But some cities falling behind in diverting waste from landfills
Statistics Canada says Canadians are recycling and composting more than ever before, but whether they compost their coffee grounds or recycle their milk cartons seems to have a lot to do with where they live.
While cities like Montreal and Calgary struggle to divert even a third of their waste from landfills, others expect to be recycling or re-using up to 90 per cent of their solid waste within a few years.
In Markham, council has been working for years to find ways to divert as much waste as possible from landfills. Through a combination of public education and pilot projects, they’ve managed to reduce the amount of waste headed to the dump to just 30 per cent.
Regional councillor Jack Heath, chairman of Markham’s waste diversion committee, said the solution was simple: Picking up recyclable and organic waste — blue boxes and green bins — twice as often as garbage.
“If you want to throw your banana peels and your dirty diapers in the garbage, you can hang onto them for two weeks,” Heath said. “Or, you can throw them in the green bin and we’ll collect them every week.”
Heath said all it took to reach 70 per cent diversion — a rate Toronto, which currently sits at about 42 per cent, has set as a “long-term goal” — was a little political will.
Larger cities like Toronto, however, are struggling to catch up. In 2002, Toronto’s Keele Valley landfill site was closed and the city began shipping its garbage to Michigan for disposal. At that point, the city had a waste diversion rate of only about 25 per cent, said Geoff Rathbone, Toronto’s director of solid waste programming.
Since then, the city has introduced a green bin program, which it will extend to apartment buildings and other multi-family homes by next year. It also plans to introduce a new pay-as-you-toss system for garbage.