Data quality, concepts and methodology: Definitions

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Composting is an aerobic biological treatment process used most frequently in Canada at this time for management of biodegradable residential waste, such as leaf and yard or food wastes.

Construction and demolition waste

Includes wastes generated by construction, renovation and demolition activities. It generally includes materials such as wood, drywall, certain metals, cardboard, doors, windows, wiring, etc. It excludes materials from land-clearing on areas not previously developed, as well as materials such as asphalt, concrete, bricks and clean sand or gravel.

Disposal facility

A facility at which waste is landfilled, incinerated, or treated for final disposal.


Diversion represents the quantity of materials diverted from disposal facilities and represents the sum of all materials processed for recycling at an off-site recycling or composting facility.


Total generation is the sum of total non-hazardous residential and non-residential solid waste disposed of in an off-site disposal facility and the total materials processed for recycling at an off-site recycling facility.

Hazardous waste

Includes all materials designated as hazardous, due to their nature or quantity, and requiring special handling techniques as specified by legislation or regulation.


Incineration, in the context of waste, refers to the burning of waste. Most jurisdictions in Canada consider incineration to be disposal.

Industrial, commercial and institutional waste

Industrial, commercial, and institutional (IC & I) waste is the waste generated by all non-residential sources in a municipality, and is excluded from the residential waste stream. This includes:

  1. industrial waste, which is generated by manufacturing, primary and secondary industries, and is managed off-site from the manufacturing operation, and is generally picked up under contract by the private sector;
  2. commercial waste is generated by commercial operations such as shopping centres, restaurants, offices, etc. Some commercial waste (from small street-front stores, etc.) may be picked up by the municipal collection system along with residential waste;
  3. institutional waste is generated by institutional facilities such as schools, hospitals, government facilities, seniors homes, universities, etc. This waste is generally picked up under contract with the private sector.

Non-residential waste

Includes municipal solid non-hazardous waste generated by industrial, commercial and institutional sources as well as waste generated by construction and demolition activities.

Recyclable material

Any material that has reached the end of its useful life in the form or purpose for which it was initially made and that can be recycled into a material that has value as a feedstock in another production process.


Recycling is the process whereby a material (for example, glass, metal, plastic, paper) is diverted from the waste stream and remanufactured into a new product or is used as a raw material substitute.

Residential waste

Includes solid waste from residential sources (households), and includes waste that is picked up by the municipality (either using its own staff or through contracting firms), or residential waste that is taken by the generator to depots, transfer stations and disposal facilities.

Sanitary landfill

A landfill that, at a minimum, accepts only specified types of wastes and whose access is controlled (by a fence or staff, for example) in order to monitor the types and quantities of wastes being deposited. Often, it also includes landfills that have technologies in place to keep wastes and leachate from contaminating the groundwater. These can include systems that collect the leachate in order to treat and dispose of it.

Tipping fees

These are fees that are paid to the owner, lessor or operator of a landfill for the right to dispose of waste within that landfill. These fees can be assessed on a weight-based (for example, per tonne), volume-based (per cubic metre) or per item (fees that differ according to the type of material being disposed, such as white goods or tires) basis. Tipping fees are sometimes known as disposal fees.

Transfer facility

A facility at which wastes transported by vehicles involved in collection are transferred to other vehicles that will transport the wastes to a disposal or recycling facility.


There have been several definitions of waste proposed in recent years. One common thread among these definitions is the concept that waste is a material that is unwanted by its producer. The unwanted materials may be by-products of a production process - fly ash from a furnace, for example. Alternatively they might be products, the inherent value of which has been consumed from the perspective of the current holder. For example, a newspaper that has been read, a package that has been opened and emptied of its contents, or an apple eaten to the core, are all similar insofar as they have lost their original inherent value from the consumers perspective.

Waste for disposal

All materials not wanted by their generator and which are discarded for management at waste disposal facilities (excludes materials destined for recycling and composting).

Waste management industry

For the purposes of these surveys, the waste management industry broadly includes all firms and public bodies operating in Canada that provide the services of collection, transportation, diversion, treatment or disposal of waste or recyclable materials.


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