As Canadian society continues to move away from traditional print material to digital media, recycling levels for mixed and printed paper in Ontario are dropping substantially, according to new numbers from Waste Diversion Ontario’s (WDO’s) Municipal Datacall.
For years, Canada has been the heaviest Internet user in the world, ahead of Australia and the U.S. According to 2010 Statistics Canada data, more than 81 per cent of Ontarians are online.
Over the last decade, paper mills across North America have shut their doors. Between 2006 and 2009 alone, Statistics Canada data shows that lumber production output nearly split in half. Of course, less paper means less recycling.
Despite the addition of nearly 33,000 households to Ontario’s recycling programs in 2012, WDO discovered a 17 per cent decline for mixed paper recycling. The decline occurred while a number of other materials, notably plastic and aluminum, registered upswings in recycling.
In total, more than five million Ontario households recycled in 2012, according to Waste Diversion Ontario.
The WDO data comes from Ontario municipalities obligated to share recycling data with the province.
Recycling levels for mixed paper, which can include items such as junk mail, dropped 2.8 per cent in 2012, WDO found. Mixed paper can be recycled to create materials like tissues or egg cartons, and is considered separate from printed paper products like newspaper.
However, that 2.8 per cent decline in printed paper recycling can be substantial when it’s considered just how much of the recycling stream that category represents. In 2012, for instance, the collection of printed paper represented some 545,000 tonnes, or 55 per cent of the overall curbside collection weight, according to WDO data.
The 2012 total for recycled printed products is only slightly higher than the category’s total from 2006, WDO data shows.
While Ontario’s printed paper collection numbers are only now starting to decline, other provinces and U.S. states are experiencing similar effects from the rise of digital media.
WDO found that the sturdier category of aseptic cartons, used for items like juice and soups, showed a solid uptick in recycling rates. Considered part of the polycoat recycling category, these materials are becoming more popular with manufacturers looking for sleek and simple lightweight packaging.
Glass recycling, meanwhile, showed a 1.3 per cent decline in WDO’s datacall.