As GDP per capita increases, Urban Solid Waste generation increases. While waste avoidance is aimed for, it is difficult to measure. We can only say that it may not have increased as much as it otherwise would have, with no waste avoidance programs. Hazardous waste generation, in spite of restructuring of the Australian economy away from manufacturing, is maintained through more comprehensive definitions of hazardous waste and better enforcement. It remains of significant public concern.
Our research focuses on viewing these waste management problems at an economy wide scale, with an emphasis on substance flows from the resource supply, through goods providing services with some associated dispersive use emissions, until final waste generation occurs. Solutions to the broad sustainability aims of resource conservation and environmental protection in relation to substance management, need to be developed comprehensively across the economy, rather than only in the waste processes sub-set at the end of the regional economy. Our research activities particularly consider:
- Development of Material Flow Analysis (MFA) tools applied to substance management;
- Integrating MFA with GIS, Cost Benefit analysis, structural economic indicators, and optimisation procedures;
- Extending the system boundary beyond regional and national to include trade related implications of substance flows;
- Application to real regions in Australia, using substances that are valuable and non-renewable, and/or that may also be toxic, such as cadmium, phosphorus, copper, lead and carbon. The sector of the economy always includes waste management processes, but shows that effective solutions can only be developed by including the whole context of the regional economy.