Urban solid waste

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Sydney urban solid waste data indicate data typical of urban Australia. Currently, the annual disposal rate of urban solid waste in Sydney is about 3.4 million tons and rising rapidly (WMA 1990). The vast majority of urban solid waste in Australia is disposed of in landfills (89 per cent and 100 per cent in New South Wales and Victoria, respectively, in 1994; Moore and Tu 1996). Owing to the crisis in finding landfill space, New South Wales has recently prioritized minimizing waste production (NSWPMB 1998).

Municipal household or domestic solid waste comprise most of the urban solid waste produced in Australia (42 per cent in 1994). The vast majority of domestic solid waste components, such as paper, organic compostable, plastic and glass, can all be re-used or effectively recycled (WMA 1990). Even smaller volume components such as household hazardous wastes, ferrous wastes and non-ferrous waste have ecologically sound alternatives or can be recycled very successfully, thus reducing the need for mining virgin materials (Ayres and Ayres 1999b; WMA 1990). However, Australia's recycling rate is very low despite the ready availability of suitable materials, technology and public demand (WMA 1990; Moore and Tu 1996).

The main manufacturing industry contributors to manifested hazardous waste in Sydney are chemical, petroleum and coal products, basic metal products, fabricated metal products and miscellaneous manufacturing. Waste generation is increasing for these industries (Moore and Tu 1996). Australia also exports hazardous wastes and dumps industrial wastes at sea (UNEP 1991), thus adversely affecting global industrial ecology. Identifying these sources and flows of human-induced waste outputs is a vital step in identifying strategies to improve Australia's industrial ecology.

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