Solid Waste & Recycling


Cover Story: Waste Management & Recycling in Canada

Last year Solid Waste & Recycling magazine and consultants from Environics International commenced what has become the most extensive research project into waste management and recycling in Canada in ...

Last year Solid Waste & Recycling magazine and consultants from Environics International commenced what has become the most extensive research project into waste management and recycling in Canada in recent times. The project was divided into two stages: a review of all publicly available information (published reports, government databases, etc.) followed by a detailed survey of our readers. The results of the two research stages will be combined into a single report that will be published this fall.

The project has yielded an interesting window into the state of the art in Canada as well as emerging industry and government trends. While the survey portion of the project was not conducted as a traditional “audience measurement” survey, it nevertheless offers insights into how Solid Waste & Recycling magazine is faring in meeting the information needs of its readers. (Thankfully it appears we’re doing a good job!)

Together the two research stages will be of significant interest to people in Canada involved in practical matters or policy development in regard to environmental protection, recycling, composting, diversion, waste disposal and related issues. This article summarizes some key findings from the full report that will be available for sale in the fall. (See end of this article for details.)

Information review

As we reported in the April/May edition of this magazine (See Editorial in the April/May 2002 edition), the team at Environics dug into national and provincial databases, reports and articles. We consulted and interviewed project engineers, waste management specialists, trade commissioners and others. The researchers also made extensive use of the Internet to get their hands on hard-to-find published information.

This stage of the research revealed that “current, comprehensive and accurate information on the solid and hazardous waste sectors in Canada is both scarce and fragmented.” 1998 was the most recent year for which robust data was available for analysis. In that year over 29 million tonnes of solid non-hazardous waste was generated in Canada and managed off-site. A third of this came from residential sources and the remainder from such sources as industrial, commercial and institutional generators, plus construction and demolition projects.

Landfill is the main destination for Canadian solid waste sent for disposal, by a wide margin. Approximately 90 to 95 per cent is sent there. In 1998 nearly 21 million tonnes of waste was disposed of in 767 public and privately owned and/or operated landfills, and in 45 incinerators across the country. In that year close to 9 million tonnes of non-hazardous waste were diverted from disposal through recycling, composting or reuse programs. Again, one third of this was generated by residential sources and the remainder was IC&I and C&D sources.

Each of the provinces have some form of recycling programs and services, including ones for beverage-container recycling, paper and plastics, used oil, soil, or for scrap-tire recycling. Some of these programs, such as for residential paper and cans, are municipal services, while others, such as scrap tires, are managed through an industry stewardship program. Determining the total value of these different recycling programs is difficult. For example, scrap tire programs in Canada paid processors close to $30-million in 2000. However, the revenues associated with sales of recycled tire products remain unknown, mainly because the private sector is unwilling to share its revenue figures with the public

Readership survey

Working closely with the experts at Environics, this magazine conducted an in-depth survey of its readers. Enough people participated in the survey to generate an excellent base of meaningful data for analysis. (Interestingly, most respondents chose to participate via the online version of the survey.) Respondents represent a diverse range of readers; more than a half of the respondents work either in the government, consulting, or recycling services. Job descriptions include corporate management, consultant and recycling coordinator and overall the magazine’s readership is fairly diverse.

A slightly higher proportion of SW&R readers have less than 5 years experience than have more than 15 years experience, indicating that this is a young industry with many people at the beginning stages of their career. A majority of SW&R survey respondents work in either very small firms or large firms.

The survey data confirmed what was discovered in the first stage of the research project, that the most popular way in which waste is managed in Canada is either via landfill (or recycling. Very few respondents work at an organization in which incineration, reuse or composting is used to manage its waste, although answers to other questions suggest that the latter two strategies are rising.

SW&R readers were asked to rate the importance of a number of information areas to their professional needs. Respondents rate waste, recycling, and government policy information, waste and recycling industry news, and legal and regulatory industry news as the top three most important areas of information. Individuals who work at firms whose waste management method is either reuse or incineration are especially likely to think that legal and regulatory updates and analysis is very useful to them.

We were glad to discover that SW&R is clearly meeting the information needs of its readers. The top four areas that readers identified as most important to them are the very same four on which readers think SW&R frequently meets their needs. These areas include waste and recycling industry news, waste and recycling product information, waste and recycling issues and government policy, and legal and regulatory industry news.

Respondents are divided as to which areas they think SW&R should focus more of its content. In nearly equal proportions, respondents think that the magazine should increase content on municipal case studies, recycling, organics diversion and composting, and industrial and commercial case studies. This is interesting not only for the publishers and editors of the magazine, but to anyone interested in emerging trends in waste management in Canada.

When asked to list up to three industry publications that they receive on a regular basis, respondents mention Biocycle, Waste Age, and Waste News most frequently, but only a small number of readers have such an overlap. There is not much conflict or redundancy, therefore, between SW&R and the other magazines that readers receive regularly. A high proportion of the few readers who also receive MSW Management think it is as useful as SW&R in assisting them in their present job capacity. The same can be said of readers who also receive Biocycle, though to a lesser extent. This is interesting in that both are U.S.-based publications that offer very limited coverage of Canada. Only ten per cent of SW&R survey respondents say they also get Canadian competitor Recycling Product News on a regular basis. Of these, almost two-thirds (61 per cent) indicate they find it less useful than SW&R in meeting their information needs.

Respondents were asked to indicate the likelihood of their firm making capital investments in 15 different environment or waste-related services and products in the coming year. The most likely investments are in containers, recycling containers such as bags, cars, cans, recycling (i.e., wood, plastics, scrap metal, tires and glass), and hauling and transportation equipment.

Readers were asked to consider the usefulness of SW&R advertisements in doing their jobs. Most respondents agree that ads in SW&R contain useful information about new products or technology that they have not yet seen (77 per cent) and that the ads help them find products or services that they want (64 per cent). One in two respondents (50 per cent) agree that they click on banner ads while they are visiting the SW&R web site.

ers were asked to indicate how important a role a number of factors
will play in contributing to change in their industry over the next five years. Six in ten respondents expect producer responsibility to play an important role, especially readers who work as recycling coordinators and those in the manufacturing recycling services and recycling services sectors. Significantly fewer respondents think that anaerobic digestion or gasification will play a role in contributing to change in their industry.

Readers think that changes in provincial waste management legislation and the development of recycling technologies have had the greatest impact on the industry in the past five years.

One-quarter of respondents indicate that the processing of organic material has had a large impact on the waste and recycling business over the past five years, rating it 16th among the 22 aspects. However, close to one in two respondents expect the processing of organic material to become much more important in the next five years, altering its relative position from 16th to 4th position. Conversely, while three in ten of respondents indicate that the amalgamation of companies and municipalities has had a large impact over the past five years, less than two in ten now expect this to be more important in the next five years.


The editorial staff at Solid Waste & Recycling magazine will use the results of the industry research project to set priorities for the years to come and fine tune the magazine and Web site content to serve reader information needs as completely as possible. We hope and expect that government policymakers and municipal and industry managers will find the reports useful as well.

If you believe that your organization could benefit from owning the information contained in the complete report, please contact our office for ordering details. Call Rabiya Shaikh at 416-510-6864 or email starting September 9.

Guy Crittenden is editor-in-chief of this magazine.

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