Waste Diversion Programs in Ontario


The purpose of this report was to evaluate the waste diversion program in Ontario, Canada since the year 1996 to 2010. Waste diversion aims to reduce the volume of wastes for landfills. A review of literature by waste management scholars and professionals showed that managing municipal wastes is a complex process. It is an area, which requires a multidisciplinary approach. The team should be able to understand sources and generators of wastes, waste characteristics, engineering, and scientific approaches for mitigating risks, laws, and regulations in waste management, and cost-effective methods of managing wastes. Still, professionals in the field must understand that waste management is dynamic and evolves as new forms of wastes and laws and regulations emerge.

Data reviewed from Statistics Canada captured the period between 1996 and 2010. Although Ontario started waste diversion programs in the 1980s, data during the earlier periods were not readily available. The results indicated that Ontario had made significant progress in waste diversion until 2008, when the volumes of diverted wastes started to decline. For instance, in 2010, Ontario generated over 9 million tonnes of solid wastes but only diverted 2.7 million tonnes, which represented only 29.7 percent of the wastes.

The report concluded that Ontario needed to review its current waste diversion programmes and introduce new frameworks. The new approaches could facilitate the 3Rs, focus on waste producers and generators, encourage innovative ways of product development and packaging, and promote specific approaches on wastes based on materials or locations.


The use of statistics to determine wastage management approaches is an effective method of determining and informing critical decision on public policies and environmental management practices. Consequently, the Environment Accounts and Statistics Division of Statistics Canada has become a critical body for collecting, analysing, and providing trends and practices on waste management in Canada. The institution offers a complete set of data on waste management across different cities in Canada. The public can obtain accurate and reliable data about the Waste Diversion Policy from the organisation. It provides data based on ongoing activities in municipalities, which allow local authorities to obtain current and historical data for effective decision-making and budgeting on waste management.

There are two major players in waste management in Canada. These include the business sector and the government through its local authorities. Both entities provide waste management services to the public. Hence, they have necessary data required for studies related to human resources, employment trends, types of wastes, sources of waste, expenditures, revenues, and other relevant information about the industry. Both the government sector and the business sector provide services related to collection and transportation of wastes for reuse or recycling, managing both hazardous and non-hazardous wastes, transfer of waste station, and waste treatment. They also provide information on waste diversion. Ontario’s Waste Diversion Act, 2002 aims to “promote the reduction, reuse and recycling of waste through the development, implementation, and operation of waste diversion programmes” (Ministry of the Environment, 2008). In short, the Act focuses on reducing waste materials that go into landfill.

In this report, the author assesses the waste diversion programmes in Ontario, Canada with aim of understanding trends and effectiveness of the policy since 1996 to 2010.

Problem Statement

The Ontario’s Waste Diversion Act 2002 aims to reduce the amount of waste materials that go into the landfill. On this note, the report evaluates the outcomes of waste management in Ontario in order to provide a conclusion on the effectiveness of the policy. This would result in effective use of resources for waste management in Ontario.

Literature Review on Recycling Programmes and Diversion Practices

Incinerators, landfills, and other traditional methods of managing waste materials are no longer effective as cities generate huge amounts of wastes. Consequently, they are hard pressed to look for alternative ways of managing waste materials, particularly solid wastes and other hazardous wastes. This calls for effective disposal of wastes through planning and controlling them in economical and environmentally friendly manner. Hence, disposal of waste materials in cost-effective and environmentally friendly way are critical aspects of waste management in cities. According to Tchobanoglous and Kreith (2002), the focus should be on critical areas, such as waste reduction at the source, reducing the levels of toxic materials, recycling and reuse, waste composting, conversion of wastes to energy, and landfill. Although these are primary approaches to waste management, they also have their shortcomings, which relate to costs, legal, health, and social impacts (Tchobanoglous and Kreith, 2002).

Noble noted that landfill siting was the most significant approach to solid waste management and disposal (Noble, 1992). Hence, it was imperative to choose the best location and as far as possible from residential areas. On this note, the engineer had to evaluate locations and select the best one for waste disposal. However, Noble observed that there was also a lack of “consideration for the social and geologic factors associated with landfill siting, which originated from the idea that a far away location was surely the best place for hazardous wastes, and that with proper engineering any site could be made to satisfy geologic criteria” (Noble, 1992).

On the contrary, the best location for landfill siting required a thorough evaluation process in order to determine a site that could reduce impacts associated with economic, environmental, health, and social costs. Therefore, the challenge has been selecting the best landfill siting that meets all these parameters in a given a city. Noble argued that a landfill selection process should rely on available information and management resources to ensure that the process is effective and acceptable to communities, environmentalists, and other stakeholders (Noble, 1992). Reddi and Inyang (2000) noted that engineers could only optimise waste disposal if there were adequate resources for developing effective landfill siting rather than spending resources to turn a poor site to a landfill.

Today, solid waste management has experienced changes as new forms of wastes, technologies and regulatory frameworks emerge. For Ontario, which has depended on landfill to manage solid waste materials, it must develop its landfill technologies to management toxic wastes. Moreover, Ontario must develop new incineration to control pollution and control the rising costs of managing wastes. In addition, waste separation technologies could facilitate waste diversion approaches by distinguishing them in terms of colours, materials, and quality of materials for recycling and reuse (Hagerty , Pavoni and Heer, 1973).

Many scholars have noted that huge volumes of waste materials consist of organic residual elements that can be changed from waste materials into useful plant nutrients through the process of composting. Waste management should address various methods of transforming solid wastes from various sources, such as households, institutions, farms, and other institutions to useful manure and other products (Pavoni, Heer and Hagerty, 1975). On this note, it is imperative to develop new integrated solid waste management systems that can handle composting and wastes for landfill and transform them to useful products. Such a system assumes multipurpose capabilities and changes biodegradable waste materials into compost. It can enhance waste diversion and reduce the quantity of solid wastes for landfill.

Scholars, such as Diaz, Savage, Eggerth, and Golueke (1993) have focused on the relevace of solid waste management programmes and resource recovery as a part of making waste materials useful. Specifically, the authors noted that Municipal Solid Waste (MSW) management should encourage collection with a particular focus on recycling and reuse (Diaz et al., 1993). However, wastes have considerable challenges.

For instance, both local authorities and businesses involved in solid waste management must determine the composition, quality, volume, and observable features of solid wastes in order to understand how to manage and process them. On this note, Diaz et al. (1993) noted that the Municipal Solid Waste management should also focus on key steps, which are necessary in waste processing for diversion, material recovery, generation of soil manure, marketing of recyclable materials, composting, and promoting composting through integrated waste management strategies.

Typically, as the number of city dwellers increases, the amounts of waste materials increase steadily. This translates to a significant challenge for a clean environment because the production of waste has exceeded what nature can handle while depletion of resources also rises considerably (American Public Works Association, 1961). Therefore, the challenge that arises is how people should utilise the available resources without compromising the future generation. This requires sustainable practices, which can ensure that individuals meet their current economic needs and derive social benefits on an ongoing basis without depleting the environment. On the other hand, unsustainable activities would result into immediate gains, which deplete the available resources without accounting for future needs.

Over the years, Ontario has generated millions of tonnes of solid waste materials (this has reached 9,247,415 tonnes by 2010 from 6,913,786 tonnes in 1996). However, a small portion of this waste is recycled or diverted while the rest goes to the landfill or incineration. With careful consideration, government authorities and the private sector in waste management could recycle or reuse a huge portion of the generated wastes that end in the landfill. These may include glass, paper, and metal materials. In turn, there would be a significant reduction in demand for these materials from their original sources.

Consequently, detrimental impacts on the environments, economy, and the public would also decline. Williams (2005) focused on understanding waste process engineering and disposal strategies. According to Williams, different technologies could offer the best solutions for both household and industrial waste materials (Williams, 2005). Therefore, he offers a systematic management of solid and hazardous wastes through technologies. However, it is imperative to understand the legislative processes that guide waste collection and disposal. Moreover, emerging technologies and scientific developments have played critical roles in solving most problems of humanity.

A critical waste management effort should evaluate environmental laws, sources of wastes, their composition, characteristics, storage, collection, and transportation. Overall, using technologies to process solid wastes would help in reducing, recycling, reusing, safe disposal, and management. In addition, technologies would help in controlling landfill leachate and gas by detecting any anomalies. According to Shah, these processes are important for any civil engineers or scientists, who work in the waste management field (Shah, 2000).

The traditional methods of managing wastes are no longer effective. For instance, environmentalists claim that it is no longer practical to bury solid wastes due to two critical reasons. First, landfills are full. Second, environmentalists have claimed that buried solid wastes contaminate groundwater, which is a fundamental source of water for human consumption. Therefore, once such wastes contaminate the groundwater, it becomes difficult to purify, expensive, or even impractical to clean it up complete. It is also practically impossible to burn all solid wastes today. The process of incineration produces energy with massive consequences.

For instance, it releases dangerous gases into the atmosphere. Moreover, the final product is ash, which requires disposal into the landfill. The ash may also be hazardous. In short, many cities no longer have enough space for waste disposal (American Public Works Association, 1961). Further, it is also becoming difficult to find any outlying regions in which residents can accommodate the idea of introducing a new landfill. In most cases, such ideas meet stiff opposition. As local authorities and private businesses struggle to cope with their wastes in terms of costs and disposal, they are unlikely to accommodate wastes from other regions because of associated pollution and costs (American Public Works Association, 1941). Therefore, one may wonder about the best solution to manage solid waste materials.


Sustainability is the effective utilisation of natural and technological resources in order to meet current and future needs. Majorities have recognised that a healthy nation can only rely on a healthy environment for progress. Therefore, environmental pollution and overuse of the available resources have negative impacts on all aspects of people, including health. As a result, majorities have recognised the importance of environmental laws and regulations as ways of protecting natural resources and the environment. In addition, they have also taken interests in reducing the amount of wastes generated, preventing pollution, and utilising resources effectively to protect the environment. As many environmentalists and individuals continue to focus on sustainability, robust and promising environmental practices will continue to emerge. Such programmes with positive outcomes are likely to influence future global models for protecting and conserving the environment.

Some past incidents have shaped the way people manage solid wastes in cities. For instance, the case of Love Canal attracted the public attention and concerns about the importance of regulations and dangers of pollution (McBean, Farquhar and Rovers, 1994).

It is imperative to understand existing studies on solid waste management and landfill practices with the aim of solving issues associated with leachate, landfill gas, and enhancing procedures for operating landfills. Thus, solid waste management organisations should understand waste decomposition, the relevance of the landfill design, critical operational features, and the general improvement of the system due to any changes (McBean et al., 1994).

At the same time, it is essential for solid waste management teams to understand all issues that relate to the environment, particularly the quality of drinking water, and the released gas from the landfill. McBean et al. (1994) noted that methodologies exist to allow engineers, planners, and hydrogeologists to predict the release of landfill gas and the generation of leachate. This would allow them to design landfills that meet operational standards and protect the environment.

Each person must play a critical role in promoting sustainability for the future generation. The process of sustainability should start at homes, schools, and then to commercial and industrial settings. This may results into significant changes, which could help in protecting the environment. Many cities and communities have already introduced such programmes through various initiatives (American Public Works Association, 1961).

Oweis and Khera (1990) noted that solutions to effective waste management could be in geotechnology approaches, which focused on relevant, current information on sensitive issues and areas of study and real world practices. According to these authors, waste management practices should not only account for leachate and landfill gas, but also include other elements like solid waste properties, behaviours, and settlement characteristics. In addition, landfill designers must also evaluate “the site, geosynthetic features, erosion controls, caps, gas detection, management, foundation and slope stability, and applicable regulatory guidelines” (Oweis and Khera, 1990).

The collection of hazardous waste materials from both residential and commercial sources has played an important role in the integrated approach to solid waste management across different cities (Statistics Canada, 1999). Such programmes focus on any hazardous wastes that could be corrosive, flammable, toxic, or even reactive. These may include chemicals used in farms, pool, cleaning, paints, fluorescent bulbs, glue, and batteries among others.

Many municipal solid wastes originate from non-residential areas. Hence, residential wastes constitute a small percentage of MSW. However, such waste materials contain hazardous elements, which require diversion from landfills, transfer, water sources, energy sources, and the environment. Consequently, city authorities promote hazardous waste collection programmes alongside residents in order to divert wastes and improve collection of household hazardous wastes (Statistics Canada, 2004).

These are programmes, which aim to maximise waste collection, reduce environmental risks, and enhance community safety, welfare, and health. Over the past few decades, local authorities have developed their waste management programmes to meet increased waste generation per capita. Today, such programmes have grown to become revenue streams for local authorities and waste management private businesses. Hence, waste generation, collection, and disposal have become ongoing practices, which require effective management and good facilities. Local authorities offer waste management services based on their budget, resources, priorities, and public demands.

Sustainability practices require the use of applied science and engineering principles to study, design, and implement critical aspects of solid waste management based on waste characteristics, recycling, reuse, storage, treatment, hazard, and contamination (Reddi and Inyang, 2000). At the same time, engineers should evaluate social, economic, environmental, health, and other characteristic of the preferred area for waste disposal mechanism.

On this note, the concept of solid waste engineering should focus on growing concerns and increasing intricate issues, such as controlling waste generation and processing wastes from municipalities. Although Worrell and Vesilind (2011) focused on regulatory frameworks, they emphasised the importance of solid waste engineering. According to these authors, engineering principles should guide solid waste management in a real world situation (Worrell and Vesilind, 2011).

Waste Diversion in Ontario, Canada

As urban residents and commercial entities continue to generate huge amounts of wastes, landfill sitings can no longer accommodate such waste materials. Hence, by the early 1980s, Ontario had already started to grapple with a crisis of managing solid wastes due to limited capacities of landfill. This resulted into initiatives to promote recycling through business and community efforts. Such strategies focused on changing the laws and regulations on soft drinks. However, the idea got support from few environmentalists while majorities continued to support a deposit and return model. This marked the introduction of the Blue Box programme for waste diversion in Ontario.

Today, many Ontario residents associate waste diversion with the Blue Box. The Blue Box has served as a waste collection point for kerbside recycling. As the numbers of city residents continue to increase, the volume of solid waste has also increased tremendously. The declining landfill sites, the increasing volume of solid, hazardous wastes, pollution, and costs of managing such wastes have led to fundamental questions, which led to the introduction of the Waste Diversion Act, 2002. The Act has transformed how Ontario manages and recycles its solid waste today. The Act’s history provides an insight on waste management activities before and after its enactment.

The Current Waste Diversion Framework in Ontario

The current Waste Diversion Framework in Ontario focuses on industrial, commercial, and institutional domains to facilitate waste diversion. These are the major waste generators in Ontario. These domains or divisions have significant responsibilities in managing and diverting wastes in Ontario. They rely on the 3Rs (Reduction, Reuse, and Recycling) under the Environmental Protection Act to achieve the aim of waste diversion. Under the Act, waste generators must make reasonable efforts to separate and promote recycling of wastes.

In addition, there have been several initiatives to encourage waste diversion through regulatory frameworks, technical and financial aid, public education, and manufacturing of recyclable materials. Industrial, commercial, and institutional sectors should also develop waste management plans, keep data, and audit their waste management activities. These are fundamental data, which help the government to understand waste dynamics in Ontario, develop policies, and allocate resources based on them. The approach also aims to promote a culture of waste diversion in Ontario through major industries, commercial entities, and institutions. The fundamental aim is to ensure that many organisations adhere to standard waste management practices.

Effective management of wastes requires considerable amounts of resources. In some instances, many organisations have noted that it is costly to develop and implement effective waste diversion plan. However, the 3Rs have failed to focus on the producers of wastes, but rather focus on the generators of wastes to facilitate diversion (Ministry of the Environment, 2008). According to the Ministry of the Environment (2008), the rates of waste diversion among industries, commercial bodies, and institutions are strikingly low. Further, the Ministry noted that these were the major generators of solid wastes, but they only diverted only “12 percent of the total waste they generated in 2006” (Ministry of the Environment, 2008). On the other hand, in 2006, the Waste Diversion Ontario estimated that that the residential diversion rates had reached 38 percent (Ministry of the Environment, 2008).

Therefore, many unique challenges in waste diversion originate from industrial, commercial, and institutional sectors. Different types and characteristics of wastes, which industrial, commercial, and institutional sectors generate, make it difficult for them to manage or divert their wastes effectively. Moreover, there are different forms of business establishments (small, medium, or large), services, sectors, and types of ownership are major challenges that face waste diversion in Ontario. Still, there are hardly adequate resources for waste collection and diversion in most organisations. This is a major impediment to the waste diversion initiative in Ontario. Hence, the industrial, institutional, and commercial sectors, which are waste generators, have failed to meet the waste diversion standards. At the same time, the Ontario’s Waste Diversion Act, 2000 also failed to account for the roles of waste producers (product manufacturers).

Trend and Results

This report focuses on waste diversion and other management practices in Ontario between the periods of 1996 and 2010. It covers data from the government sector and private (business) sector, which participate in the survey. It presents data on the following aspects of waste management in Ontario:

  • Wastes disposed;
  • Waste per capita;
  • Tonnes of wastes diverted;
  • Changes in percentages in the rates of diversion;
  • Capital expenditures and revenues;
  • The number of businesses and employees.

Data were collected on financial characteristics and other processes involved in managing solid wastes by the two sectors. Government and private sectors offer “waste collection and transportation of wastes for recycling, running of both hazardous and non-hazardous waste disposal facilities, managing waste transfer stations, and handling and treating any potentially hazardous waste” (Statistics Canada, 2013).

These figures represent waste management practices at Ontario alone and there are no comparisons with other cities or Canada.

Table 1: Waste management trends in Ontario: 1996 – 2010.

Year Tonnes of Waste Disposed
Waste disposed/Per capita, Ontario Percentage Rate of Diversion Per Capita Non-Residential
Total Waste Diverted
Residential sources
Industrial, commercial, and institutional sources
Total Materials for recycling, diversion, or reuse
1996 6,913,786 621 X X X 326,693 692,590 1,483,187
1998 6,988,157 610 28 X X 880,411 1,095,302 2,765,160
2000 7,491,581 640 22 X X 876,259 1,361,743 2,371,076
2002 9,645,633 797 20 X 2,265,969 949,830 1,356,460 2,415,498
2004 10,053,154 809 22.5 X 2,905,953 1,380,767 1,401,274 2,905,953
2006 9,710,459 767 18.7 885,389 2,396,856 1,511,467 885,389 2,414,552
2008 9,631,559 745 22.6 932,001 2,781,830 1,878,899 932,001 2,396,856
2010 9,247,415 699 22.9 752,990 2,749,047 1,996,057 752,990 2,781,830

Note: X indicates missing data

Total figures may differ from the actual because of rounding and inconsistencies from the sources

Waste Disposed between 1996 and 2010, Ontario Canada.
Figure 1: Waste Disposed between 1996 and 2010, Ontario Canada.

In 1996, there were less than 10 million tonnes of wastes disposed in Ontario alone in the landfills (figure 1). However, the volumes of wastes disposed started to rise steadily as both the government and private sectors increased their waste collection activities. It reached over 10 million tonnes in 2004. However, in the subsequent years, the volume of wastes disposed in Ontario started to decline. Therefore, by the year 2010, Ontario disposed only 9,247,415 tonnes of wastes in landfills. Although the decrease was marginal, it resulted from the diversion efforts driven by commercial, industrial, institutional, and residential activities (Statistics Canada, 1999; 2000; 2003; 2004; 2007; 2008; 2010; 2013).

As the volumes of waste disposed increased over the years, waste disposal per capita also started to increase steadily from 621 kg per capita in 1996 and reached 809 kg per capita in 2004 (figure 2). However, in the subsequent years, the rate of waste disposal per capita declined and reached 699 kg per capita in 2010 (Statistics Canada, 1999; 2000; 2003; 2004; 2007; 2008; 2010; 2013). This also reflected the changes brought about by the waste diversion campaigns. Hence, all waste generators reacted accordingly to reduce the amounts of wastes that went to the landfills.

Waste Disposal per capita between 1996 and 2010 in Ontario.
Figure 2: Waste Disposal per capita between 1996 and 2010 in Ontario.

Untill 1998, there were no records on waste diversion per capita in Ontario. In 1998, Ontario diverted wastes at a higher rate per capita than in any other year between 1996 and 2010 (figure 3). For instance, the rate of diversion per capita was 28 percent, but declined to 20 percent in 2002. However, in 2004, it increased by 2.5 percent to 22.5 percent, but recorded a low of 18.7 percent in 2006. In the following year, it rose to 22.6 percent and any further improvement in 2010 were negligible (0.03 percent).

Therefore, one may conclude that the city has been unable to sustain high rates of waste diversion per capita as both population and levels of waste generation increase. In other words, the programme of waste diversion has suffered a drawback because of many waste generators, which only divert a small percentage of their generated wastes. According to Minstry of the Envrinoment, the decline resulted from industrial, commercial, and institutional sectors, which generated different types of wastes at high volumes but did not know how to handle them (Ministry of the Environment, 2008). Consequently, waste diversion became a major challenge.

Percentage of waste diversion per capita 1998-2010 Ontario.
Figure 3: Percentage of waste diversion per capita 1998-2010 Ontario.

When Statistics Canada started to publish data on waste diversion, it became apparent that the programme was effective between 2000 and 2006. Ontario diverted over 2.2 million tonnes of the total wastes generated in 2002. However, there were no records for wastes diverted between residential and non-residential sources until 2004. It reached a record high of 2.78 million tonnes in 2008, but has since declined to 2.74 million tonnes in 2010. Although the City of Ontario recorded an impressive growth in waste diversion between 2002 and 2006, there was a major challenge afterwards. That is, Ontario could not sustain the waste diversion programme. Several factors, could have contributed to this trend. First, the economic crisis of 2008 could have affected the investment in the industry negatively. As a result, few resources were allocated for waste management.

Moreover, the sector (private) experienced a slow growth between 2008 and 2010 by adding only two new businesses with 380 new employees (table 2). Second, the decline in waste diversion could have resulted from exhaustion of the available resources, strategies, and technologies. Therefore, Ontario must focus on new ways of communicating, promoting, and emphasising waste diversion between residential and non-residential waste generators because in both cases, the trends have started to decline. Third, the slow growth in the sector could also affect waste diversion in Ontario. For instance, between 1996 and 2010 the waste management sector only added 110 new businesses and 3238 new employees (table 2). Hence, waste management business in Ontario has not developed steadily with the increasing volumes of wastes generated.

Tonnes of waste materials diverted in Ontario, 2002 -2010.
Figure 4: Tonnes of waste materials diverted in Ontario, 2002 -2010.

Note: There were no data for diverted waste materials between the year 1996 and 2000.

A closer look at the volumes of wastes disposed in landfills and volumes of wastes diverted show a huge disparity. For instance, in 2010, Ontario generated over 9 million tonnes of solid wastes but only diverted 2.7 million tonnes, which represented only 29.7 percent of the wastes (see figure 5). In other words, huge volumes of generated solid wastes find their ways into landfills. This variation shows that Ontario has been slow in promoting waste diversion programmes to waste generators and waste producers.

Although households may be managing some solid wastes at their backyard composters, the figures for such activities are not readily available and could be negligible against millions of tonnes of disposed wastes. The diverted wastes only reflect wastes handled through central composting programmes (Statistics Canada, 2013).

Waste Disposal against Waste Diversion 1996 to 2010, Ontario.
Figure 5: Waste Disposal against Waste Diversion 1996 to 2010, Ontario.

Composition of Waste Materials for Diversion

Table 2: Hazardous and Non-hazardous Materials Prepared for Recycling, Reuse, Diversion – 1996-2010, Ontario.

Newsprint Cardboard and boxboard Mixed paper Glass Ferrous metals Copper and aluminium Other metals Plastics Construction and demolition Oils and solvents Organics Other materials White goods Electronics Tires Total
1996 282,349 243,747 64,437 75,090 276,735 23,360 21,236 13,130 10,935 428,286 1,483,187
1998 401,020 186,157 463,082 104,836 283,360 27,936 37,534 24,889 219,430 20,618 723,687 233,991 2,765,160
2000 444,301 275,976 133,201 276,782 19,110 31,719 161,407 282,264 80,236 2,371,076
2002 544,752 407,325 328,443 173,905 267,254 19,927 49,071 42,770 225,282 293,328 63,442 2,415,498
2004 500,952 540,791 187,551 198,861 260,315 22,140 69,780 54,306 303,277 644,586 85,514 26,178 5,259 6,441 2,905,953
2006 410,496 467,476 154,910 189,804 83,866 21,327 34,641 52,935 303,277 573,098 84,842 26,178 5,259 6,441 2,414,552
2008 380,281 474,211 194,698 179,341 80,794 21,290 22,343 60,195 187,353 732,200 32,927 22,023 4,251 4,948 2,396,856
2010 494,116 419,690 210,720 143,780 110,467 17,363 22,364 69,523 209,628 1,029,510 29,786 12,376 4,419 8,087 2,781,830

The table shows major composition of waste materials diverted in Ontario. Newsprint, cardboard and boxboard, mixed paper, organic, metals, and glass were the most diverted waste materials in Ontario. These figures indicate changes in diversion, recycling, or reuse over the years. There are important missing data in the table. For instance, Ontario started to track its waste management on white goods, tires, and electronics in 2004. It also stopped to track data on oil and solvents. Still, the category of ‘other materials’ has declined steadily perhaps due to a broader classification of wastes.

There is a remarkable growth in diversion of organic wastes. The trend could have resulted from residential activities of waste management. The table also indicates that recycling of copper and aluminium waste materials has declined steadily while diversion of electronics has recorded minor changes.

Total Hazardous and Non-hazardous Materials Prepared for Recycling, Reuse, or Diversion, 1996 – 2010.
Figure 6: Total Hazardous and Non-hazardous Materials Prepared for Recycling, Reuse, or Diversion, 1996 – 2010.

Ontario has recorded changes in the total of materials recycled or diverted (fig. 6). Since 2004, waste diversion in Ontario has declined. The Ministry of Environment (2008) attributed such declines to poor diversion activities within industrial, commercial, and institutional sectors. As a result, the overall waste diversion, recycling, or reuse processes in Ontario have experienced drawbacks.

Industrial, commercial, and institutional sectors have diverted both hazardous and non-hazardous waste materials as indicated in figure 7. However, between 2000 and 2010, tonnes of waste materials diverted in industrial, commercial, and institutional sectors declined from 1,361,743 tonnes to 752,990 tonnes (table 3 and figure 7).

Waste Materials for diversion, recycling, and reuse 1996 – 2010, Ontario.
Figure 7: Waste Materials for diversion, recycling, and reuse 1996 – 2010, Ontario.

Table 3: Hazardous and non-hazardous waste diversion.

Year Non-Hazardous and Hazardous Materials Prepared for Recycling or Reuse (tonnes)
Residential Industrial, commercial, and institutional
1996 326,693 692,590
1998 880,411 1,095,302
2000 876,259 1,361,743
2002 949,830 1,356,460
2004 1,380,767 1,401,274
2006 1,511,467 885,389
2008 1,878,899 932,001
2010 1,996,057 752,990

On the other hand, residential waste diversion programmes have achieved the desired objectives. For instance, between 1996 and 2010, residential waste diversion programmes rose from 326,693 tonnes to 1,996,057 tonnes. Hence, one can conclude that residential waste diversion initiatives are effective in Ontario. Conversely, industrial, commercial, and institutional sectors require new initiatives of managing and diverting wastes.

Non-residential sources (industrial, commercial, and institutional sectors) are the main generators of waste materials, and they dispose huge tonnes of those materials than residential sources (figure 8). This implies that non-residential sources of waste materials did not recycle, divert, or reuse most of the waste materials they generated. Figure 8 showed that non-residential sources generated 65 percent of the waste materials disposed in 2010 while residential sources were responsible for 35 percent.

Non-residential and residential sources of waste materials.
Figure 8: Non-residential and residential sources of waste materials.

A comparison of waste diversion programmes between non-residential sources and residential sources showed that residential sources diverted, recycled, or reused 73 percent of waste materials while industrial, commercial, and institutional sectors only managed to divert, recycle, or reuse 27 percent of the waste materials in 2010 (figure 9).

Although non-residential sources are the largest generators of waste materials, their waste diversion practices were poor and did not facilitate waste diversion initiatives in Ontario. Thus, Ontario must develop a new framework of waste diversion for industrial, commercial, and institutional sectors.

Waste materials diversion by sources, 2010 Ontario.
Figure 9: Waste materials diversion by sources, 2010 Ontario.

Table 4: No. of private business and emplyees in Ontario between 1996 and 2010

Business Sector
No. of Business Total Employees
1996 373 7,731
1998 397 7,912
2000 437 9,606
2002 436 9,114
2004 458 9,729
2006 410 9,547
2008 481 10,589
2010 483 10,969
Private waste businesses and employees in Ontario between 1996 and 2010.
Figure 10: Private waste businesses and employees in Ontario between 1996 and 2010.

Table 5: Private and Government expenditures and revenues in waste management.

BusinessExpenditure Government Expenditure Business Revenue Government Rev
1996 90,249 57,012 1,318,298 182,928
1998 116,732 54,070 1,357,171 179,106
2000 177,428 53,691 1,555,995 226,241
2002 161,334 80,651 1,764,767 272,251
2004 128,702 267,473 2,037,570 269,521
2006 145,938 107,384 2,353,301 309,055
2008 149,840 187,847 2,456,664 557,189
2010 128,424 142,491 2,398,797 839,455

Waste management is a business in any city, and many businesses in the sector do well than government operations based on service provisions, resources, expenditure, and revenues in Ontario (table 5). Private waste management companies in Ontario seem to have invested heavily in the sector than the government (Statistics Canada, 2013). However, they are also many in a municipality compared to a single local authority, which is responsible for collecting and disposing wastes in a given locality. As a result, private firms seem to have led in waste management in Ontario. Thus, Ontario needs to promote collaboration between the government and private businesses to drive its waste diversion agenda and control the volumes of wastes that go into the landfill.

Government & Business Sectors revenues and expenditures.
Figure 11: Government & Business Sectors revenues and expenditures.

Effectiveness of the Programmes

Since early 1980s, Ontario embarked on waste management programmes to reduce pollution and the amount of solid wastes that were taken to the landfill. Consequently, it made much progress on waste diversion too. From the data reviewed, Ontario’s progress on waste diversion has reached a phase of slow growth or decline. This has undermined the effectiveness of the waste diversion programmes. Therefore, Ontario must review its approaches to diversion and focus on the use science and technologies, engineering principles, and cost-effective approaches to enhance the programme as many scholars have suggested (McBean et al., 1994; Oweis and Khera , 1990; Worrell et al., 2011; LaGrega, Buckingham, and Evans, 2010).

Ontario introduced several programmes under the Waste Diversion Act to change its waste management and diversion strategies. These were mainly the 3Rs. The programmes also focused on waste producers to some extents by holding that such producers should bear costs related to negative impacts of wastes on the environment. Ontario should review its waste diversion strategies with regard to producers’ responsibilities. It extended greater responsibilities to waste generators.

However, Ontario must focus on reducing landfill wastes. There some existing challenges with the current waste diversion programme and the Act itself. Therefore, the city must evaluate the framework, define new features and the next course of action for waste management and diversion.

The city must realise that waste management is an evolving and growing field based on new forms of wastes, technologies, and regulatory requirements.

Conclusion and Recommendations

The waste diversion programmes in Ontario have worked, but they face some challenges, which require evaluation of the current framework and definition of a new waste diversion programme. The process should account for legal and environmental requirements. Overall, the new framework must be cost-effective, user-friendly, based on engineering principles, science and technologies, and the industry best practices.

  • The focus on 3Rs

Ontario needs to encourage waste generators to enhance waste diversion. The current waste diversion puts much emphasis on waste generators and less on waste producers. Ontario could review the framework and focus on waste generators. This would ensure that waste producers find innovative approaches of developing materials and diversion techniques.

  • There is a need to enhance data collection among waste producers and generators based on their diversion activities. There are missing data in some critical areas.
  • Waste producers should improve on their product and packaging technologies. Hence, producers will strive to ensure zero waste by utilising advanced methods to develop and package their products. These would also encourage recycling and reusing of some products.
  • The new framework should also promote waste diversion based on materials or sectors. This would ensure that waste diversion programmes meet some specific conditions, focus on specific wastes, or promote the development of programmes like the Blue Box and Municipal Hazardous Waste programmes.

Such programmes could offer many benefits to the city.

  • Waste management facilities should be convenient to users. This would enhance waste disposal and diversion.
  • Reuse centres should offer free materials for the public under product exchange programmes.
  • The focus should be on reducing the costs of waste disposal by bulking materials
  • Convenient facilities also reduce costs of transportation by transporting full loads rather than small pieces
  • Waste management facilities should be able to handle volumes of wastes from a specific municipality.

Managing municipal solid wastes is a complex process. Waste management practices continue to evolve and grow as new forms of wastes emerge and global conditions change. To understand such dynamics, waste management professionals must understand sources and generators of wastes, waste characteristics, scientific and engineering principles to mitigate waste threats, laws and regulations in the process, and cost-effective approaches of managing wastes.


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