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Total waste

In 2008, Canadians produced over 1,031 kilograms of waste per person, virtually the same per capita production as in 2006. Of this total, 777 kg went to landfills or was incinerated while 254 kg was diverted from landfill. Overall, this translated into 34 million tonnes of waste handled by the waste management industry; 26 million tonnes of that waste was disposed of in landfills or was incinerated and over 8 million tonnes was diverted or processed through material recovery facilities or centralized composting operations.

Approximately 21 million tonnes of waste generated came from non-residential sources while the other 13 million tonnes was from residential sources.


Canadians sent approximately 26 million tonnes of waste for disposal to landfills or incinerators in 2008, about the same quantity as in 2006. This followed a 3% increase between 2004 and 2006.

The amount of waste sent for disposal declined in most provinces, except for Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta. New Brunswick saw the most significant drop in its waste disposal from 2006 to 2008 at 6%. For its part, Saskatchewan recorded the largest increase in waste sent for disposal, up about 8% from 2006 to 2008.

One-third of waste for disposal came from residential sources while the other two-thirds came from non-residential sources. These proportions were virtually unchanged from 2006 and 2004. Waste from residential sources totalled 8.5 million tonnes. Non-residential waste rose by slightly less than 2% over the same period to 17.3 million tonnes in 2008.

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 can be attributed to population growth and not necessarily to an increase in the intensity of waste production.

On average, each Canadian was responsible for 777 kilograms of waste disposal in 2008. Nova Scotia had the lowest per capita disposal at 378 kilograms, followed by British Columbia (641 kilograms) and New Brunswick (642 kilograms). In contrast, Alberta had the highest quantity of waste disposal per person at 1,122 kilograms. Newfoundland and Labrador, Quebec, Manitoba and Saskatchewan also exceeded the national average for per capita waste disposal in 2008.

Sources of waste for disposal

Waste from non-residential sources usually accounts for the majority of waste for disposal. This held true in 2008 with non-residential sources contributing 67% of the waste for disposal while 33% came from residential sources.

Alberta had the highest proportion of waste disposed from non-residential sources at 76%, followed by Saskatchewan at 68%. Newfoundland and Labrador had the lowest proportion at 47%.

On a per capita basis, there were 256 kilograms of residential waste and 520 kilograms of non-residential waste for each Canadian (Text table 1). Nova Scotia had the lowest per capita disposal from residential sources at 158 kilograms. Ontario and British Columbia were also below the national average at 250 kilograms and 219 kilograms respectively. Alberta was close to the national average in per capita residential waste disposed, but the amount of non-residential waste per capita was much higher than in all other provinces and territories, at 855 kilograms. Saskatchewan ranked second in non-residential waste disposal per capita with 605 kilograms, followed by Quebec at 530 kilograms per capita.


The amount of materials diverted, either for recycling or composting, increased by about 10% to almost 8.5 million tonnes in 2008. Slightly less than half (49%) of diverted materials came from non-residential sources, virtually the same proportion as in 2006. New Brunswick (77%), British Columbia (59%), Quebec (58%) and Manitoba (56%) had higher proportions of waste diverted from non-residential sources than the national average.

There was an increase in the diversion of most materials, regardless of source, but the largest increase was in electronic materials, up 115% from 2006. Plastic materials prepared for recycling had the second largest increase in diversion, up 40% from 2006.

Paper fibres, including newsprint, cardboard and mixed paper fibres, make up the largest portion of all diverted materials, accounting for 41%. Organic materials diverted rose from 26% in 2006 to 29% in 2008.

Waste management industry financial characteristics

Local government sector

Operating revenues

Operating revenues for local governments from the provision of waste management services totalled nearly $1.8 billion in 2008. 1 

Current expenditures

Total current expenditures by local governments in Canada increased from $2.1 billion in 2006 to $2.6 billion in 2008. At $1.1 billion, collection and transportation continued to account for the majority of current expenditures in 2008, followed by operation of disposal facilities ($465 million) and tipping fees ($368 million). Current expenditures on the operation of recycling facilities fell approximately 34% between 2006 and 2008 to $113 million.

Capital expenditures totalled $494 million in 2008, up by over 58% from 2006.

To get a clearer picture of waste management at the provincial level, 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 British Columbia spent the most per capita (nearly $30 per person compared to the national average of $14 per person) on the operation of disposal facilities (Chart 1). Nova Scotia also led in expenditures on recycling facilities at $8 per person, compared to the national average of $3 per person. Lastly, Nova Scotia also spent the most per person on the operation of organics processing facilities at $9 per person compared to the national average of $2 per person.

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).

Nova Scotia, British Columbia, Alberta, Ontario and Quebec local governments all spent more than the national average of $79 per person on waste management. New Brunswick, British Columbia, Quebec and Nova Scotia diverted more than the national average of 254 kilograms per person from landfill.

On the contrary, local governments in Manitoba and Saskatchewan spent $46 or less per person on waste management and the quantity of waste diverted in these provinces was at least 100 kilograms per person less than the national average of 254 kilograms per person.

Business sector

Operating revenues

In Canada, revenues for businesses in the waste management industry increased from 2006 to 2008 by 13% to $5.8 billion. The highest growth in revenues occurred in Alberta (73%), New Brunswick (65%) and Newfoundland and Labrador (52%).

Operating expenditures

Gross operating expenditures incurred by waste management firms increased by 19% from 2006 to $5.1 billion in 2008. During the same period, capital expenditures rose by 36% to almost $412 million. Capital expenditures vary significantly from year to year.

Firms in all provinces increased their operating expenditures between 2006 and 2008. Firms in several provinces posted increases in operating expenditures that exceeded the national average (19%); this was the case for businesses in Alberta (79%), New Brunswick (63%), Newfoundland and Labrador (60%), Manitoba (41%), the territories (37%) and Saskatchewan (22%).

Businesses in Prince Edward Island maintained relatively stable operating expenditures, while those in British Columbia, Ontario, Nova Scotia and Quebec incurred moderate increases, at 16%, 11%, 5% and 4% respectively.

Employment, local government and business sectors

The number of full-time workers employed in the waste management industry in 2008 totalled 31,344 for the government and business sectors combined, an increase of 11% from 2006. Over three-quarters of those employed in the waste management industry work in the business sector. Full-time employment in the business sector was up 13% across the country between 2006 and 2008, while during the same period employment in the government sector of waste management rose by 5%.

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