How Much Landfill Does Australia Have?

We’ve probably all been to the tip once or twice, dropping off old unwanted goods from home or from work. But have you taken the time to think about exactly how much landfill Australia actually has? The answer may surprise you, and it’s quite important going forward.

Going back many years, we used to incinerate our waste. Thankfully, this practice ended in the mid-20th century. It certainly wasn’t doing our atmosphere and air quality any favours at all. Since then, all of our rubbish was dumped in landfills in New South Wales and across the rest of the country.

Nowadays, different companies are working hard to minimise the amount of waste that ends up in landfills, Sydney City Rubbish among them. Here is some important information to keep in mind, and how we might improve the situation in the future.

The facts and the figures

There are many important facts and figures to understand about landfills in Australia. However, the most important thing to know is that at the end of the day, we don’t really know how many landfills there are in Australia, or how much waste they hold. This is primarily because of poor record keeping since we began creating landfills, both official and unofficial.

It is estimated that there are about 600 regulated sites across the country, and roughly 2000 unregulated landfills, most of which are small. However, as we mentioned, these figures are not exactly accurate.

Nevertheless, here are some important facts and statistics about waste and landfills in Australia.

– In Australia, we dump about 20 million tonnes of waste into landfills every year.
Manufacturing and construction industries are the biggest contributors to the rubbish that can be found in landfills.
– Of all the waste in Aussie landfills, roughly 20% of it is organic waste… primarily food waste, along with green and garden waste.
– 29% of all municipal solid waste produced each year goes into landfills.
– Every year, 130,000kg of plastic waste flows down waterways, some of that coming from landfills.

Not one of these facts paints a positive picture of landfills. Indeed, we need to be moving towards a waste management culture which sees landfills as the very last step in disposing of rubbish. At Sydney City Rubbish, this is why we are so dedicated to sustainable practices, and protecting Australia’s pristine environment and our people.

What kind of rubbish is in our landfills

A look into Australian landfills will reveal a huge array of waste types. Literally, anything you can think of, you’ll find in a landfill. That includes items going back many years, some that could even be considered artifacts. It’s no surprise that on occasion, ‘treasure hunters’ go looking for old items for resale or even collections.

A breakdown showed that the most common types of rubbish found in Australian landfills, including both commercial and household waste, are:

– Old pieces of furniture, such as couches, chairs, and tables.
– Worn clothing items, simply thrown into the bin instead of donated or recycled.
– Old appliances, both big and small.
– E-waste, such as computers and phones.
– Construction waste, including huge amounts of brick and stone rubble, timber, metal, plastic and much more.
– Food waste also makes up a huge portion of landfills. This is no surprise, as the average Aussie family produces 1.2 tonnes of food waste every single year. And most of this ends up in landfill.

The disappointing fact is that a huge portion of this waste is recyclable. And unfortunately, most Aussie’s are guilty of throwing items into the bin that could be reused or repurposed. This is evidence that we need to work on our entire attitude towards waste reuse, which is exactly why we established the Waste Not, Want Not Sydney group on Facebook.

What are the impacts of landfill?

Landfills come with a long list of negative impacts that affect both people, and the environment.

The smell

Landfills inevitably release an ungodly smell. The decomposing organic waste, along with plenty of other undesirable elements, combines to create a smell that will drift to nearby residential and commercial areas, particularly in warmer weather.

Destruction of habitat

This is less of a problem now, but in the past, when new landfills were created, there was plenty of destruction caused of natural habitat and eco-systems. That destruction included plenty of plant life, along with smaller animals in insects. Unfortunately, the land will likely be unsalvagable, even if all the waste is removed. This is because of soil and water pollution caused by waste, particularly in older landfills.


Maintaining landfills is an expensive process. The costs associated with ensuring a landfill is compliant, along with staff and third party services, are high. Therefore, they are a serious drain on municipal funds, particularly when located in an urban area.

Visual eyesore

Landfills are not attractive. Therefore, if they are visible to residents or other members of the public, they will inevitably present an eyesore. That can impact those living nearby, along with property prices and commercial businesses.


Organic waste that decomposes within a landfill will release methane gas over time. Unfortunately, these gases create that smell that we referenced earlier, and they also cause air pollution. In the USA, landfills produce the third highest amount of methane emissions among human sources.

What does the future hold

So, what does the future hold for landfills in Australia? Well, the outlook is better these days, thanks to slowly changing attitudes around waste management. As more people and businesses prioritise reuse and recycling over simply throwing items in the rubbish, we have a better chance at minimising the amount of waste we produce.

A number of companies continue to work on solutions, such as mining existing landfill sites for metals and other materials that can be used in the manufacturing process. This allows us to save on virgin resources, while reducing the amount of waste in landfills. It’s important that we maintain the focus on reuse and repurposing, over simply dumping rubbish.

For any Sydney rubbish removal needs, get in touch with Sydney City Rubbish. We can’t wait to hear from you.

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