municipal waste management

In most jurisdictions, waste management is typically viewed as the responsibility of municipal government, and to a lesser extent, a provincial responsibility.

Waste management in the municipal perspective involves four main concerns:

Implimenting policies to encourage waste reduction, stewardship and recycling generally requires participation from provicnical and federal governments.

The Composition of Municipal Waste

Residential Municipal Solid Waste is really quite simple in it's composition.

  • 40% is recyclable material; fiber (paper), glass, plastic and metal.
  • 40% is organic material either foodscraps or leaf and yard material.
  • 15% is comprised of six categories; electronics, furniture (including mattreses), textiles, building material (drywall, wood, metal, stone) household items and hazardous waste mostly paint and oil (70 - 90No value assigned is true residual either to mixed (recyclables soiled with food) or to small (called fines) to be properly handled.


Organic material is the next logical step and policies which encourage the adoption of curbside collection programs for organic material are required.
In conjunction processing facilities for this material must be built.
This will require the sharing of information on successful technology use, as well as funding of construction.


Depots are the key component in the collection of the last six group of items.
As common as a Canadian Tire depots would take in electronics, furniture, textiles, building material, household items and hazardous waste.

There is much activity currently underway with regard to electronics.
This material could represent a terrific starting point for the development of a Canada wide series of depots ensuring program consistency across the country.
Similar Extended Producer Responsibility/Product Stewardship programs for mattresses and carpets could utilize these same depots lowering overall costs.

Position #1 Disposal tax

(these six positions have been drafted by Doug Anderson)

Manufacturers and packagers of some goods will be charged an upfront disposal fee or tax which represents the ultimate disposal cost of their products.

The Green Party wants business to make decisions which reduce waste. They can accomplish this in many ways. a) They can create products which last longer; b) They can produce products which are readily reused or set up a closed-loop return/reuse program (such as the beer companies do); c) They can use less packaging; d) they can redesign products so they are more readily recycled.

Manufacturers who take steps to extend the life of their products or reduce the cost of their disposal deserve an advantage in the marketplace. A tax against products with poor waste planning would increase their price to the consumer who will be less likely to purchase them.

This tax should be implemented on a limited basis with the implied threat of wider application. The most appropriate target would be beverage containers because they are readily identifiable and are a high profile environmental concern. Because there is already a very thorough dossier on them and wide ranging experience in different jurisdictions, the bureaucracy needed to administer such a tax would be far less than more complex wastes. Another simple measure would be a tax on plastic and paper shopping bags, which become permanent additions to our landscape after they outlive their momentary usefulness.

Money raised through this tax would be used to finance Position #3 below

Arguments for:

Consumers have a price incentive to reduce the amount of waste they produce.

Manufacturers have direct market driven incentive to produce environmentally sound products

Waste disposal is funded by the manufacturers who produce the products.

Less need for raw materials

Arguments against:

Requires bureaucracy to implement

Position #2 Devolve Recycling to co-ops and private operators under enforceable government regulation

The Green Party advocates that recycling can be greatly increased by allowing consumers the choice of joining a recycling cooperatives or contracting with a private sector operator, with government assuming a regulatory role which would include enforceable recycling targets.

Please see separate page for an extensive description of this idea. Eventually I intend to condense the arguments on that page and transfer them here. I would be interested in everybody's comments. An alternative recycling strategy

Arguments for:

Consumers accept financial responsibility for the waste that their purchase decisions generate providing them with a direct incentive to purchase more wisely and to waste less.

People will be able to reduce their waste disposal costs to near zero or even receive a rebate by joining a recycling co-op. These co-ops in turn will be driven by their membership to maximize the return on the waste by finding or developing new markets in cooperation with industry.

Municipalities don't have to be the bad guys imposing bag limits or contents restrictions on people's garbage. Restrictions will be handled through contracts with private operators or co-ops.

Much more waste will be recycled

People given a range of choices which include whether they will sort recyclables themselves or whether they will pay someone else to do it for them

Creates more jobs as waste becomes a more diverse less centralized business

Arguments against:

Potentially more exhaust from multiple pick up vehicles working the same streets. This could be alleviated by requiring such pick up vehicles to meet strict emission standards as part of the licensing procedure.

Dislocation in municipal services - many well paying jobs will be lost

Position #3 Finance research

Government will finance research in cooperation with industry to develop uses for industrial by-products and/or alternate processes which reduce them

Arguments for:

Better use of raw materials

Potential synergies

More profitable companies/lower costs to consumers

Arguments against:


Position #4 Encourage technologies which will divert human waste from sewage

Animal waste (manure) is the original nitrogen fertilizer

Only a hundred and fifty years ago we all had outhouses and one way or another, our waste fertilized the soil. Septic systems also fertilize the soil provided they are not too close to a watercourse. Some small municipalities have also had modest success in pumping their sewage onto local fields as a combination of irrigation and fertilization.

But the vast majority of human waste is now dumped either directly, or after processing, into our lakes and rivers where it fertilizes the algae leading to overgrowth and oxygen depletion.

The problem with municipal sewage processing is that, while the solids are removed, the nutrients are soluble and go with the 'clean' effluent into the lakes. The solids left behind have little nutrient value and end up getting incinerated (producing greenhouse gases) or dumped in landfill.

Not only is this a huge waste of natural fertilizer but it contributes to the overall waste problem.

Composting toilets have been sold for years for use in cottages, boats and mobile homes. They are also used extensively for roadside way stations and in parks. In all these situations they appear to work well and are reasonably well accepted. The compost requires emptying periodically and is good fertilizer.
Yet very few examples exist in urban settings. The problem appears to be primarily inertia as there appears to be no regulatory hurdles in most jurisdictions.

A search on the internet yielded a few good links

The elimination of municipal sanitary sewers would require that gray water (water from washing, etc.) would need to be filtered, etc within individual homes. It could then be either dumped on the land as run-off, dumped into the storm sewers or could be further cleaned for reuse within the home for cleaning purposes.

(Industrial, commercial grey water presents a different problem. Most municipallities have banned most industrial chemicals from commercial effluents and monitor it closely for compliance, but there are still occasional problems. The elimination of sanitary sewers would cut in half the systems requiring monitoring. Most water used for industrial purposes is already being recycled within the user's facility unless they happen to be adjacent to a lake or river. From a municipal perspective the problem is overflows being allowed to run into the sewers.)

Arguments for:

Turn human waste into natural, safe fertilizer

Eliminate the nutrient load that we are dumping into lakes and rivers making them healthier for fish and other wildlife

Eliminate the need for sanitary sewers. This is a long term proposal but it would be hoped that within a few years some subdivisions could be built as pilot projects without sanitary sewers. Also, rather than replace old sewers, homes might be retrofitted to reduce the need. When the growth of sanitary sewage systems stops then the need for new sewage plants is also eliminated. As existing plants get older, rather than replace them, homeowners would be encouraged to retrofit.

Reduce greenhouse gases (CO2 if it the sludge is currently incinerated, methane if it goes to landfill)

Arguments against:

Peoples attitudes

Cost (probably balanced by savings)

Position #5 Ban the 'smash and bury' method of building demolition.

Require that when buildings are demolished that all recycables are recovered.

Arguments for:

Building demolition is a significant generator of waste.
Building materials are mostly reusable or recyclable.
The extra time required to manually dismantle old buildings may lead to some heritage buildings being saved in their entirety, and/or architecturally significant elements in others.

Arguments against:

Manual demolition is a dirty, potentially dangerous job.

Position #6 Ban most new incinerators

Ban all new single function incinerators as a means of waste disposal except possibly for certain hazardous wastes that can not be disposed of in any other way.

Arguments for:

Incineration produces greenhouse gases and should be eliminated unless there are other benefits such as power generation, heat generation or the production of cement.


original draft by Greg Bonser


Residential Municipal Solid Waste is typically viewed as a Municipal and to a lesser extent, Provincial responsibility.
However, this is a challenge common to all Municipalities across Canada which would benefit from focused federal involvement.


Our current waste management practises have a direct effect upon climate change.
Climate change is due primarily to the combustion of fossil fuels.
In addition to their use for automobile travel and to heat, cool and light homes, a very significant portion of fossil fuels are consumed in the extraction, transportation manufacturing and distribution of goods.
After use, many of these goods are either burned or buried at tremendous energy loss.
Therefore, in addition to asking Canadians to get out of their cars and caulk their homes, they need to responsibly manage their waste.


Yes it will be somewhat more expensive.
Nothing is cheaper than throwing our discards into a hole in the ground.
But the extra $1 - $2 per week per family will return substantial environmental benefits.


National Task Force on Packaging