Dr. Shirley Thompson -Natural Resources Institute
204‑474‑7170  |  s_thompson@umanitoba.ca

Zero Waste

Zero waste would mean that every product is composted, reused or recycled, which would save the embodied energy and resources contained by “waste” products. Greenhouse gas emissions, the poor environmental legacy of landfills, and economics of finding sites for new landfills, provide good reasons for Canadian policy-makers to revise waste management practices to reduce the ecological footprint of waste (El-Fadel, 1995; RCO, 1997). Canadians are one of the highest per capita producers of solid waste, with the average Canadian citizen generating 2.94 kg each day (Statistics Canada, 2008). Furthermore, waste generation is increasing, up by 19.4% from 2000 to 2006 (Statistics Canada, 2008), despite the introduction of new recycling and composting programs. Unfortunately, the positive impacts of waste diversion programs have been cancelled out by an overall increase in the amount of waste going into landfills (Statistics Canada, 2008). Statistics Canada (2008) estimates that 35 million tonnes/year of waste is generated, and that more than three quarters (78%) of this ends up in landfills. An estimated 50- 60% of the 35 million tonnes of waste is organics, which could be diverted away from landfills with the help of existing, low-cost technologies.

Diverting organic waste from landfill sites helps to conserve landfill space and to reduce the production of leachate and methane gas. Waste diversion at the household level is imperative, as households produce approximately 37% of Canada’s MSW (Statistics Canada, 2008) but diversion of organics by business and industry is almost as important, as they produce 63% of the waste. Despite Canada adopting a waste management hierarchy for developing solid waste management strategies, landfills still remain the most dominant waste management method in the country, unlike in many countries in the European Union (EU) (Sawell et al, 1996).

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