3 What are the pressures?

The pressures resulting from population and economic growth include transport, pollution and waste, which impact on the environment and human wellbeing. These and other pressures also affect the heritage features of the state.

3.1 Transport

Transport is essential to the economic and social functioning of communities; however, vehicle use and transport infrastructure can have negative impacts on the environment, communities and people through pollution and energy use.

There has been a modest rise in the total traffic flow as measured by the vehicle-kilometres (the number of vehicles on a given road or traffic network multiplied by the average length of their trips measured in kilometres) travelled in the state from 2007 to 2010 (from 14 212 to 14 615 million vkm per year), but overall the estimates have changed little from earlier estimates in 2002 and 2005, suggesting only minor changes in total environmental impact.

3.1.1 Trend

Passenger vehicles (essentially private cars) dominate road use in South Australia, consistently accounting for 76% of kilometres travelled (Figure 9). Light commercial vehicles account for another 15% of the kilometres travelled. Other vehicles such as articulated trucks, rigid trucks, buses and motorcycles each account for less than 5%. The total distances travelled by these vehicles have seen little change over the years (Figure 9). In 2007–12, South Australia had the smallest growth in number of motor vehicle registrations of Australian states and territories, with a total increase of 10.2% and an average annual increase of 2%, compared with the Australian average of 13.3% and 2.6%, respectively (ABS 2012f). In Adelaide, 81.4% of people travel to work by car and 9.7% by public transport (DIT 2012a).

Cars used for private transport have increased on our roads by 3.6% in the last five years. Although this potentially presents issues relating to increased greenhouse emissions and urban air quality impacts, new-model vehicles are becoming increasingly fuel efficient and are turning to alternative fuels and electrified drive trains. The number of motor vehicles per 1000 people increased by 8%, from 732 in 2006 to 793 in 2012. Light commercial vehicle (panel vans and utilities) registrations increased by 41% between 2007 and 2012 and now total 167 360, and light commercial tonne-kilometres (a tonne-kilometre corresponds to one tonne of freight carried over one kilometre) travelled have been steadily increasing, consistent with the increase in freight haulage noted below.

3.1.2 Freight

The state’s road freight vehicles carried 184 million tonnes in 2008–09, an increase of 8.7 million tonnes or 4.9% over the previous 12 months. This suggests a significant increase in fuel usage and emissions. Despite a decline in the average laden distance of 0.6% in 2008–09, an increase in tonnes carried ensured that the annual South Australian road freight task increased by 2.7% or 0.5 billion tonne-kilometres to 18.7 billion tonne-kilometres in 2008–09 (Pekol 2011).

To date, the road transport sector has depended on petroleum-based fuels. Growth in the Australian road transport task has led to a corresponding increase in fuel consumption, which, in turn, has led to an increase in greenhouse gas emissions from the sector. The principal greenhouse gas is carbon dioxide but vehicles also produce nitrous oxide and methane, which contribute to climate change (DIT 2012).

Heavier loads from transporting goods use more fuel. As the state’s freight task expands in response to growing manufacturing and mining sectors, the freight industry will need to consider further emissions abatement and offsetting, including alternative fuel use, vehicle design and modification, and maximising efficiencies through logistics planning.

Graph comparing annual road kilometres travelled by vehicle type in South Australia between 2005–06 and 2008–09 showing a pronounced difference between travel by passenger vehicles in comparison with all other vehicle types and a consistent trend in the use of all vehicle types.

Source: CTEE (2011)

Figure 9 Annual road kilometres travelled by vehicle type in South Australia, 2005–06 to 2008–09

Growth in economic activity is projected to increase the state’s road freight tonnes by 15.7 million tonnes or 18.6% by 2018–19. Given expectations for average distance travelled, average loads and road freight productivity, the annual road tonne-kilometre task is projected to increase by 19.5% to 22.8 billion tonne-kilometres in 2018–19 (Pekol 2011). Increases in volumes of freight on our roads can lead to associated increases in vehicle emissions. It is important that industry adopts measures to help mitigate or offset such increases and gradually transfer more freight to rail. The South Australian Government and the Australian Government have committed to the construction of the Goodwood and Torrens Junctions projects, which will enable longer, more reliable and more efficient trains to operate on the train network, and increase rail’s competitiveness with other forms of transport. Further investment by the private sector and the Australian Rail Track Corporation in more facilities, increased capacity and increased axle loads will ensure that rail will remain competitive with road, enabling a transfer to rail where this is economically sustainable.

3.1.3 Public transport

Total patronage of public transport (tram, train and bus) has remained reasonably stable in the Adelaide metropolitan transport area since 2005–06 (Figure 2.10), with some evidence of increased patronage (especially of trams) as the service has been extended and improved. Train patronage remained relatively stable between 2005–06 and 2009–10 at 11.7 million boardings per year, but decreased in 2010–11 because of the temporary closure of lines for track upgrading. Bus boardings increased from 50.1 million in 2005–06 to 53.7 million in 2009–10. Boardings appear to have decreased in 2010–11, but this is due to additional through-running bus services that reduced the number of bus transfers required by passengers.

Graph of boardings of public transport in Adelaide by mode (train, tram and bus, and total) from 2005–06 to 2010–11 showing a consistent trend in the use of public transport over the time period.

Source: DPTI (2011)

Figure 10 Boardings of public transport in Adelaide metropolitan area by mode, 2005–06 to 2010–11

Estimates of annual passenger-kilometres travelled by public transport are perhaps one of the best indicators of the use of public transport in metropolitan Adelaide. In 2006–07, the total annual passenger-kilometres travelled by public transport was estimated at 43.8 million, with usage increasing by between 0.9 and 1.5 million passenger-kilometres a year to reach 48.5 million passenger–kilometres in 2010–11, equating to increases of 0.9% to 3.4% per year (DPTI 2012, unpublished data). The biggest increase of 1.5 million passenger-kilometres occurred between 2006–07 and 2007–08 when the new inner city tramline from Victoria Square to City West was opened. Extension of this system to the Adelaide Entertainment Centre in March 2010 also boosted passenger usage.

3.1.4 Private vehicles

Although there has been an encouraging increase in the patronage of public transport in the Adelaide metropolitan area since 2005–06, car travel still accounts for more than 70% of the passenger-kilometres travelled on metropolitan roads, and for most of the greenhouse gas emissions. Adelaide residents still prefer the flexibility and comfort of private vehicle transport, except where there may be obvious time or financial gain from using public transport. This appears to be the case with suburban residents employed in the central business district (CBD), where carpark fees and delays from congestion appear to discourage private vehicle use, provided there is a readily available and timely public transport alternative. Recent planning decisions to discourage additional car park construction, and the proposed levy on certain car park spaces in the CBD, are aimed at fostering this trend. Motorcycle (including scooters) registrations continued to grow at a faster rate than any other vehicle type, with an annual increase of 7.7%.

3.1.5 Bicycles

The number of cyclists travelling to and from the city increased from 6153 in 2006 to 9443 in 2011. Cordon counts of cyclists (12-hour counts of cyclists entering or leaving Adelaide CBD on an average weekday between 7am and 7pm collected in October, an ‘average’ month for cycling) have grown by 51% over the past five years—an average annual increase of 9.5%. As measured by the 2011 cordon counts, cycling accounted for 9500 trips to and from the city, or about 4.3% of all vehicle trips in and out of the city. Although counts are collected at 33 locations, they do not account for all cyclists since there are possible routes that are not covered.

3.2 Pollution

To sustainably maintain our population and economic activity, it is essential to effectively manage the impacts of pollution and waste created by human activities. This includes protection of air and water quality, protection from harmful noise and radiation, and improved management of waste. (Trends in air quality, noise, radiation and waste are covered in this chapter; water quality is discussed in the Water chapter).

A key approach to the monitoring and control of pollution in South Australia is the licensing of activities of environmental significance by the Environment Protection Authority (EPA). Over 2006–11, the EPA licensed 2100 such activities that included petroleum and chemical facilities, manufacturing and mineral processing, waste treatment and disposal, animal husbandry, food processing, and materials handling and transportation. In addition to controlling these significant point sources of potential pollution, the EPA also monitors the pollution from diffuse sources and evaluates the cumulative impacts from all sources on the community and environment.

The South Australian Environment Protection Act 1993 creates a general environmental duty for everyone to take reasonable and practicable measures to avoid harm to the environment. The EPA maintains a pollution reporting and enquiries line to receive calls about environmental concerns. In terms of the number of reports, noise stands out as an issue of concern to most people (Figure 11). If complaints about noise to local councils and the police are added, the figure becomes even more substantial. The main sources of complaints and measures to deal with noise are discussed in Section 3.2.2.

3.2.1 Air pollution

The human health effects of air pollution include aggravation of asthma, cancer, fibrosis, bacterial and fungal infection, allergic reactions and absorption of toxic materials into the blood. The risks are highest for sensitive groups such as children and the elderly.

The impacts of air pollution on ecosystems are also significant and can include loss of soil function (e.g. from acid deposition), reduction of yield of food crops and changes in the structure of plant communities. High concentrations of particulate matter can clog stomatal openings of plants and interfere with photosynthesis, leading to growth stunting or death in some plant species.

Elements of air pollution and their impact include:

  • fine particles from motor vehicles, industry, agriculture, bushfires and solid fuel fires; these impact on public health, climate change, rainfall and amenity
  • gaseous pollutants such as sulfur dioxide, fluoride, carbon monoxide and nitrogen oxides from industry, solid fuel fires and coal combustion; these impact on public health, flora and fauna (agriculture), corrosion of the built environment, rainfall and climate change
  • air toxics and volatile organic compounds from automobiles, industry, solid fuel fires and coal combustion; these impact on public health and are contributing to an enhanced greenhouse effect
  • photochemical smog; this affects the respiratory system and contributes to an enhanced greenhouse effect
  • lead (heavy metals) and sulfur dioxide; these affect the central nervous and respiratory systems, particularly of children.

Graph of the number of reports received by the South Australian Environment Protection Authority between 2008 and 2012 by topic showing that the majority of complaints are about noise followed by air quality, with comparatively much fewer complaints about all other issues.

Note: Reports associated with site contamination were not recorded separately before 2010–11.

Source: EPA (2008–12)

Figure 11 Number of reports received by the South Australian Environment Protection Authority, 2008–09 to 2011–12

In South Australia there is particular concern about:

  • particulate matter in Adelaide, Port Pirie and Whyalla
  • wood smoke in Mount Gambier and Mount Barker
  • sulfur dioxide at Oliver Street in Port Pirie
  • lead in Port Pirie
  • ozone levels in Elizabeth.

In metropolitan Adelaide, the amount of fine particulate matter (particulate matter smaller than 10 micrometres [PM10] and smaller than 2.5 micrometres [PM2.5]) in the atmosphere has decreased slightly since 2008. However, the trend remained stable over the years leading up to 2010, which was a period of serious drought in South Australia. During the drought, major dust storms and bushfires occurred on several occasions; in addition, particles normally generated in urban areas were likely to remain in suspension as they were not washed away by rain. As a result, the PM10 daily standard was exceeded regularly within the Adelaide metropolitan area and in the regional centres of Whyalla and Port Pirie. Trends for nitrogen dioxide, carbon monoxide, sulfur dioxide and ozone remained relatively stable from 2008–11 across metropolitan Adelaide, but sulfur dioxide levels increased at Port Pirie. There has been an overall decrease in lead particles measured at all monitoring sites.

In addition to the network of monitoring stations, an important source of information about air pollution emissions is the web-based database for the National Pollutant Inventory (www.npi.gov.au). A wide range of industries, if they exceed reporting thresholds, are required to provide estimates of their emissions each year. In addition to industry-reported data, aggregate emissions data are calculated, which include emissions from a broader range of sources including vehicles, lawn mowers, small engines, wood heaters and petrol stations. The last time aggregate data were updated was in 2002–03, partly because it is a resource-intensive process that requires inputs from many sources including modelling, surveys, socio-economic statistics, emission factors, fuel usage and traffic data.

Figure 12 compares the most recent industry data from 2011–12 with aggregate data from 2002–03, indicating the relative significance of industry and aggregate air emissions for key air pollutants. In South Australia, total volatile organic compounds, benzene and carbon monoxide emissions are dominated by aggregate sources while PM10, lead and sulfur dioxide are dominated by industrial sources. Approximately equal shares can be attributed to industry and aggregate sources for nitrogen oxides.

Graph comparing total air emissions (comparing 2002–03 and 2011–12) with that from industrial sources showing that for particles (PM10), lead and sulphur dioxide the majority of emissions can be attributed to industrial sources, that total volatile organic compounds, benzene and carbon monoxide emissions are dominated by aggregate sources and that about half of emissions of nitrogen oxides can be attributed to industry and aggregate sources each.

PM10 = particulate matter less than 10 micrometres in diameter; TVOCs = total volatile organic compounds

Source: National Pollutant Inventory

Figure 12 Comparison of aggregate and industrial sources of air emissions in South Australia 2002–03 and 2011–12

Trends in key substances from industrial sources were stable over 2007-12 for most emissions except PM10, carbon monoxide, and lead (Figure 13 a-d). The increase in PM10 reported under the National Pollutant Inventory is not mirrored in the data from monitoring stations discussed below, presumably because the increase was caused by an increase in regional mining activities not captured by the network of monitoring stations.

Generally, during dry conditions and when winds are high, dust blown from regional areas may combine with other forms of particle pollution, such as those from industry, motor vehicles, bushfires and sources in the metropolitan area, to cause dust levels above National Environment Protection (Ambient Air Quality) Measure 1998 (Air NEPM) standards. However, increased rainfall and humidity have been major factors in reducing these levels in 2011 (Figure 14). The metropolitan monitoring network provides a comprehensive picture of particle concentrations across Adelaide.

Graph of trends in emissions reported under the National Pollutant Inventory between 2007–08 and 2011–12 showing an increasing trend in particles emissions (PM10), a drop followed by an increase in lead emissions, a decrease in benzene emissions, and a stable trend in all other reported emissions.

Source: National Pollutant Inventory

Figure 13 Trends in emissions in South Australia reported under the National Pollutant Inventory, 2007–08 to 2011–12

Graph showing the trend of meeting the national standard for particle emissions (PM10) at five monitoring sites in Metropolitan Adelaide between 2002 and 2012 showing that since 2008 the standard was exceeded at 2 monitoring stations with the most significant exceedence at the Elizabeth monitoring station in 2008–09 (12 exceedences against the NEPM goal of 5) followed by 6 exceedences (one above the target) at Birkenhead in 2008–09 and again in 2009–10.

NEPM = National Environment Protection (Ambient Air Quality) Measure; PM10 = particulate matter smaller than 10 micrometres

Note: No exceedences of the Air NEPM standard or goal occurred in 2011.

Source: Environment Protection Authority data

Figure 14 Annual exceedences of the Air NEPM PM10 standard at Adelaide monitoring sites, 2002–12

Air monitoring in Whyalla

The Whyalla monitoring network measures particle concentrations at residential and near-industry sites across Whyalla. Exceedences of the Air NEPM standard have reduced in recent years as a result of improved industry emission controls and wetter weather (Figure 15).

Air monitoring in Mount Gambier

Air quality monitoring of particle concentrations in Mount Gambier showed numerous exceedences of the Air NEPM standards during winter, resulting in poor winter air quality. The data also showed a decrease in PM10 particles between 2010 and 2011 winter monitoring. Overall, winter patterns of fine particle pollution continued to be consistent with the dominance of wood smoke on cold winter nights. Episodes of pollution comprising coarser particles from sources on the fringes of Mount Gambier were recorded and were possibly contributed by industries in the region.

Spring monitoring in 2011 showed a decrease in fine particles from residential areas and improved air quality, with no exceedences of Air NEPM standards during this period. There was, however, an increase in both PM2.5 and PM10 particles from the industrial sector.

3.2.2 Noise pollution

Noise above safe levels leads to a number of known health impacts such as stress, high blood pressure, loss of sleep, inability to concentrate and loss of productivity. It has similar effects on the wellbeing of animals, and noise has been shown to affect the reproductive capacity of some animals.

Main sources of noise are:

  • industrial noise (including mining, freight terminal operations, etc.)
  • transport noise (from roads, vehicles, trains and airports)
  • construction and garbage collection noise
  • domestic tool and machine noise
  • dogs barking.

At present, the most significant noise issues arise from transport (particularly rail). With the proposed increase of residential dwellings adjacent to transport corridors by the 30-Year Plan, there will be an increase in the number of people potentially exposed to noise. However, as detailed in Section 4.3.5, new building code specifications have been put in place to mitigate the noise exposure of residents. Some local councils also provide assistance to reduce noise exposure in existing dwellings, such as the acoustic advisory service and noise management incentive scheme offered by the Adelaide City Council (Adelaide City Council 2013).

The number of noise complaints recorded by the EPA during 2007–12 were:

  • 2007–08: 939
  • 2008–09: 1029
  • 2009–10: 1186
  • 2010–11: 1241 (and 329 enquiries; the EPA started recording noise-related enquires [as distinct from complaints] from 2010–11)
  • 2011–12: 1170 (and 354 enquiries).

Although the numbers show a general increase, the following qualifications apply:

  • The same person may complain about the same noise source more than once and, as each complaint is recorded separately, this could lead to double counting.
  • Noise complaints may be included as a secondary complaint in other complaints and thus not be captured separately.
  • The data above is only for complaints made to the EPA and exclude complaints to councils and the police.

The number of complaints to local councils in relation to barking dogs exceeds the total number of complaints about noise from all sources made to the EPA (Table 3). The trend remains stable, indicating that current measures (a fine for the dog’s owner) are ineffective.

Table 3 Complaints to South Australian councils about barking dogs,2008–12


Metropolitan area

Rural and regional areas


















South Australia has a significant wind resource, which has been the focus of development in the renewable energy sector over the past 10 years. The result has been significant development of wind farms across the state, the majority of which have concentrated in the Mid North and South-East regions. In recent years, wind farm installations have been associated with an increase in noise complaints. The focus of these complaints centres on ‘low frequency’ sound output of the wind farm, which is currently the topic of further research by the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC 2010) and targeted monitoring by the EPA.

Graph showing the trend of meeting the national standard for particle emissions (PM10) at two monitoring sites in Whyalla showing a general declining trend in emissions with a spike in 2009.

NEPM = National Environment Protection (Ambient Air Quality) Measure; PM10 = particulate matter smaller than 10 micrometres

Note: Compliance with the Air NEPM is assessed at Schultz Reserve only. Monitoring at Walls Street commenced on 2 July 2004; monitoring at Schultz Reserve commenced on 27 April 2007.

Source: Environment Protection Authority data

Figure 15 Annual exceedences of the Air NEPM PM10 standard at Whyalla monitoring sites,

3.2.3 Site contamination

Site contamination in South Australia is regulated through specific provisions in the Environment Protection Act 1993 and the Environment Protection Regulations 2009. These provisions define site contamination, assign responsibility and give the EPA authority to retrospectively deal with site contamination.

The EPA has developed a set of guidance material and other publications to communicate site contamination issues and requirements to affected parties. Property owners, occupiers and others have a legal obligation pursuant to section 83A of the Environment Protection Act to advise the EPA of any site contamination that affects or threatens underground water. When the EPA becomes aware of off-site contamination via groundwater, they or an appropriate person advise the people who are potentially directly affected of the level of, and evidence for, any risk. In addition to advising potentially affected residents, the EPA maintains a searchable web-based index of notifications of impacts to groundwater. To further ensure the protection of human health, the South Australian Government discourages the use of groundwater from a well or bore unless it has recently been tested and shown to be safe for that purpose.

On 1 July 2009, amendments to the Environment Protection Act were introduced to specifically deal with site contamination. The EPA has recorded the following information specific to site contamination on the public register under section 109 of the Environment Protection Act up to 15 June 2012 (Figure 16):

  • 217 notifications of the commencement of a site contamination audit under section 103Z(1)
  • 52 site contamination reports received and accepted under section 103Z(3)
  • 303 notifications of site contamination of underground water under section 83A
  • 11 exclusions or limitation of liability for site contamination under section 103E
  • 2 approved voluntary site contamination assessment proposals under section 103I.

Increases in population and population density are likely to lead to redevelopment of previous industrial sites for more sensitive purposes (e.g. residential), and development closer to landfills and contaminated sites. This will necessitate careful investigation and spatial monitoring of contaminated sites, including those abandoned after industrial uses decades ago. Information about current and recent site contamination investigations can be viewed on the EPA’s website (www.epa.sa.gov.au/environmental_info/site_contamination).

One of the complexities of site contamination is that chemical substances can migrate to surrounding properties through the soil or groundwater, causing offsite contamination. This poses obvious risks where, for example, the site contamination affects groundwater that is used by surrounding residents through a bore or other means. (See the Water chapter for further information about groundwater.)

Graph of site contamination information by type recorded on the public register between 2009 and 2012 showing a comparatively high number of reports of contamination of underground water over the reporting period.

SC = site contamination

Source: Environment Protection Authority data

Figure 16 Site contamination information recorded on the South Australian public register,
2009–10 to 2011–12

3.2.4 Radiation

Ionising radiation

Natural radiation sources contribute around 65% of the annual per person radiation dose to the Australian population, with around 35% of the dose coming from the diagnostic use of radiation (X-rays) in health care and from radiation treatment for cancer (Figure 17).

Graph comparing the average annual ionising radiation dose per person showing that natural radiation sources contribute around 65% of the dose with the remaining 35% coming from medical sources.

mSv = millisievert

Source: Hardege (2005)

Figure 17 Australian annual per person radiation dose from natural and medical sources

Non-ionising radiation

Sources of non-ionising radiation include mobile telephones and base stations, power lines, lasers and cosmetic tanning units. The harmful effects of exposure to high levels of non-ionising radiation are well known (such as high exposure to ultraviolet [UV] radiation, which increases the risk of skin cancer), but there is little scientific evidence of harmful effects from chronic low levels of exposure. The greatest source of exposure of South Australians to UV radiation is the sun, although exposure can also be associated with the use of a range of industrial, medical, domestic and cosmetic devices. The public perception of UV radiation risk associated with the use of cosmetic tanning units has changed and the number of businesses operating cosmetic tanning units has decreased, falling from 35 in 2010–11 to 27 in 2011–12.

Radiation from uranium and mineral sands

Uranium mining and mineral sands industries play a significant role in South Australia’s economic development, and are expected to continue to do so into the foreseeable future. Although the main radiation exposure from uranium mining is to workers at sites, all doses received by workers who are exposed to radiation are well below the occupational limits prescribed in state, national and international legislation. Radiation monitoring continues to indicate that doses to workers who are not exposed to radiation, and other workers offsite, are not above normal background levels.

Figure 18 shows the locations of uranium deposits in South Australia (DMITRE 2012).

3.3 Waste

With an increasing and more affluent population and a growing diversity of consumer goods, waste is a significant environmental, social and economic issue. In addition to the waste generated by the disposal of products, urban renewal generates demolition and building wastes, and agricultural and industrial processes generate chemical and other hazardous wastes.

3.3.1 Waste trends

Table 4 and Figure 19 provide a summary of total waste generated in South Australia since 2003–04 and the changes over time in the proportion of recycled waste and waste going to landfill.

Map of the location of uranium deposits in South Australia.

Source: DMITRE (2012)

Figure 18 Location of uranium deposits in South Australia

Table 4 Annual South Australian resource recovery, landfill quantities and waste per person, 2003–11

Change (%)








2009–10 to 2010–11

2003–04 to 2010–11

  1. Includes most of the traditionally reported material categories
  2. Data for recycled soil, sand, rock and fly ash materials
  3. Includes waste fill generated from projects such as the Adelaide Desalination Plant and the Royal Adelaide Hospital

Source: Rawtec (2012)

Total recycling reported

2 042 000

2 396 000

2 434 000

2 611 000

2 552 000

2 760 000

4 310 000



Recycling data (tonnes) a

1 880 000

2 088 000

2 110 000

2 248 000

2 309 000

2 340 000

2 850 000



Separately reported recycling data (tonnes) b

162 000

308 000

324 000

363 000

243 000

420 000

1 460 000



Waste to landfill (tonnes)

1 278 000

1 158 000

1 144 000

1 130 000

1 072 000

1 035 000

1 084 000



Total waste generation (tonnes)

3 320 000

3 554 000

3 578 000

3 741 000

3 624 000

3 795 000

5 394 000



Recovery rate (%)










Excluding extra soil from major infrastructure projects c




South Australian population

1 534 000

1 550 042

1 584 500

1 601 800

1 622 700

1 644 600

1 657 000



Per person diversion to recycling (kg)

1 330

1 550

1 540

1 630

1 570

1 680

2 600



Per person landfill (kg)










Per person total waste (kg)

2 160

2 300

2 260

2 340

2 230

2 310

3 250



Graph of the trend in annual volumes of waste recovered for recycling and going to landfill in South Australia from 2003–04 to 2010–11 showing a growing trend in waste recovery and recycling and a declining trend in waste going to landfill.

Source: Rawtec (2012)

Figure 19 Annual South Australian recovery and landfill disposal, 2003–04 to 2010–11

In 2010–11, 5.4 million tonnes of waste was generated in South Australia, an increase of 42% since 2009–10 and of 62% since 2003–04 (Figure 19; Rawtec 2012).

In 2010–11, South Australians diverted 79.9% (4.3 million tonnes) of materials from landfill to recycling—a 56% increase from the 2.76 million tonnes recycled in 2009–10 and a 111% increase from the 2.04 million tonnes recycled in 2003–04 (Rawtec 2012).

The large increase in 2010–11 was attributed to approximately 1.26 million tonnes of waste fill diverted to recycling from major infrastructure projects including the Adelaide Desalination Plant and the Royal Adelaide Hospital. After subtracting the effects of these infrastructure projects from South Australia’s 2010–11 resource recovery data, South Australia still achieved a recovery rate of approximately 74.8%, an increase of 2.9% from 2009–10.

The total waste generated per person has risen by 50% since 2003–04. The per person recycling rate has increased to the second highest level of the last seven years at 2600 kilograms.

Along with conventional types of household waste such as paper and plastics, the amount of waste generated from electrical and electronic products has increased substantially. In 2007–08, 31.7 million new televisions, computers and computer products were sold in Australia. In the same year, 16.8 million televisions, computers and computer products were disposed of in Australia, with 84% going to landfill. The phase-out of analogue televisions is contributing to this figure. Waste volumes are expected to increase dramatically: the number of these items reaching their end of life is anticipated to increase to 44 million by 2027–28 (Hyder Consulting and PricewaterhouseCoopers 2009).

In South Australia, it is estimated that the total waste for televisions and computers in 2011–12 was 427 700 units. By 2015–16, this is expected to grow to 668 200 units, an increase of 56% (Equilibrium 2012).

3.3.2 Waste management

Mounting pressure on global energy and mineral resources (as reflected in rising prices and resource scarcity) is a key driver for the reuse, recycling and recovery of resources as measures to use materials and energy more efficiently. This is consistent with the waste hierarchy, an internationally accepted guide for prioritising waste management (Figure 20).

Costs associated with recycling and disposal of waste influence behaviour. Costs include transport, government levies and charges, and infrastructure operating costs. In particular, regional and outback areas of South Australia find it difficult to support recycling programs because of transport costs, limited access to end markets for recyclable materials, and lack of sufficient volumes to make resource recovery and waste management financially viable. The level and volatility of international commodity prices place pressure on recycling and recovery of materials, and make it difficult for recyclers to respond to market conditions.

Diagram of the waste hierarchy showing approaches to waste management from least preferred (dispose) to most preferred (avoid).

Source: Zero Waste SA (2011)

Figure 20 Waste hierarchy

As detailed above, electrical and electronic products are an increasing component of waste. Televisions, computers and other electronic items contain valuable resources such as tin, nickel, zinc, aluminium and copper, and hazardous materials such as lead, mercury, cadmium, and brominated and antimony compounds. Close to 100% of the materials in televisions and computers can be recovered (Hyder Consulting and PricewaterhouseCoopers 2009); however, it is labour intensive to separate these components.

Materials recovery infrastructure in the Adelaide metropolitan area is ageing and in need of modernisation and refurbishment. New technologies make it more efficient to sort materials and reduce contamination of recycled materials. Changes in the materials of commonly used products (such as from wood to plastics), or the introduction of completely new materials (such as rare tantalum and neodymium) and the use of composite materials (metallised plastics or copolymers) means that waste from these products becomes more complex, and often more difficult to separate into their component elements.

Although there is no current scientific evidence regarding the health and environmental risks from televisions, computers and other electrical products in Australian landfills, it is recognised that there are potential risks associated with leaching and evaporation of hazardous substances from landfill into soil and groundwater (Hyder Consulting and PricewaterhouseCoopers 2009).

The trend of increasing use of toxic substances (e.g. in pharmaceuticals, paint, herbicides, insecticides) and the unrecorded stockpile of banned substances in sheds and on farms also places pressure on the proper collection, treatment and disposal of these substances.

Food waste is often overlooked as an important waste type because it is biodegradable and is typically thrown away with other household waste. A large part of wasted food is made up of scarce soil-derived water, minerals and energy; after this enters landfill it produces methane, a powerful greenhouse gas. In the context of South Australia’s generally poor soils, food waste is a potentially important source of organic fertiliser. Following a successful trial in 2010, a number of local councils are now providing a food waste recycling service.

3.4 Heritage

Development pressure, insufficient resources, a shortage of conservation skills and divergent views about the importance of some places all contribute to the risk of inadequate protection for South Australia’s heritage places. There are also pressures on remote natural heritage places from development such as mining, which may require special responses to manage. One example is the South Australian Government’s ban on mining in Arkaroola through special-purpose legislation.

Heritage expertise is held by a small group of highly skilled craftspeople and professionals, and there is a risk of future gaps in skills. Many heritage places are also at risk of deterioration as a result of declining resources for maintenance and renewal.

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