Data quality, concepts and methodology: Introduction

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The following information should be used to ensure a clear understanding of the underlying methodology of the Waste Management Industry Survey and of key aspects of the data quality. This information will provide a better understanding of the strengths and limitations of the data and of how they can be effectively used and analysed. The information may be of particular importance when making comparisons with data from other surveys or sources of information and in drawing conclusions regarding change over time.

Why is there a need for information on the waste management industry?

A general increase in environmental awareness has raised concerns over the impacts that our activities have on the environment. The waste produced by society can impact the environment in various ways. For example, the generation and disposal of waste may contribute to soil and water contamination, while methane gas that is not captured at landfills adds to the accumulation of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.

In turn, statistics on volumes of waste can help measure the effectiveness of environmental practices and policies. Canadians have access to an ever increasing array of environmental information on a variety of issues, including waste. As environmental awareness increases, Canadians need reliable environmental statistics in order to make informed decisions regarding their own patterns of consumption. As well, waste statistics can be used by researchers and policy makers to analyze industry trends and implement appropriate policy mechanisms.

The waste management industry

The services provided by the waste management industry include the collection and transportation of waste and materials destined for recycling (including composting), the operation of non-hazardous and hazardous waste disposal facilities, the operation of transfer stations, the operation of recycling and composting facilities and the treatment of hazardous waste.

The Canadian waste management industry embodies two inter-related elements. Waste management services can be provided directly by a public body, such as a local government (for example, city, town, regional district) or a waste management board or commission whose purpose is to coordinate the provision of such services. For example, a number of local governments may agree to jointly administer a landfill or a recycling facility.

Private firms are the second source of waste management services. Local governments may enter into contracts with these firms to provide certain waste management services or the businesses may directly enter into such arrangements with clients other than local governments. For example, a region may contract out curb-side waste and/or recycling services to a company and this same company may enter into separate agreements with apartment complexes or industrial operations.

Local government and other waste management service providers

For the purposes of this report, local government in Canada includes all government and quasi-governmental entities below the provincial or territorial level. Within this broad category, administrative functions are divided among municipalities, special purpose boards and local school districts. A further distinction is made between upper and lower tier municipalities. In this report, for the purpose of simplicity, the term local government is used to denote any of the following public organizations:

Upper-tier municipalities are those encompassing one or more local government entities, such as metropolitan corporations, regional districts, regional municipalities and counties.

Lower-tier municipalities are typically those whose borders can lie within or outside the jurisdiction of another level of municipality. These lower tier municipalities can include cities, towns, villages, townships, rural municipalities, districts and counties, and some quasi-municipalities, including local government districts and local improvement districts.

Other public waste service providers can come in a variety of forms, but as a rule consist of a group of local municipalities (usually at the lower tier level) who collectively provide a waste management service. A group such as this will typically oversee the contracting out of a specific service or set of services (for example, the operation of a materials recycling facility) but sometimes will also provide a service themselves (for example, the operation of a landfill).

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