Solid Waste & Recycling Magazine


Canada’s heavy waste earns ‘C’ grade from board

Canada’s lack of sustainable consumption has earned it a ‘C’ grade from the Conference Board of Canada’s How Canada Performs - Environment ranking.

Canada’s lack of sustainable consumption has earned it a ‘C’ grade from the Conference Board of Canada’s How Canada Performs – Environment ranking.

Of the 17 countries the Ottawa-based research firm evaluated, Canada earned the 15th spot, ahead of the U.S. and Australia. Canada also lost marks for its huge landmass and heavy resource dependence, the report says.

“The three countries that rank lowest in the overall ranking are the U.S., Australia, and Canada,” the Conference Board of Canada report card states. “Not only are they among the most resource-intensive economies in the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), but they are also the three largest countries in terms of land area. They rank poorly on nitrogen oxide emissions, VOC emissions, Water Quality Index, Marine Trophic Index, GHG emissions, and energy intensity.”

Here are some report card highlights:

• In 2009, Canada generated 777 kilograms of municipal waste per capita. The 17-country average was 578 kg. Most of the waste goes to landfills or incinerators. Of the 34 million tonnes generated in 2008, 26 million went there for disposal.

• Canadian greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions per capita in 2010 earned a D grade, likely because of increased exports of natural resources but greenhouse gas emissions per capita fell by almost 5% between 1990 and 2010.

• Canada is last for the highest level of total energy consumption, but energy intensity decreased by almost 20% between 1990 and 2009. Canada’s share of electricity produced by nuclear and renewable sources (mostly hydroelectric power) also improved, increasing from 72% in 2000 to almost 78% in 2011.

• There was improvement of all four air quality indicators between 1990 and 2009, but Canada still emits higher levels per capita of nitrogen oxides, sulphur oxides, and volatile organic compounds (VOCs).

• Canada earns an A for water quality and ranks fourth on this indicator although the Prairies, southern Ontario and southern Quebec have water quality concerns, due in part to municipal water discharges (still, despite upgrades, one of the largest sources of pollution in Canadian waters). Water withdrawals are also nearly double the 16-country average, and Canadians use more than nine times the water per capita that Denmark does.

• Canada gets an A and is second only to Japan on use of forest resources, and earns a B for its change in forest cover between 2005 and 2010.

• Canada gets an A for the proportion of threatened species as a share of all species but the number of at-risk species is increasing, although federal biodiversity action plans have been prepared for the agriculture and forestry sectors. In contrast, the Marine Trophic Index declined between 2000 and 2006, which is good for D.