Canada - Waste Not, Want Not?

Photo by kevin dooley |

After spending some time travelling and watching the Olympics this past summer, I re-kindled a sense of curiosity for statistics of the world’s countries. What are the world’s biggest countries? (China, India, USA). What is Canada’s current population? (34.7 million by recent estimates). How much waste do we produce? ... Now, while you might roll your eyes at that last one, it is true, I did actually wonder that (remember I write for an eco-blog). Lucky for me, on this past June 5th, Statistics Canada released their 2012 issue of Human Activity and the Environment.

This issue first featured an article entitled “Waste Management in Canada” that described the generation, management and statistics behind the three major different types of waste in Canada – solid, water and air emissions. In its second section, the article focused on solid waste management in Canada in greater detail. This is where the waste management statistics I will focus on come from. For the sake of this blog post, I will look into the stats for municipal solid waste. As defined by Statistics Canada, solid waste is the residential and non-residential waste that can be picked up by a municipality and private waste management companies as well as the waste transported by citizens to collection, recycling and disposal facilities.

In the statistical analyses done by the Waste Management in Canada article, comparisons are made between the years 2002 and 2008 in Canada. To put things into perspective, the population of Canada in 2008 was roughly 33.3 million (about 1.4 million less than today). In 2008, Canadians threw out a grand total of 25,871,310 tonnes of waste with the largest increases seen in Alberta (39% increase) and New Brunswick (16%). Overall, our municipal solid waste disposal per person increased from 769 kg to 777 kg from 2002. Notably, Nova Scotia was the only province with a decrease in solid waste disposal, reducing its total by 6% from 2002.

Thankfully, our solid waste diversion per person also increased from 2002 to 2008 by 42 kg (212 kg to 254 kg). Specifically, Canadians diverted 8,473,257 tonnes of solid waste for recycling or composting in 2008. From 2002, the biggest improvements in solid waste diversion were observed in New Brunswick (105%) and Nova Scotia (51%), while Manitoba saw a 21% decline in its composting and recycling.

So as we come down to our final months of 2012, I think it is important to be conscious of the amount of waste that you have produced and diverted this year. While the per person numbers in the 2012 issue of Human Activity and the Environment aren’t representative of the expectations for individual Canadian citizens due to a variety factors, they still serve as an important marker for us to be mindful of. For instance, will you produce more than our recent average of 777 kg of per person this year? Or have you done your best to divert your 254 kg of waste so far in 2012? Think about it!