than glass made from virgin material


  • Australia produces more than 1.3 million tonnes of plastic each year - more than 71 kg for every person
  • 69% of plastic waste comes from packaging and materials handling
  • Recycling 1 tonne of plastics saves enough energy to run a fridge for 1 month
  • Recycling 41 plastic bottles saves enough energy to run a fridge for 1 hour or a computer for 17 hours
  • Nearly 50% of all the plastic milk bottles produced in Australia are recycled
  • It takes 125 recycled plastic milk bottles to manufacture a 140 litre wheelie bin from recycled plastic
  • Plastics degrade each time they are recycled as the polymer chains break down, limiting the number of times they can be recycled. Polyethylene teraphthalate (PET) degrades after about 5 melting cycles
  • Producing new plastic from recycled material uses only two-thirds of the energy require to manufacture plastic from virgin materials
  • Milk bottles (made from HDPE) are one of the main plastics collected at kerbside and are the most sought after waste in the plastics recycling chain.
  • Australians consume approximately 6.9 billion plastic bags, or 36,850 tonnes of plastic each year - this equates to just under one bag per person per day
  • About 53% of plastic bags are from supermarkets, while 47% come from smaller retail outlets
  • It takes 5 PET bottles to make 1 square foot of polyester carpet
  • It takes 2 plastic soft drink bottles to make enough polyester fibre for a baseball cap


  • Per person, Australians use more than their average body weight (90 kg) of packaging each year and only 20% then gets recycled
  • More than 500,000 vehicles enter the waste stream each year
  • Approximately 18 million used passenger tyres weighing 170,000 tonnes are disposed of around Australia each year, with 57% disposed of in landfill
  • It is estimated that to incinerate 10,000 tonnes of waste creates one job, to landfill 10,000 tonnes of waste creates 6 jobs, and to recycle 10,000 tonnes of waste creates 36 jobs

Print cartridges

  • Australians purchase approximately 4 million toner cartridges and 12 million ink cartridges each year - laid end-to-end this would stretch from Sydney to Hobart
  • Every year approximately 3 million toner cartridges end up in landfill in Australia
  • It is estimated a laser cartridge will take up to 450 years to decompose in landfill


  • 65% of Australian freight is transported by road
  • The NSW Department of Planning and Infrastructure estimates that 33% of all car trips are less than 3 km, and that 55% are less than 5 km
  • 75% of Australians use a car to get to work, 12% use public transport and 5% walk or cycle

Energy and greenhouse emissions

  • Energy (mainly electricity generation accounts for 50% of Australia's greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, transport accounts for 14%, agriculture accounts for 16% and waste accounts for 3%
  • Almost half a kilogram of black coal is burned to supply 1 kWh of electricity - enough to run a single bar radiator for one hour, a 100 watt light globe for 10 hours, or an energy-efficient compact fluorescent light globe for 50 hours
  • Over its life, a typical compact fluorescent bulb saves around a third of a tonne of greenhouse gas and $45 in electricity costs
  • Every 15 litres of hot water used from an electric water heater generates about 1 kg of greenhouse gas
  • Water heating accounts for 23% of a households GHG emissions, while heating and cooling account for 20%
  • Over a year, some microwave ovens generate more greenhouse gas running the digital clock than cooking food

Sourced from Sustainable Choice

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