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In Zero Waste Canada

How much garbage is enough?

  • Canada ranks in last place out of 17 countries and gets a “D” grade on the municipal waste generation report card.

  • Canada produced 777 kg per capita of municipal waste in 2008, twice as much as the best performer, Japan.

  • Canada’s municipal waste generated per capita has been steadily increasing since 1990.

An adult polar bear weighs 300 – 700 kg

Canadians are producing more garbage than we should and some municipalities may be aiding our addiction to discarding.

How much garbage does an average single family residence really need to set out for collection at the curb?

Municipalities across Canada have widely varying standards on what is the allowable amount of garbage that will be collected at the curb on a weekly or bi-weekly basis. There is no common standard for weight, size of container, or volume for residential collected. There are no provincial standards instead each municipality sets the “level of service”.

Imagine a family that moves across the country, residing in different cities, it would probably be safe to speculate that their buying patterns and consumption patterns would not change significantly with each move to a new city. Does that family use up to 6 garbage bags weighing up to 25kg in Halifax and in Red Deer use 3 units (bag or can) with a 100 litre capacity each? Does that same family in Nanaimo use one 77 litre can?

Many of the cities have curbside recycling and organics pick up, but they still allow for large quantities of garbage to be discarded at the curb. There seems to be little correlation to the availability of alternative diversion services with how much residential garbage is allowable for curbside pick up in a community.

In some cities residents can buy garbage tags so they may include additional garbage to the weekly pick up. The price of these tags varies per city. Simcoe Ontario offers garbage tags for $3 each and a maximum 7 tagged bags may be included with one untagged for collection. In Halton Ontario  garbage tags are $2; you may place up to 3 additional garbage bags/cans with a garbage tag for a total of 6 bags/can maximum (3 untagged plus 3 tagged).

Certainly municipalities are setting the guidelines for residents on allowable waste and yet landfills are rapidly filling up. Are municipalities allowing too much garbage?

Do local governments need to be talking to each other about setting a national standard that would align each community, each household with a benchmark for waste generation?

It is very difficult to give a clear message of the need to “REDUCE” when 7 garbage bags are allowable at the curb.

Like the bartender offering the alcoholic another round, we have municipalities offering a means to continue our addiction. It is time to send a message and set a standard.

We need to curb our addiction to discarding.

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