Canada’s Problem With Waste

Canada produces a vast amount of waste.

Per capita we waste more food and water than our neighbors, the United States. Solid waste is also an issue in Canada. The amount of non-hazardous solid waste brought to landfills had a slight decrease in 2010, at the same time, diversion decreased in 2010 for the first time since 2002. Diversion dropped 11% for non-residential waste, while residents increased their diversion by 5%. However, 25 million tons of waste was produced in Canada in 2010 which costs Canadians billions of dollars to remove and dispose of annually. Additionally, Nova Scotia is the province that diverts the most waste (45%) from landfills and produces the least amount of waste, while Newfound Land produces the most waste per capita. One city in Nova Scotia has just added curbside pick up for textiles, which will help divert even more waste from landfills.

Waste By Province Per Capita 

canada waste problem canada waste problem

Chart Source: Statistics Canada

Landfills produce a lot of methane. Reducing methane emissions is key in the fight to reduce green house gases as it is much more harmful to our environment than CO2 emission. Furthermore, 22% of methane pollution in Canada comes from landfills. If we reduce waste sent to landfills, we can reduce methane gases from being released into the environment. Since methane is 21 times more potent than CO2, this is one easy way we can start to reduce greenhouse gases. Many items that end up in landfills do not need to be there. We have seen an increase in diversion of e-waste, which is a great start, but there are many other items that have no purpose in landfills. Textiles, for instance, end up in landfills constantly while only 15% of textiles are recycled or reused. That means 85% of textiles end up in landfills even though there are many uses for unwanted textiles. Landfills not only create air pollution, but water and soil pollution as well. Reducing the amount sent to landfills can help to protect our water and soil. These protections are greatly needed as having healthy soil and uncontaminated water is necessary for keeping Canadians healthy.

Canadians have been becoming more aware of the issues of waste and environment. Most of us are doing what we can to reduce waste by recycling, reusing and reducing the amount of waste we produce. The green bins that have been introduced are reducing the amount of waste households throw out. Residents only account for about one third of waste produced in Canada. Industrial waste accounts for about two thirds of waste produced. Industries need to be doing more to divert waste since they are a huge part of the problem.

Chart from Statistics Canada showing per capita, current local government expenditures related to waste management for selected provinces, 2010.

Ontario produces the most waste of any province in the country. That is unsurprising as Ontario has the highest population of all the provinces and territories in the country. The Ontario government must introduce policies that see companies take responsibility for their share of waste. The policies must be well thought-out, easily complimented, and traceable if they are to succeed. If the Ontario government takes charge of the waste issues and diversion, other provinces are likely to follow. One program that Ontario could implement is a curbside textile recycling program. Markham is starting a pilot project, while Colchester County, Nova Scotia has just started curb side pick up. Making it easier for people to recycle will encourage people to recycle more. The less waste there is to pick up, the less money would be spent on collection, which is a huge portion of costs when dealing with waste. Reducing waste saves money for municipalities, reduces amount of landfills needed, and helps to keep our environment safe and healthy. Diversion helps to reduce landfill use and can see items be used again, potentially leaving more resources in the ground. It is time to hold big waster producers responsible. It is time to get creative with our solutions to waste. The next time you go to throw something out, stop and think if a) it belongs in the trash, or does it belong in a recycling bin, b) is there another way to use this item.

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