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Total waste

In 2006, Canadians produced over 1000 kg of waste per person, up 8% from 2004. Of this total, 835 kg went to landfills or was incinerated while 237 kg was diverted from landfill. Overall, this translates into 35 million tonnes of waste handled by the waste management industry; 27 million tonnes of that waste was disposed in landfills or was incinerated and almost 8 million tonnes were diverted from disposal and processed through material recovery facilities or centralized composting operations.

Approximately 22 million tonnes of waste came from non-residential sources in 2006 while the other 13 million tonnes was from residential sources.

There are several factors that drive increases in the production of waste. Population growth, increased economic activity and rising incomes may be contributing factors. In an active economy, more goods and services are purchased by businesses and households. Goods have packaging that must be disposed or recycled or, the good itself may be discarded or recycled once it is used. Between 2004 and 2006, there was a 6% increase in GDP observed nationally. 1 


Canadians sent just over 27 million tonnes of waste for disposal to landfills or incinerators in 2006 which is an 8% increase over 2004. This increase in disposal is higher than the previous increase of 5% between 2002 and 2004.

All provinces showed increases in the amount of waste sent for disposal except for Prince Edward Island. This province posted a 13% decrease since 2004. This is the first decrease observed in disposal between 2002 and 2006. Also, several provinces (Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, and Newfoundland and Labrador) showed small increases of less than 2%.

Approximately 1/3 of waste for disposal came from residential sources while the other 2/3 came from non-residential sources. This was virtually unchanged from 2004. The majority of the increase in waste disposed between 2004 and 2006 came from non-residential sources. The amount of waste from residential sources increased by 3% between 2004 and 2006 to 9.2 million tonnes. During the same time period, the amount of non-residential waste increased by 11% to 18.0 million tonnes.

Overall, the 8% increase amounted to an additional 2 million tonnes of waste disposed by Canadians in 2006 over the 2004 estimate. The province of Alberta contributed almost 37% to that increase, Ontario and Quebec contributed 31% and 18% respectively.

Rates of disposal

Per capita measures of waste disposal provide a way of examining changes in disposal while at the same time accounting for the effects of population. In some cases, increases in the amount of waste being sent for disposal could be attributed to population growth and not necessarily due to the production of more wastes.

On average, each Canadian was responsible for 835 kilograms of waste disposed in 2006. Nova Scotia remained the province with the lowest per capita disposal at 430 kilograms. New Brunswick and British Columbia followed with 601 kilograms and 675 kilograms per person, respectively. Quebec, Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Alberta and the Northwest Territories exceeded the average national per capita amount of waste disposed.

On average there was a 6% increase in per capita waste disposed; provincially, Alberta posted a significant increase of 18%. The next highest increase was in Manitoba at 10%.


The recent 2006 Census revealed that Alberta's population grew by more than 10% since the 2001 Census. 2  Since the last Waste Management Industry survey in 2004, estimates indicate a 5% increase in population. 3  This increase is also the highest increase of any province or territory in Canada during those two years. Nationally, population increased 2% in the same time frame.

Overall, waste disposed in Alberta increased 24% to 3.8 million tonnes in 2006. Non residential waste disposed in Alberta increased by 33% in 2006 whereas the residential portion increased by only 3%. This compares to a national 11% increase in non-residential waste disposed.

In 2006, Alberta also had the largest amount of per capita waste disposed in Canada with each Albertan sending more than one tonne of waste for disposal. Excluding the Northwest Territories, Quebec was the next highest with nearly 250 kilograms less waste disposed per person.

Sources of waste for disposal

Waste from non-residential sources usually accounts for the majority of waste for disposal. This held true in 2006 with non-residential sources contributing 66% of the waste for disposal while 34% came from residential sources.

Alberta had the highest proportion of waste disposed from non-residential sources at 75% closely followed by Yukon Territory at 74%. The next highest was Quebec at 68%. Newfoundland and Labrador had the lowest proportion of waste disposed from non residential sources at 44%.

On a per capita basis, 283 kilograms of residential waste and 552 kilograms of non-residential waste were sent for disposal (Text table 1). Nova Scotia had the lowest per capita disposal from residential sources at 181 kilograms. British Columbia and the Yukon Territory also had lower than average per capita disposal from residential sources at 222 and 214 kilograms respectively. Although the per capita disposal of residential waste in Alberta is fairly close to the Canadian average, waste per capita from non-residential sources far exceeds the other provinces and territories. Alberta disposed 844 kilograms per person from non-residential sources. The second highest is Northwest Territories with 665 kilograms followed by Quebec with 604 kilograms. The increases in waste for disposal in Alberta are believed to be coming from industrial, commercial and institutional sources as well and construction and renovation activities.

Disposal of waste by source and by province and territory, 2006
  Residential proportion of waste Non-residential proportion of waste Residential sources per capita Non-residential sources per capita
  percent kilograms
Newfoundland and Labrador 56 44 446 353
Prince Edward Island x x x x
Nova Scotia 42 58 181 248
New Brunswick 48 52 289 312
Quebec 32 68 285 604
Ontario 35 65 292 530
Manitoba 44 56 386 483
Saskatchewan 36 64 300 544
Alberta 25 75 289 844
British Columbia 33 67 222 454
Yukon Territory 26 74 214 595
Northwest Territories 34 66 347 665
Nunavut x x x x
Canada 34 66 283 552
Statistics Canada, Environment Accounts and Statistics Division.


Materials processed for recycling increased 9% to just over 7.7 million tonnes in 2006. While most materials showed increases since 2004, organics such as food wastes and leaf and yard wastes showed the largest increase of 32%. At 21%, plastic materials prepared for recycling had the second largest increase.

Paper fibres still make up the majority of all diverted materials accounting for 44%. However, organic materials represented 26% of all materials diverted in 2006, increasing this share from 21% in 2004.

The rate of diversion of materials from landfill between 2004 and 2006 remained constant at 22%. Several provinces diverted more than 25% of their waste from landfills. Nova Scotia had the highest diversion rate at 41% followed by Prince Edward Island (38%) and New Brunswick (36%). New Brunswick had the greatest change in its diversion rate increasing 12 percentage points over the 2004 rate to 36% in 2006. British Columbia and Quebec also exceeded the national diversion rate achieving 32% and 27%, respectively. Provinces such as Newfoundland and Labrador, Ontario, Manitoba, Saskatchewan, and Alberta all diverted less than 20% of their waste from landfills.

Waste management industry financial characteristics

Local government sector

Operating revenues

Operating revenues for local governments from the provision of waste management services increased by nearly 16% to slightly more than $1.0 billion in 2006. Several provinces experienced higher growth in operating revenues than others. New Brunswick and Quebec had increases of slightly over 20% between 2004 and 2006 while the increase in Alberta was 35% to $174 million. Saskatchewan and Manitoba had slightly lower revenues in 2006 than in 2004 at $15 million and $26 million respectively.

Operating expenditures

Total current expenditures by local governments in Canada increased to $2.0 billion in 2006 from $1.8 billion in 2004. At over $900 million, collection and transportation continued to make up the lion's share of current expenditures in 2006. Operation of disposal facilities consumed the next largest share of the total amount of current expenditures at $419 million followed by tipping fees at $194 million. Current expenditures on the operation of recycling facilities increased by 47% to $171 million between 2004 and 2006.

Capital expenditures totalled $312 million in 2006, down 16% from 2004.

Provincially, it is useful to look at the per capita expenditures on waste management activities as well as the per capita quantity of waste diverted from landfill.Nova Scotia and New Brunswick spent the greatest amount (nearly $30 per person) on the operation of disposal facilities (Chart 1). Ontario spent the greatest amount on recycling facilities at $9 per person while Nova Scotia led in expenditures per person on the operation of organics processing facilities at $8 per person.

Chart 1 Current local governments expenditures1 related to waste management, 2006
Data for Prince Edward Island, Yukon Territory, Northwest Territories and Nunavut is not included in order to meet the confidentiality requirements of the Statistics Act.
Source(s):  Statistics Canada, Environment Accounts and Statistics Division
Chart 2 Waste diverted and local government current expenditures per capita, 2006
Source(s):  Statistics Canada, Environment Accounts and Statistics Division

An examination of per capita expenditures on waste management activities and the amount of waste diverted per capita indicates that those provinces that spent more money per capita were generally able to divert greater amounts of waste per person (Chart 2).

Quebec, British Columbia, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Alberta, and Ontario all spent over $55 per person in total on waste management. New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Quebec, and British Columbia diverted more than the national average of 237 kilograms/person from landfill.

Manitoba, Saskatchewan, and Newfoundland all spent $40 or less per person on waste disposal and diverted at least 100 kilograms per person less than the national average of 237 kilograms per person.

Business sector

Operating revenues

Revenues for the business sector from 2004 to 2006 increased by 17% to $5.1 billion. The highest growth in revenues, for businesses in the waste management industry between 2004 and 2006, occurred in: British Columbia (23%), Quebec (21%), Alberta (20%), and Nova Scotia (20%). Newfoundland was the only province where a drop (21%) was reported by businesses in revenues from the waste management industry.

Operating expenditures

Gross operating expenditures incurred by waste management firms increased by 12% from 2004 to $4.3 billion in 2006. Capital expenditures dropped by 1% to 300 million dollars in 2006.

Firms in most provinces increased their operating expenditures between 2004 and 2006. Several provinces had firms with increases in operational expenditures over the national average (12%) during this period. Firms in Nova Scotia, British Columbia, and Alberta had increased expenditures of 22%, 21%, and 19% respectively.

Businesses in Saskatchewan, Manitoba, and New Brunswick remained stable, while in Prince Edward Island and Ontario there were modest (10%) increases in operating expenditures. Newfoundland was the only province where businesses had a substantial drop (21%) in operating expenditures over this period.

Employment, local government and business sectors

Employment in the waste management industry totalled 31,017 employees in both the government and business sectors. This represents a drop in total employment of 3% between 2004 and 2006. Approximately three quarters of those employed in the waste management industry work in the business sector. Employment in the business sector of the industry was down by 5% across the country between 2004 and 2006, while during the same period employment in the government sector in waste management rose by 5%.