In The Know

Canada’s per-person waste generation is on the decline: Fraser Institute

Canadians now generate less waste on a per-person basis than we did in 2002, a new Fraser Institute report finds. And that’s despite both a growing population and a growing economy.  

The study by Elmira Aliakbari and Jairo Yunis uses official data and government reports to examine the state and evolution of the generation and management of municipal solid waste — more commonly known as trash or garbage — in Canada over the past two decades.

They show that that, on a per-person basis, in 2018 Canadians generated 959 kilograms of municipal solid waste — such as food scraps, electronics, used packaging, old computers, newspapers and other waste generated by businesses and households. This is compared to 980 kilograms in 2002.

This is a good news environmental story, the authors write. But it is not without some nuance. While per-person waste generation is on the decline, household waste generation is increasing and now comprises 40 percent of the total. 

This, however, is balanced by the fact that waste generation from non-residential sources — industrial, commercial, etc. — dropped from 2002 to 2018, driving the decline in overall waste generation. 

Canadians are also disposing of less waste over time — 10 percent less on a per-capita basis and 29 percent less per unit of GDP in 2018 compared to 2002. Additionally, waste diversion jumped from 22 percent in 2002 to 28 percent in 2018.

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