Challenge: waste economy

Challenge statement

How might we create a new waste economy by unlocking waste as a resource, so that we can create jobs in new industries while reducing landfill and increasing markets for recycled materials? 

Brisbane is a clean, green and sustainable city. Our approach to sustainable living resulted in Brisbane being named Australia's Most Sustainable City in 2014 and 2016 at the Keep Australia Beautiful Australian Sustainable Cities Awards. Key to maintaining our vision for a clean, green, sustainable city is our ability to reduce, re-use and recycle waste.

As the financial and environmental costs associated with traditional resource sectors increase, alternatives such as recycling and resource recovery become more efficient. Turning the traditionally linear production process into a renewable cycle not only delivers environmental benefits by keeping material out of landfill, but can also deliver significant benefits for our economy, potentially creating new job opportunities and scalable, exportable industries.

In Brisbane. Clean, Green, Sustainable 2017-2031 Council commits to supporting business to adopt innovative production and distribution systems that minimise waste and build strong markets to re-purpose waste into usable products. We are looking to businesses, academia and peak bodies from across industry, to understand their role in the supply chain and work together to address this challenge and unlock the value of waste.

Background to the problem

The circular economy is gaining support as there is growing recognition of its financial, environmental and social value.

Waste contains valuable, recoverable resources. Cooking oil can become biodiesel, restaurant scraps can mulch city parks and pre-loved clothes can be turned into insulation. The opportunities to unlock the value of waste at an industry level are immense, however it requires significant coordination and collaboration from all parts of the ‘whole-of-life’ supply chain – from product designers and manufacturers to waste management and recycling industries.

Australians have indicated an unprecedented level of support for industry being part of the solution in creating a high value waste economy. In a study conducted by the Crosby Textor Group, 87% support making it compulsory for recycled content to be used in all packaging.

Currently, in Brisbane:

  • all recyclables (90,000 tonnes per annum), are sent to Brisbane’s recycling contractor. All paper, magazine, cardboard and cardboard packaging material is pulped and recycled directly onsite at their paper mill. Plastics, glass and metals are all sorted in bales and sent to local and overseas markets
  • domestic green waste recycling (85,000 tonnes per annum) is processed in Yatala where it is composted and turned into a range of organic products, such as soil and compost. 

Council initiatives and data

A list of Council’s current initiatives and strategies around waste reduction are listed below.


As part of our vision for a Smart, Connected Brisbane, Council releases open data to the public to encourage civic innovation. To find out what datasets are available that may help to solve this challenge, visit Council's Open Data website.

Last updated:2 May 2019