Data quality, concepts and methodology: Comparability of data and related sources

Warning View the most recent version.

Archived Content

Information identified as archived is provided for reference, research or recordkeeping purposes. It is not subject to the Government of Canada Web Standards and has not been altered or updated since it was archived. Please "contact us" to request a format other than those available.

Comparisons between data sources

As mentioned in the section on Data Accuracy, without a nationally standardized system of classification and measurement it is difficult to compare quantities of waste and recyclables between municipalities. Issues of confidentiality also impede these comparisons.


In previous survey cycles, response burden has been reduced in the province of Quebec by using the results from a provincial survey administered by RECYC-QUÉBEC. Estimates for diversion have been routinely used in the statistical tables in this report. This arrangement is reviewed after each survey cycle in order to determine whether the data collected and published by RECYC-QUÉBEC are indeed comparable to those data collected through Statistics Canada surveys.

Comparisons over time

Data obtained from the 2008 survey are comparable with data from previous years for the following variables:

  1. Disposal data: comparable with 2002, 2004, and 2006. Some caution should be exercised when comparing disposal data prior to 2002 as exported wastes were not included in the estimates prior to 2002.
  2. Recycling data: comparable with 2000, 2002, 2004, and 2006.
  3. Business sector financial data: Most variables comparable with 1995, 1996, 1998, 2000, 2002, 2004, and 2006. Some variables have been added or dropped from cycle to cycle.
  4. Local government sector financial data: Most variables comparable with 1994, 1996, 1998, 2000, 2002, 2004, and 2006. Some variables have been added or dropped from cycle to cycle. For the first time in 2008, gross revenues include fees received from municipal levies. Consequently, the government revenues increased significantly from 2006 to 2008. Therefore, comparison of 2008 local government operating revenues with previous years is not recommended.
  5. Some of the data for the years and variables listed above have been revised and the user should consult the Environment Accounts and Statistics Division for the latest estimates.


The on-going development of nationally consistent methodologies will aid making future year-to-year comparisons possible. Data for the most recent year are subject to revisions. The overall biennial rate of revision for the disposal and diversion quantity data at the national level has been less than 5% in each of the past three survey cycles. Higher rates sometimes occur at the province/territory level. Revisions to financial and employment data have been negligible.

Measurement issues

Waste diversion generally refers to material that has avoided disposal through a combination of processes and actions, and refers to activities that handle the waste in such a way that it is not disposed of in landfills or incinerators. 1  There are several points to consider when using these data.

First, the diversion figures include only materials that were processed for recycling at publicly or privately owned material recycling facilities. The data do not include materials that were processed and reused by a business or public body on site as part of its production process or as part of a secondary economic activity. Those materials never entered the non-hazardous waste stream and therefore are not considered to be waste for the purposes of this survey.

Second, it is acknowledged that data from a large portion of the "reuse" category are not included in these tables. For example, used clothing that is donated to a retailer and resold is excluded, as are used appliances that are refurbished and resold. Deposit-return materials, such as beer bottles, are considered to be "reuse" and are not included in these tables unless they have been processed at a material recovery facility.

Third, these data do not include those materials managed by wholesalers of scrap metal, plastics or paper. As with the other data in this report, these data cover only those firms whose primary source of income accrues from waste management activities and those public bodies that provide waste management services.

Fourth, the agricultural sector is largely excluded from these data. Waste and recyclable materials (for example, dead livestock, manure) from farms are generally managed on-site by the producer or managed by firms who specialize in the management of agricultural waste. Most of these businesses are not classified as part of the waste management industry as defined by the North American Industry Classification System (NAICS).

Fifth, contaminated soil that is used as landfill cover or some other beneficial purpose at a disposal facility (for example, the building of berms) is excluded from these data. Other high tonnage excluded materials that should be noted are asphalt from roadworks, as well as debris from land clearing operations (for example, soil, brush, stumps).

Sixth, it is recognized that a potentially large quantity of materials diverted from landfills may be collected under stewardship or "take it back" programs. Stewardship programs exist at the national and provincial and territorial level for items such as tires, electronics, beverage containers, batteries, paint, used oil, etc. Some of these materials may be included in data collected by the survey if the firms involved in the collection and/or processing of these materials fall under the waste management industry as defined by NAICS, or if a municipality involved in the collection of materials or administration of a program has reported these materials on their survey.

Finally, composting data include tonnages managed through centralized programs that are owned and operated by municipalities, waste management boards or commissions as well as those facilities that are privately owned and operated. Compost data excludes estimates for on-site composting programs such as backyard composting. In addition, data from on-site composting of industrial wastes or wastes from primary resource extraction (for example, forestry or fishing) may be excluded if their main business activity does not fall under the waste management industry as defined by NAICS.

Next | Previous

Date modified: