• Steve Pomroy

Recycling: How Does Your Province Compare?

Geo-heat map of residential diversion rates by Canadian province.

In researching North American recycling rates, I came across this Statistics Canada report on waste diversion in Canada. While digging into the various statistics in this report, I thought it would be interesting to visualize the numbers on a map. That way you can see at a glance how the various provinces compare when it comes to recycling activity. The numbers represented in this graphic are from 2014 (the latest available) and show the amount of residential waste diverted per person for the entire year.

The geo-heat map above shows the resulting visual. Based on this, it's easy to see that Prince Edward Island (bright green) led the charge with the highest diversion amount. In contrast, my home province of Newfoundland and Labrador (dark red) had the worst diversion amount. Click the heat map graphic above to drill in and see this by the numbers - with PEI at 215.8 kg per person and Newfoundland at 36.5 kg per person.

For kicks, I also ran a little math using other numbers from this report to figure out the amount of residential waste that ended up in landfills for the same time period. Based on a Canada-wide total of roughly 10,000,000 metric tons (!), that equates to a whopping 280 kg of landfill waste for each one of the 35,500,000 people in Canada in 2014. To put that in perspective, assuming the average weight of a North American adult is about 81 kg, on average Canadians disposed of almost 3 1/2 times their own body weight in 2014.

Overall, this means that even the best province in this report still diverted less than half of the average waste, while the worst diverted about seven percent. In case you missed it in the discussion above, that was PEI at about 43 percent and Newfoundland at 7 percent. I also noticed that BC, Ontario and Quebec all came in at about 30 percent - again comparing provincial per capita diversion to the Canadian average.

I'll also note that I couldn't find much in the way of a standardized target for recycling - unless you include the European Union target of 50% by 2020. But for Canada, not so much.

To wrap things up, I drew a couple of conclusions from my initial research:

  • There's a lot of work to do to improve recycling rates in Canada. Recycling rates are nowhere near where they should be given how much waste ends up in landfills.

  • Up-to-date statistics are hard to come by. The most recent numbers I found are from 2014.

  • There doesn't appear to be much standardization when it comes to measuring recycling/waste diversion activity. I touched on per capita stats here but there are many other measurement approaches.



Statistics Canada: Canada at a Glance, Environment Edition

The Weight of Nations

The European Commission - Waste Framework Directive - Targets and Reporting

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