In conclusion, much of the progress to date in waste innovation seems to have been in the area of development of new technologies to treat wastes. However, there is evidence of many innovative waste management approaches focusing on waste prevention, waste minimisation, source separated collection and specific technologies for treating particular waste streams. Source separation is much more effective in conserving resources than relying solely on highly complex, expensive end-of-pipe technologies for managing increasing quantities of highly heterogeneous mixed waste streams.
Whilst there is still a need for research into improving recovery and reprocessing technologies, the main challenge in Australia is to improve the access to such technologies across the country. This could be done by providing incentives to efficiently collect and transport materials to strategic locations for reprocessing, develop local and export markets for recovered materials and value added products, and encourage the community and businesses to actively participate in these schemes.
Further innovation is needed in terms of economic and regulatory drivers to overcome current disincentives to establishing advanced technologies close to the population centres that are producing the wastes. Equally important in terms of resource conservation are enforceable waste targets and green product design/local standards that enhance the recyclability of discarded items.
In addition, there is a need for more programs that encourage sustainable behaviour, to reduce excessive consumption and wastefulness. This would slow down the rate at which waste is generated, and reduce the reliance on innovations in technology as the solution to all waste problems. Innovative thinking beyond the scope of normal waste awareness campaigns, is needed to encourage and reinforce behavioural change at a business and personal level.