British Columbians and Nova Scotians are Canada’s best recyclers

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Written by John Mullinder, Executive Director, The Paper & Paperboard Packaging Environmental Council

Nova Scotia might have the country’s highest diversion rate as a province (44%) but British Columbians recycle more as individuals.

Diversion rate per person by province

An analysis of the latest data from Statistics Canada shows that the average British Columbian diverted 377 kilograms of waste in 2016. That’s 60 kilograms more than the average Nova Scotian and twice as much as people living in Saskatchewan. The average Canadian diverted 263 kilograms of waste, the equivalent of about one heavy (50 pound) suitcase a month.

The “waste” includes used paper, plastic, glass, metals, textiles, organics (food scraps), electronics, tires, white goods such as fridges and appliances, and construction, renovation and demolition materials like wood, drywall, doors, windows and wiring.

There are some interesting differences between Canada’s two waste diversion leaders. Nova Scotia’s population is quite concentrated within a relatively small area compared to British Columbia, which would seem to give the waste diversion advantage to Nova Scotia. BC’s recycling results, on the other hand, are spread more broadly and thus less reliant on major tonnage diversion coming from just one or two material streams.

For example, while paper and organics are the major material streams diverted in each province, there’s a marked difference in their relative contribution to the provincial total. In British Columbia, paper recycling and organics diversion represent about one-third of the total each. But in Nova Scotia, organics recovery alone is responsible for over half (53%) of the province’s resulting diversion. Without that substantial diversion of organics, Nova Scotia would slip down the provincial rankings.

The data thus indicate opportunities for improvement as well: for BC to boost its organics diversion (it’s currently ranked  third behind Nova Scotia and New Brunswick in organics diversion per person) and for Nova Scotia to focus more attention on collecting materials other than organics (for example, it’s ranked sixth out of the eight reporting provinces in diverting paper).

Of course, better data, particularly on the industrial, commercial and institutional (IC & I) side would help. We believe that the diversion of paper in Nova Scotia is significantly higher than the Statistics Canada numbers indicate.

Diversion Rate for BC and NS
StatsCan Data



This article is republished with the permission of the author. It was first published at PPEC website.


About the Author

John Mullinder the Executive Director of the The Paper & Paperboard Packaging Environmental Council (PPPEC), a national trade association representing the environmental interests of Canada’s paper packaging industry. He has over 25 years progressive experience in environmental and sustainability issues. He is the author of Deforestation in Canada and Other Fake News (2018), The Inconvenient Truth about Packaging Waste in Canada (a selection of blogs written between 2010 and 2018).