The City of Sydney is moving closer to a 2030 zero waste target, with an ambitious strategy tackling commercial and residential sector set to be approved this month.

As part of the plan, residents will be provided with regular food waste, e-waste and textile collection over the next 2-3 years; city buildings will be provided with education and grants to reduce waste; new commercial and residential buildings will need to be designed to improve waste collection ability; and rangers will step up the fight to tackle illegal dumping.

Overall, the strategy sets a 90 per cent landfill diversion rate by 2030, targeting city buildings, public spaces, residents and businesses.

“Not so long ago, residents could throw all their rubbish into one bin, with City rubbish trucks transporting the contents of those bins to one big landfill site,” Sydney Lord Mayor Clover Moore said.

“Thankfully those days are over and we’re now much closer to a time where not a single item collected by City waste services ends up in landfill.”

To get to the zero waste target, the council said a waste to energy plant would also be needed to deal with the non-recyclable part of the waste stream, which would otherwise go to landfill.

“We’re absolutely committed to recycling as many waste items as we can, but we realise that’s not possible for all items. That’s why a waste to energy treatment solution in an appropriate location must be considered,” Ms Moore said.

A proposal for such a system in Western Sydney, however, has caused a resident backlash.


Currently the council collects and manages about 65,000 tonnes of residential waste a year.

Ms Moore said currently 69 per cent of that waste was diverted from landfill, but the target was to get this up to 90 per cent by 2030.

The strategy proposes weekly kerbside e-waste collection as part of the solution, which would “recycle valuable metals such as aluminium, copper, gold and silver, while keeping the harmful chemicals used in these devices out of landfill sites”.

Subsidised food waste collection would also be trialled on an opt-in basis.

“Food waste accounts for 35 per cent of the average red bin, which is currently separated at sorting facilities and used to create a low-grade compost,” Ms Moore said. “We will offer residents an opt-in food waste collection service that will create a high-quality fertiliser for organic farming and green electricity.”

Another key will be the introduction of textile recycling, as the increase in “fast fashion” has made this a significant proportion of overall waste at five per cent of general waste collected. The strategy will investigate how textile bins can be made a common feature of bin rooms in apartment buildings.

“With three quarters of our population living in apartment buildings, we believe there’s an opportunity to collect thousands of tonnes of textiles that can be recycled and used to create new products,” Ms Moore said.

There will also be dedicated drop-off centres for problem waste materials like batteries, chemicals, paints and gas bottles.

City buildings

Businesses are responsible for the collection of their own waste, producing around 700,000 tonnes a year, which represents more than 90 per cent of total waste in the city. It is estimated that half of this is going to landfill.

Ms Moore said the commitment of businesses was needed to make a dent in the amount of waste produced.

“The City has developed the operational waste management guidelines for commercial offices – but there’s always more that can be done and we’re calling on businesses to contact our specialised teams so we can look at how they can improve their recycling rates,” Ms Moore said.

Our ebook of Office Waste looked at what some of the leading office sites are doing in the waste space, looking at intervention, procurement, design of products, separation, recycling, re-use, office de-fit and product end of life.

One of the biggest problems, we found, was the lack of solid data.

One of the priorities of the strategy is to improve upon data collection, reporting and verification. For city buildings, this means trying to get the state government and regulators on-board to improve transparency and integrity of waste data from commercial producers and waste operators.

2021 targets:

  • To divert 70 per cent of residential waste from landfill (minimum 35 per cent as source-separated recycling)
  • To divert 70 per cent of waste from businesses operation in LGA
  • To divert 80 per cent of construction and demolition waste from all projects in the city
  • To divert 50 per cent of waste from City parks, streets and public places
  • To divert 70 per cent of waste from City-managed properties from landfill

All targets rise to 90 per cent by 2030.

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  1. Great to see movement towards better management of waste in a major CBD over East. I don’t however see anything in the sustainability strategy documents released in 2016 in my own fair city of Perth to encourage recycling of construction & Demolition waste. If we can’t even get these low hanging fruit (& its much higher tonnages) away from landfill with some policy guidance from our local & state government; (apart from th blunt tool of landfill levy). How are we going to hit these 2021 targets over in Western Australia.