How Neighbourhood Food Environments and a Pay-as-You-Throw (PAYT) Waste Program Impact Household Food Waste Disposal

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Researchers from three Canadian universities recently published the results of a study on how pay-as-you-throw (PAYT) waste programs impact household food waste disposal.  The purpose of the study was to gain a better understanding of current household food waste disposal in order to develop and implement more effective interventions to reduce the wasting of food.

The collaborative study from researchers working at Western University (London, Ontario), Simon Fraser University (British Columbia) and the University of Toronto conducted a four season waste characterization study of 200 single-family households across eight neighbourhoods in Toronto.

The City of Toronto provides residents with a pay-as-you-throw (PAYT) waste program that includes a choice of four garbage cart sizes ranging from small,  medium, large, and extra large.  Annual user fees range from $18 (small cart) to $411 (extra large cart).  Each household also gets a green cart for organic waste and a blue cart for recycling at no annual cost.

The results of the research show that, on average, each household disposed 4.22 kg/week of total food waste, 69.90% of which was disposed in the green cart, and disposal increased significantly (p = 0.03) by garbage cart size to L but not XL garbage carts. Of this total, 61.78% consisted of avoidable food waste, annually valued at $630.00–$847.00 CAD/household.

Toronto’s PAYT waste program has been effective at diverting food waste into the green cart but not at reducing its generation. Higher median incomes were positively correlated, while higher neighbourhood dwelling and population density were negatively correlated, with total and avoidable food waste disposal. Regression analyses explained 40–67% of the variance in total avoidable food waste disposal.

Higher supermarket density and distance to healthier food outlets were associated with more, while dwelling density was related to less, total and avoidable food waste disposal.

Distance to fast food restaurants and less healthy food outlet density were both negatively associated with avoidable food waste disposal in the garbage and green cart, respectively. Avoidable food waste reduction interventions could include increasing garbage cart fees, weight-based PAYT, or messaging to households on the monetary value of avoidable food waste, and working with food retailers to improve how households shop for their food.

The researchers conclude that the data from the stud can be used to help formulate avoidable food waste reduction interventions. In terms of the PAYT waste program, this could be accomplished by re-visiting and potentially increasing garbage cart fees. Alternately, PAYT could be switched to a weight-based approach which has been shown to be more effective at source reduction of waste.

Reduce, Reuse and Rethink: Re-defining our goals for a waste management system

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Written by Calvin Lakhan, Ph.D, Co-Investigator: “The Waste Wiki” – Faculty of Environmental Studies at York University

For the first time in my career, issues surrounding waste management have now become part of mainstream discussion. Whether it be my neighbors asking me “Can this really be recycled?” to growing concerns surrounding single use plastics, people (both the public and policy makers alike), care now more than ever regarding what is happening to our waste. We as Canadians recognize that issues surrounding waste require our immediate attention, and that our waste disposal behavior (both good and bad) can have significant impacts on the sustainability of our environment.

So with this in mind, I thought it would be prudent to revisit the topic of “What is the goal of our waste management system?” While this is a topic I have written about several times in the past, proposed legislative changes – not only to Ontario’s Blue Box program, but waste management legislation across North America, makes it a timely topic for discussion. Now, more than ever, we need to clearly define what our goals are, and whether our existing approaches are helping move us towards achieving those goals.

So, what is the goal of a waste management system? This seemingly simple question is actually surprisingly difficult to answer, as it depends on who you ask and what is being prioritized. While we may here terms like “Circular Economy” and “Zero waste” banded about, what do they actually mean? Are they intended to be aspirational or achievable goals? What is the time frame and the boundaries we use to define a circular system, and what do we choose to prioritize when different stakeholders have competing objectives? I am reluctant to answer these questions, as I don’t think there is a right or wrong answer other than – “it depends”: On who you ask, what you ask and why you ask. With that in mind, before proceeding with our discussion, I want to remind everyone about the three pillars of sustainability: A sustainable system must consider economic, environmental and social dimensions. By definition, we cannot consider a system sustainable if it does not address these three components. This is a critical consideration when deciding what a goal of a waste management system could (or should) be.

Ontario (and Canada) has a recycling problem

Historically, the emphasis of waste management has been on residential recycling. The Blue Box, a ubiquitous symbol of recycling that has been a fixture in our homes for the better part of four decades in Ontario. In fact, my very first memory as a budding environmentalist was washing out peanut butter jars before putting it in the recycling (less to do with concerns surrounding contamination, and more to do with a fear of attracting insects). For many Ontarians, the Blue Box is symbolic of recycling and sustainability, and it is something that we have been extraordinarily good at – which as it turns out, is actually a really bad thing.

During the summer of 2019, York University conducted a study to gauge what the public thought about various waste management initiatives. Participants were asked to rank, from best to worse, which end of life scenario resulted in the greatest environmental impact (shown in figure 1)

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From the above graph, recycling was seen as the most environmentally preferred option, with reuse second and waste reduction a very distant fourth place. Why does this matter? Because reduce, reuse, recycle isn’t just a catchy phrase – it is the order in which we are supposed to things. Recycling is our third most preferred option.

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Canada has become a victim of its own success – both households and policy makers now conflate recycling with sustainability. If it can’t be recycled, it is characterized as being “bad”. The “waste” problem is often framed as “We aren’t recycling enough”. Just last year, Deloitte made international headlines when they published a report indicating that Canada was only recycling 9% of its plastics. The response from the public was almost visceral – Households and government demanded change, with consumers even going so far as to say that they would be less likely to buy a product if it could not be recycled at the end of its life. Canadians are voting with their dollars and the message is loud and clear “We want recyclable products”.

While the sentiment and intent is in the right place, the approach is not. Not only is recycling not the most preferred outcome, it can actually have adverse economic, environmental and social impacts. Contrary to intuition – not everything that can be recycled, should be recycled. The decision to recycle everything, everywhere, is actually what is compromising the long term sustainability of the system.

Why the next diverted tonne will not (and should not) come from the Blue Box

As noted earlier, the residential recycling system (for printed paper and packaging) has been enormously successful, so much so that policy makers continue to put all of their eggs in one basket, and attempt to drive future diversion from this waste stream. The proposed Blue Box transition in Ontario, which shifts 100% of the physical/financial responsibility of managing the system on to producers, continues to emphasize and prioritize recycling based outcomes. Why this is problematic is threefold:

1)     We are already doing a great job of capturing the “low hanging fruit”. Recycling rates for core Blue Box materials (newsprint/OBB/OCC etc.) are already well in excess of 80%, and future increases in diversion are not likely to come from these materials

2)     The overall packaging mix is increasingly being made up of composite and light-weight materials that are extremely difficult to recycle given existing technology, infrastructure and end markets. If future increases in diversion come from these materials, the cost of recycling is potentially prohibitive.

3)     The environmental benefits associated with recycling many light weight and composite materials are negligible given existing processing technology.

In short, not all recycling is created equal. Figure 3 below summarizes the amount of money you would have to spend on recycling a given material, to abate one tonne of carbon ($/TCO2e).

Figure 3: 

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Using the above example, you would have to spend almost $1500 on recycling to abate one tonne of carbon from plastic film, and only $65 on recycling newsprint to achieve the same result. Let that sink in for a moment – Film is 23 times more expensive than newsprint from a carbon to recycling expenditure ratio.

To further drive home this point, please refer to Figure 4 below:

Figure 4

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Figure 4 shows the change in net system costs that results in a 1% change in the recycling rate, on a material by material basis.

If we wanted to increase the overall recycling rate of the Blue Box program by 1%, and we had to achieve it by increasing recycling of plastic laminates, overall system costs would increase by more than 14%.

Why this matters is that (as noted earlier), future increases in recycling rates are not going to come from core Blue Box materials. As a result of the changing nature of packaging over time (also referred to as the evolving tonne), increasing the Blue Box recycling rate will involve trying to collect and recycle materials such as composite and light weight plastics. To increase Ontario’s Blue Box recycling rate to 70% by recycling composite/light weight plastics (which is about 6% higher than our current recycling rate), we would have to spend in excess of $70 million dollars – and that is assuming that we have capacity within the existing system and end markets to accommodate increased recovery.

This is both prohibitively expensive, and has questionable environmental benefits. Once again, we are forced to ask ourselves, what is the goal of our waste management system? Increasingly, that answer is not going to be about increasing recycling rates, particularly for printed paper and packaging.

This begs two questions: 1) If the next diverted tonne shouldn’t come from the Blue Box, where should it come from? And 2)  If light weight and composite packaging is so terrible, why do we continue to use it?

As for where our next diverted tonne will come from, please refer to: https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/where-our-next-diverted-tonne-come-from-diversion-calvin-lakhan-ph-d/

The second question is a bit trickier, as there is a subjective element to how you choose to evaluate the merits of a particular packaging type. Why a producer makes the packaging decisions they do is largely a function of economics and safety – some factors include: Does the packaging I use make it safe to transport materials, protect the product, avoid spoilage or contamination, increase shelf life, increase the number of units I can place on the shelf/in the store, allow for easy brand recognition etc.

The increased adoption of light weight packaging can be attributed to the benefits of durability, transport and ease of consumption, while also allowing for a reduction in overall packaging used. Interestingly, when taking a life cycle approach, the environmental impact of light weight and composite packaging can actually result in superior environmental outcomes when compared to conventional packaging. This may seem counter intuitive, given the relatively low recyclability of these materials, but upstream benefits (packaging reduction, logistical efficiencies when transporting materials, avoided food waste/spoilage, discretionary consumption etc.), actually outweigh whatever you lose from not recycling that material.

All things being equal, the recyclability of a package his historically ranked as a relatively low priority for producers.

In a 2017 study conducted by the university examining the relationship between packaging fee rates, and packaging recycling performance, there was no statistically significant correlation between the two. Even for products such as paper laminates and plastic film, where the corresponding fee was significantly higher than all other materials, recycling rates remained largely unchanged, or did so in response to broader macro market conditions. The price signal sent by the fee, was insufficient to change packaging choices.

With that being said, the optics surrounding whether a package can be recycled (and more broadly, diverted) has now become a key issue for producers, and increasingly, you are seeing brand owners talk about solutions for how to recycle their products. The rise in prominence of organizations such as Terracycle speak to just how important “recyclability” has become for consumers. We have spent the better part of 40 years inundating the public with the message “recycling is good for the environment” and attempting to change that narrative is extraordinarily difficult. This issue is exacerbated by the fact that the government is continuing to develop policy that prioritizes recycling as a preferred end of life option. Between consumer demand and government legislation, producers face the daunting task of trying to recycle the unrecyclable, and in doing so, incurring a bill that is experiencing double digit percentage increases in recycling system costs year over year.

The importance of a socially sustainable waste management system

Historically, waste management (at least in a Canadian context), has not been seen through the lens of social sustainability – somewhat of a surprise, given how socio-economic inequality manifests itself in the form of impeded access, awareness and exposure to waste. Much of the existing academic research on environmental justice has been on the unequal distribution of environmental hazards and benefits along racialized lines, where there are consistent indications that waste facilities and waste related hazards are disproportionally located in lower income areas (or those predominated by minorities).

In all fairness, the connection between waste management and socio-economic inequality is not something that is top of mind for most policy makers. Generally speaking, there is an idea that a municipality will provide waste management services to a particular area, support that initiative through a combination of promotion and education efforts, and hope for sustained public participation. However, the costs of service delivery, the means and mediums of engagement, service accessibility and affordability vary widely, even within the same city.

Economic Exclusion

Taking a step back for a moment, I want to share with you three brief anecdotes that capture how seemingly oblivious our waste management system is with respect to social sustainability. These are actual conversations I have had with people in my day to day life

1)     “Consumers should purchase fewer packaged goods and opt for things like fresh produce instead of getting something shipped to us from half way across the world”.

2)     “We don’t need to use plastic film anymore, consumers can go out and buy reusable beeswax clingwrap”

3)     “Packaging programs focused on reuse (Loop) are going to be revolutionary and cut back on the amount of packaging waste we generate”

All of these are valid observations… but not necessarily ones that are realistic for many households. What people can and choose to purchase is largely a function of economics –those of us that have the luxury of being conscientious consumers, can shop locally and avoid pre-packaged goods. However, it is important to recognize that the ability to do so is a luxury – in a focus group conducted of more than 1800 consumers in the Greater Toronto earlier this year, more than 80% of respondents indicated that price was the primary determinant for making a purchase. If possible, respondents indicated that they would like to make more sustainable purchases, but budgetary restraints largely impeded them from doing so.

More than 60% of respondents also indicated that they did not have the ability to travel outside of a 5km range to make daily purchases, and often shopped at specific retailers because of a mix of multiple factors such as: convenience, price, familiarity and purchasing agglomeration (one stop shopping). In a 2019 analysis of consumer purchasing preferences in the Greater Toronto Area, households characterized as “low income” (household income less than $40,000 per year) consumed 18.4% more pre-packaged goods (namely grains, produce and frozen meats), when compared to families whose household income exceeded $100,000 a year. There is an inverse, statistically significant correlation between household income and % of prepackaged foodstuff of overall weekly purchases.

The expectation that households have the ability to readily switch between products based on packaging type doesn’t appear to be a realistic one. People might like the idea of Loop or beeswax and want to engage in more sustainable consumption, but at present, they are priced out of “taking part”.

A perhaps more insidious impact on consumers is the potential impacts to their cost of living attributable to increases in recycling system costs. As noted above, the costs of operating our recycling system are rapidly increasing, and these costs are ultimately born by consumers. In both late 2019 and early 2020, York University conducted research to better understand the link between an increase in basket of goods costs and increases in the steward obligation. While I have received many critiques and questions pertaining to how prices for packaged goods change in response to changes in the steward obligation (see post script for explanation), our research showed that consumer basket of goods prices increased by 6-12% (depending on locality). The economic and social impacts of this are potentially enormous, as lower income families are disproportionately affected by increases in packaging costs. As stated earlier, they purchase more prepackaged goods as a proportion of their overall purchases when compared to high income families.

While the ultimate intent of producer responsibility is to have the generator bare the financial costs of end of life management, the magnitude of those impacts is relative to the consumer’s ability to absorb them. As such, when we ask ourselves “What should the goal of a waste management system be?”, it is imperative that we also give thought to “How do we account of social sustainability?”. A focus on recycling/diversion based outcomes paints an incomplete picture of a much more complex and nuanced problem. What good is a circular economy if not everyone can participate or benefit from it?

Reduce, Reuse and Rethink

I will go on record and say that I think if we pursue an approach premised on prioritizing recycling above all else, it will be destined for failure. Shifting financial responsibility onto producers will not magically fix what is broken, and I think it naive to assume the financial incentive will result in fundamental shifts in producer behavior.

To echo a position I have shared in the past, the province needs to embrace a “macro approach” when it comes to sustainable materials management – Viewing end of life waste management as separate from other stages of a products life cycle is too myopic in scope.

Past emphasis on recycling rates and the recyclability of materials is no longer compatible with the changing nature of packaging. Recycling should not be the main objective, but rather, emphasis should be placed on promoting sustainable outcomes.

If a particular packaging type cannot be readily recycled, but abates more carbon at a lower cost (i.e. avoided food waste), should that be discouraged? Will forcing producers to pay 100% of the cost of recycling light weight plastics result in technological innovation and new end use applications? Or will it result in a bill in the hundreds of millions for Ontarians?

At present, the way waste management systems and legislation are designed is “siloed” – Blue Box is a distinct entity from the Green Bin, which is a distinct entity from waste electronics etc. While this may be a necessity from an operational perspective, it is imperative to take a step back and look at the entire waste management system. There is an opportunity cost to whatever decision we make – a dollar spent on one end of life management option is a dollar not spent on another. As such, our priorities should be designed to reflect what we want to achieve in waste management as a whole. Policies and legislation need to enable the province to work towards that goal in an economic, environmental and socially sustainable way. Measuring success in terms of diversion or recycling rates is no longer good enough.

APPENDIX (Calculating increases in consumer basket of goods)

As an example, the proposed increase in the steward obligation in Ontario resulting from the transition to full producer responsibility is $135 million dollars (this is a known number). The university’s methodology uses a six step process:

1) Quantify the potential reduction in the municipal tax base resulting from the transfer of recycling and landfilling costs onto producers (if any)

2) Determine how producers respond to the increased obligation. We operate under the assumption that stewards are not going to internalize any of this $135 million dollars, and that it it will either manifest itself in one of two ways a) costs are transferred to consumers (both directly via the fee allocation model and indirectly via increased pricing, b) contraction of the company resulting in job losses etc. (a less likely scenario, but one that does have a precedent – most of our modeling assuming consumers absorb this cost).

3) Examine the existing basket of good costs across localities (basket of goods costs vary significantly depending on whether it is rural/northern community, urban areas etc.) – part of this analysis is to also to determine the relative price elasticity of the consumer good basket within those communities. We calculate relative price elasticities for a range of consumer goods and household services using measured data in dozens of cities across Canada. Elasticity is very much a function of locality – price elasticity in Northern Ontario is sometimes 200% greater than in Southern Ontario, i.e. you increase the transportation costs for 4 litres of milk by 50 cents, the corresponding price increase in Red Lake is more than $2.00. This also explains why our modeling shows that the increase in the price of consumer goods resulting from producer responsibility is more acute in certain communities.

4) Using a logit-loglinear regression model, we adapt an input-output table that has been regionalized for the Ontario market (or whatever province we are examining). A log-linear analysis is necessary to specifically isolate what percentage of the $135m increase in the steward obligation specifically manifests itself with respect to price changes in the consumer basket of goods.

5) As noted in step 3, we know that certain communities are much more sensitive to changes in the prices of goods based on their relative elasticity measure. Using the output of Step 4, we then apply how price changes manifest in specific communities across Ontario (or a given province). This is how we develop a range of estimates for potential increases in the consumption basket.

6) Once we have determined the potential change in the consumer goods basket, we then backout potential savings resulting from a potential decrease in the municipal taxbase (if any) to arrive at our final estimates.

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About the Author

Calvin Lakhan, Ph.D, is currently co-investigator of the “Waste Wiki” project at York University (with Dr. Mark Winfield), a research project devoted to advancing understanding of waste management research and policy in Canada. He holds a Ph.D from the University of Waterloo/Wilfrid Laurier University joint Geography program, and degrees in economics (BA) and environmental economics (MEs) from York University. His research interests and expertise center around evaluating the efficacy of municipal recycling initiatives and identifying determinants of consumer recycling behavior.

Dispelling Misinformation about Packaging EPR in Ontario and Canada

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Written by Neil Savio Menezes, President at EcoCompass

Ontario is at a critical juncture for the future of recycling in the province. Regulations are being drafted to transition Ontario’s Blue Box program to full producer responsibility which will make producers of residential packaging, paper and packaging-like products (PPPP) operationally and financially responsible for managing their materials at the end-of-life. This concept has been discussed ad nauseum for almost two decades in Ontario following the introduction of the Waste Diversion Act in 2002 which gave us our current shared responsibility model.

While there has been no shortage of debate on the merits of transitioning recycling costs from municipalities to producers over the years, the noise has recently grown louder following stakeholder consultations by the Ministry of Environment, Conservation and Parks (MECP). Well informed debate is a crucial element of good policymaking but I’m concerned by the misinformation and half-truths circulating and their potential to influence policymakers into weakening the proposed regulations. We are at risk of losing sight of what is most important: implementing a proven policy tool as equitably as possible.

In my experience, clarity is best achieved through thoughtful analysis of good data. Over the last decade, I have worked with producers, municipalities, packaging suppliers, government agencies and stewardship programs to analyze data that has been used to inform arguments on both sides of this debate. I have conducted Activity Based Costing (ABC) studies, updated annual producer fees, verified municipal recycling costs, optimized municipal recycling operations and assessed the limitations of British Columbia’s producer responsibility program. Needless to say, I have had unparalleled access to an abundance of data that has enlightened my views on these issues. Arguments based on misconceptions and data missteps, as outlined below, are muddying the conversation and this is my attempt to cut through the noise.

Claim 1: EPR will not save taxpayers money.

Under a full producer responsibility, municipalities will no longer be regulated to collect and process recyclable materials. This responsibility will now fall on producers, where the regulations will set targets for their materials and they will need to find a way to meet them. Some municipalities may still incur costs if they opt to continue recycling services for non-eligible sources or non-eligible PPPP under the new regulations; however, with one less service for municipalities to provide, it’s hard to imagine a scenario where municipalities will not see net savings overall. These savings will not translate into a cheque in the mail to residents or a direct reduction in property taxes given that recycling programs tend to represent a small percentage of a municipality’s total annual budget (e.g. $60 million out of $11.12 billion in Toronto or 0.5% in 2018), but the savings do free up funds to offset other municipal costs. With the financial toll of COVID-19 rising, these savings could not come at a better time for cash-strapped municipalities.

Claim 2: Costs of Producer-Led EPR are rising in British Columbia and the same will happen in Ontario.

British Columbia adopted a full producer responsibility model for PPP in 2014. As the only province to have done so, it is often used as the benchmark for producer responsibility in Canada. Opponents of producer responsibility have latched onto rising costs in BC to argue that producer-led programs are no more effective than a municipally-operated program. This argument is being made in Ontario to influence policymakers but they should be wary of drawing concrete conclusions from the BC experience about the efficacy of full producer responsibility.

For one, Recycle BC (formerly Multi-Material British Columbia) did not service all municipal programs when it started. Notably, City of Vancouver did not fully transition to Recycle BC until October 2016. As municipal programs were added each year, it follows that Recycle BC costs would increase in turn. Secondly, the program is relatively young. With only five years worth of data and much of it not publicly available, any modeling or projections for Ontario based on the BC experience are imprecise at best. Lastly, BC has a parallel beverage deposit program that removes much of the high-value materials (PET and Aluminum) from the program. Given that this is not an apples to apples comparison, using BC data to estimate system costs in Ontario under full EPR is nonsensical. A direct comparison of system costs between BC and Ontario, without accounting for these variations is misleading, and inaccurate.

Claim 3: EPR will be an economic burden on Ontario households.

According to a York University Study, a transition to 100% producer responsibility in Ontario for PPPP has been modeled to increase the “basket of goods” costs for consumers by anywhere from 6-12%. As always, the value of a model is dependent on the quality of the data used and the assumptions made by the modeler. According to my calculations, the increase is more realistically less than 1% – a number that would barely register on an individual receipt. Unfortunately, the study has not been released to allow for a proper peer review. I tried to replicate the results of the model from a bottom-up and top-down approach, and I can’t come close to the results:

Example 1: Let us cherry pick the most damaging example of the impact of producer responsibility on an individual product in the Blue Box. The simplest way to do this would be to pick the material with the highest cost to manage (EPR fee) and the lowest retail cost to consumers.

In Ontario’s program, the packaging with the highest EPR fee is a multi-layered drink pouch, also called a plastic laminate. The cheapest product I could find was a case of 10 juice pouches that retails for $2.00 (20 cents per pouch). With a weight of 4 grams per pouch and a 2020 EPR fee of 35 cents per kg, this would equate to a total EPR fee of 0.14 cents for each pouch. The EPR fee on a case of ten drink pouches would be 1.4 cents today, and if you doubled it (transition to full producer responsibility) it would be just under 3 cents or 1.5% of the total cost. A household would need to buy approximately 700 juice pouches to see a one dollar increase to their grocery bill over the course of a year. If that’s as scary as it gets, I don’t think consumers have much to worry about.

Example 2: Even the “frightening” example above overstates the impact to consumers as it incorrectly assumes that brand owners will apply the packaging recycling fee to every bill. System costs post-transition will be addressed through national or international pricing structures. In other words, the cost of recycling borne by producers post-transition will be spread out across all of their products across Canada. To put things into perspective, retail sales were over $225 billion in Ontario and $605 billion nationally in 2018, according to the Retail Council of Canada. The Blue Box program at its current cost of $300 million a year represents a total of 0.15% of total retail sales in the province, or 0.05% nationally. Since producers in Ontario are already footing half the bill today, you can see how negligible the cost will be in the grand scheme of things.

Claim 4: There have yet to be any examples in Canada where stewards have been able to develop new end markets or viable end use applications for composite and light-weight materials.

Ultra-specific statements like these always illustrate to me either an inherent bias or a lack of understanding of producer responsibility. Limiting the discussion to Canada where EPR is relatively new obscures the impact EPR can have on recycling investments. In Europe and Asia where EPR has been around for decades, this policy tool has resulted in significant investments to recycle obligated materials, including those that are considered difficult to recycle. One example is Hahn Plastics which manufactures new plastic products from used rigid and flexible plastics. I had an opportunity to visit their facility three-years ago and saw first-hand how the Packaging Regulation introduced by Germany in 1991 has incented investments in innovative processes to recycle lightweight plastics.

However, if citing Canadian examples of end market development for composite and lightweight plastics is the only way to settle this debate, we need look no further than these examples of EPR-induced investment:

When examining the impact of EPR, it’s also important to remember that Canada is unique compared to other jurisdictions in that EPR has been applied at the provincial level rather than nationally, or entire trade blocs as is the case with the European Union. Even with a patchwork of policies across the country, Canadian stewards, steward organizations, municipalities and other stakeholders have made significant investments to improve sorting operations and develop successful end markets for recyclable materials. Take glass recycling for example: Stewardship Ontario funded a glass recycling facility in 2008 and Éco Entreprises Québec (EEQ) committed $40 M to improve glass recycling in Quebec. These investments were made under a shared financial responsibility model. As full EPR spreads across Canada, economies of scale will fuel even greater investment.

I will admit that not all investments have been successful nor will EPR guarantee success after transition; we have seen facilities shutter their operations despite significant investment here in Ontario. However, the current status quo will see investments slowdown until there is clarity and commitment to move forward. We have seen other provinces adopt innovative approaches to recycling and producer responsibility as we fall behind. This transition is an opportunity for Ontario to lead once again.

Claim 5: Packaging that offers greater environmental benefit, such as carbon abatement, but is expensive to recycle should not be recycled.

Setting ambitious recycling targets through producer responsibility does not need to come at the expense of low-carbon packaging. In fact, a recent commitment by major corporate players demonstrates that light-weighting and source reduction can go hand-in-hand with recycling targets. Just a few weeks ago, 60+ brands, retailers, government agencies and NGOs signed the US Plastics Pact. Companies like Coca-Cola, Unilever, Wal-Mart, The Clorox Company, and others agreed to take measures to eliminate problematic or unnecessary packaging by 2025, and by the same year, take steps to ensure all packaging is reusable, recyclable or compostable; recycle or compost 50% of plastic packaging; and, increase the average recycled content or responsibly sourced bio-based content in plastic packaging to 30%. This commitment does not prioritize one environmental issue over another, it recognizes that the combined issues of climate change, resource scarcity and plastic pollution require a suite of measures to overcome. I firmly believe that this embrace of circular economy principles by major corporate players and recognition of the control afforded by full producer responsibility to create circular material flows will improve the lifecycle impacts of packaging in Ontario.

It’s time to move forward.

The transition toward full producer responsibility has been a long-time coming and most stakeholders believe it is the right path forward. Unfortunately, we are seeing a repeat of lobbying efforts to derail this process using exaggerated cost estimates and other misleading arguments as opponents have successfully done in the past. To keep it on track, policymakers must be guided by sound logic and robust data.

Regulated outcomes like producer responsibility policies, coupled with strong corporate commitments, are what is necessary to drive change. Give producers the freedom to decide which is the more economical decision: either change their packaging to meet targets or develop end-of-life solutions for packaging materials that do not have one today. This is the basic intention of full producer responsibility. Ontario has an opportunity to support companies in their pursuit of a circular economy by getting the incentives right, leveling the playing field and giving them the certainty they need. Let’s cut through the noise and get this done.

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About the Author

Neil Savio Menezes is the President at EcoCompass, an environmental consulting firm that specializes in helping municipalities and companies achieve their recycling and diversion goals.

Industry 4.0 and the Circular Economy: Towards a Wasteless Future or a Wasteful Planet?

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Industry 4.0 and Circular Economy: Towards a Wasteless Future or a Wasteful Planet?
Written by Antonis Mavropoulos and Anders Waage Nilsen
Publishing September 2020

HOW THE MARRIAGE OF INDUSTRY 4.0 AND THE CIRCULAR ECONOMY CAN RADICALLY TRANSFORM WASTE MANAGEMENT—AND OUR WORLD

Do we really have to make a choice between a wasteless and nonproductive world or a wasteful and ultimately self-destructive one? Futurist and world-renowned waste management scientist Antonis Mavropoulos and sustainable business developer and digital strategist Anders Waage Nilsen respond with a ringing and optimistic “No!” They explore the Earth-changing potential of a happy (and wasteless) marriage between Industry 4.0 and a Circular Economy that could—with properly reshaped waste management practices—deliver transformative environmental, health, and societal benefits. This book is about the possibility of a brand-new world and the challenges to achieve it.

The fourth industrial revolution has given us innovations including robotics, artificial intelligence, 3D-printing, and biotech. By using these technologies to advance the Circular Economy—where industry produces more durable materials and runs on its own byproducts—the waste management industry will become a central element of a more sustainable world and can ensure its own, but well beyond business as usual, future. Mavropoulos and Nilsen look at how this can be achieved—a wasteless world will require more waste management—and examine obstacles and opportunities such as demographics, urbanization, global warming, and the environmental strain caused by the rise of the global middle class.

  • Explore the new prevention, reduction, and elimination methods transforming waste management
  • Comprehend and capitalize on the business implications for the sector
  • Understand the theory via practical examples and case studies
  • Appreciate the social benefits of the new approach

Waste-management has always been vital for the protection of health and the environment. Now it can become a crucial role model in showing how Industry 4.0 and the Circular Economy can converge to ensure flourishing, sustainable—and much brighter—future.

Source: Wiley Publishers

Waste To Energy (WTE) Market Size is Projected to Reach USD 27.7 Billion by 2025

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According to a recent market study, the global waste to energy market size was valued at USD 17.3 billion in 2017 and is projected to reach USD 27.7 billion by 2025, growing at a CAGR of 6.1% from 2018 to 2025.

The Waste to Energy (WTE) or energy-from-waste (EFW) is the process of generating energy in the form of electricity and/or heat from the incineration of waste. The energy produced from this process is close to that produced from coal, natural gas, oil, or other processes. The waste to energy cycle is projected to reduce landfill municipal solid waste ( MSW) by 90 percent, which will further reduce the emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2) produced by the waste.

TRENDS INFLUENCING THE WASTE TO ENERGY MARKET SIZE

Substantial growth in energy consumption, coupled with increased emphasis on energy generation from renewable energy sources, is expected to push global waste to the energy market.

Increased domestic and industrial waste has prompted governments across regions to generate energy from waste. Furthermore, the increased investment by various governing bodies, particularly in developing countries in Asia-Pacific, such as China and India, coupled with rapid urbanization and significant growth in consumer spending capacity, is expected to drive global waste to the size of the energy market in the forecast period.

Biological treatments include the treatment of waste with microorganisms to generate energy. Such approaches are considered more environmentally friendly than thermal techniques, and their market penetration is expected to grow over the forecast period.

It is expected that high installation costs and toxic gas emissions during incineration would impede market growth over the forecast period.

WASTE TO ENERGY MARKET SHARE ANALYSIS

Thermal technologies have emerged as the leading technology employed to produce energy from waste. In 2019, the segment generated 87 percent of total market revenue.

Asia-Pacific is projected to witness the highest growth rate from 2018 to 2025, mainly due to the rise in demand for energy. The rise in industrialization, coupled with rapid urbanization activities in emerging economies such as China and India, is expected to drive the market during the forecast period.

In 2017 Europe, in terms of sales, retained the leading waste to the energy market share. This dominance is attributed to the rise in the production of municipal solid waste (MSW), combined with the increase in energy demand. This region is investing heavily in developing renewable energy production.

TOP COMPANIES IN THE WASTE TO ENERGY MARKET

Many players operating in this waste to the energy market are actively pursuing marketing strategies such as partnership, company expansion, mergers & acquisitions, and joint ventures to improve their position.

Key Companies:

  • Waste Management Inc.
  • Suez Environnement S.A.
  • C&G Environmental Protection Holdings
  • Constructions industrielles de la Méditerranée (CNIM)
  • China Everbright International Limited
  • Covanta Energy Corporation
  • Foster Wheeler A.G.
  • Abu Dhabi National Energy Company PJSC
  • Babcock & Wilcox Enterprises, Inc.
  • Veolia Environment.

Lethbridge Biogas facility undergoing $7 million expansion

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The Lethbridge Alberta Biogas facility is undergoing a $7 million expansion.  The expansion will introduce the company into the natural gas market by allowing biogas to be purified into pipeline-grade biomethane.  With the expansion it will soon be able to supply renewable natural gas to the Lethbridge area and also expand into the British Columbia market.

The expansion will introduce Lethbridge Biogas into the natural gas market, by allowing for the plant’s biogas to be purified into pipeline-grade biomethane, (renewable natural gas or RNG), which will be injected into ATCO’s natural gas grid. This carbon-neutral biomethane will also be supplied to FortisBC under a long-term supply agreement by mid-2021. Once the expansion is complete, Lethbridge Biogas will have the first full-scale, commercial renewable natural gas application in Alberta.

“This expansion at our Lethbridge Biogas facility is another significant milestone in the history of our project,” says Lethbridge Biogas Director of Operations Stefan Michalski. “It is the result of dedication and very hard work from our team over many, many years to get our business established, not only in the Lethbridge area but beyond in the Canadian and North American context. A lot of players in the RNG market were interested to become part of this expansion, as RNG has become a highly sought-after commodity to reduce the carbon footprint in the natural gas supply chain.”

Feedstock

The Lethbridge biogas/cogeneration plant processes organic residues such as agricultural manures and food processing by-products. The facility is currently able to process the following categories of organic materials:

  • Liquid & solid manures from Intensive Livestock Operations (beef, dairy, hog & poultry etc.)
  • Fats, Oil & Greases (FOG) from slaughterhouses, meat packing plants, canneries, restaurants, food processors, cafeterias & grocery stores
  • Food processing residues (oils seeds, grains, fruit & vegetables, corn, beet, potato, dairy products, alcohol, etc.)
  • Aerobic sludges from non-municipal wastewater treatment & industrial process water
  • Pet food residues
  • Separated kitchen & market residues from food processors, bakeries, pizza parlours, restaurants, cafeterias, grocery stores, hospitals, universities, households
  • Paunch manure from meat packing plants
  • Non-wood containing garden & horticultural residues from greenhouses, garden centers, flower shops, municipalities, households
  • Glycerol from industrial biodiesel production
  • Silage from farm operations (corn, grain, grass etc.)
  • Pulp & paper sludges from paper mills
  • Animal by-products from slaughterhouses and packing plants and animal carcasses from intensive livestock operations incl. Specified Risk Material (SRM)

History of the Facility

In 2013 Lethbridge Biogas LP officially opened the largest anaerobic digester/co-generation facility in Canada at the time. Designed and built by PlanET Biogas, the $30 million facility has a generating capacity of 2.8 MW – enough to power 2,800 homes. It was built such that it has the capacity to expand to produce as much as 4.2 MW in the future with the addition of new generating units.

The End of Landfills in Ontario? Proposed amendments to the Environmental Assessment Act and the Impact on Waste Management

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Written by Harry Dahme and Jessica Boily, Gowlings WLG

On July 8, 2020, the Ontario government introduced Bill 197 in the Legislative Assembly. Entitled the COVID-19 Economic Recovery Act, the proposed changes within the Bill amend twenty different Acts, including the Environmental Assessment Act.

While some of the amendments proposed in Bill 197 seek to address challenges encountered during COVID-19 (such as the changes to the Provincial Offences Act, covered in our COVID-19 Update), the Bill primarily includes reforms that were on the government’s agenda prior to the COVID-19 pandemic. These reforms include some of the most significant reforms to Ontario’s environmental assessment regime in many years. The Gowling WLG Environmental Law Group will be publishing a series of articles on these proposed reforms, which are expected to be fast-tracked through the Legislature this week.

From the point of view of waste management in Ontario, one of the most significant changes to be made by the Bill is the addition of a new section to the Environmental Assessment Act that would give municipalities the right to veto new landfills proposed to be located within their own borders or in adjacent municipalities where the proposed new landfill is within 3.5 kilometers of the municipal border. This amendment to the EAA would provide municipalities with the unprecedented ability to stop new landfills for any reason, even where the environmental assessment for that landfill would otherwise be satisfactory to the provincial government.

Demand the right coalition emerges

In 2018, Ingersoll Mayor, Ted Comiskey, started the “Demand the Right” Coalition of Ontario Municipalities, seeking support from other municipalities for legislation that would allow municipalities to say no to projects like windfarms and landfills.

On March 1, 2018, Ernie Hardeman, MPP for Oxford, the riding that includes Ingersoll, introduced a private members bill dealing with the issue. Bill 201Respecting Municipal Authority over Landfilling Sites Act, 2018, would have amended the EAA to prevent the Minister of the Environment, Conservation and Parks from giving approval to an undertaking unless the municipal council had passed a resolution supporting the establishment of the landfilling site. The Bill did not receive Second Reading in the Legislature and died on the Order Paper when the Legislature was dissolved for the last provincial election.

During that election in 2018, Doug Ford stated that he respected “the right for local municipalities to make the decisions best for their communities.”

Following the election in 2018, the Ministry of the Environment, Conservation and Parks (“MECP”) released the Made-in-Ontario Environment Plan, which stated it intended to provide “municipalities and communities they represent with a say in landfill siting approvals “. No firm commitment to a veto was made at that time and there were no consultations on the proposed amendments to the EAA affecting landfills prior to the introduction of Bill 197.

The state of landfill capacity in Ontario

Many Ontarians are not aware of the waste disposal crisis in which Ontario finds itself. The Ontario Waste Management Association reports that unless new landfills are built, Ontario’s landfill capacity will be exhausted by 2032. More than 80% of this capacity is located within a small number of sites (15 public and private landfills). These predictions assume that Ontario will continue to export approximately 30% of its waste to the United States, primarily to landfill sites in Michigan and New York. Should those exports stop, Ontario’s landfill capacity would be exhausted by 2028: only eight years from now. This is significant since it takes years, and sometimes more than a decade, to obtain approval for a new landfilling site.

Even before the introduction of Bill 197, the length and uncertainty of the environmental assessment process for new landfills and expansions to existing landfills meant that this crisis was not improving. While increased waste diversion is a laudable goal, even with significantly improved waste diversion rates, existing landfill capacity will be put under significant pressure in the next ten years.

Bill 197

Given the near future waste disposal crisis in the province, there is a demonstrated need for new landfills to be built and existing landfills to be expanded. While Bill 197 aims to streamline existing environmental assessment processes for some projects, it introduces a municipal veto over new landfills that is expected to almost entirely halt the planning for and building of new landfills in Ontario.

Section 10 of Schedule 6 to Bill 197 proposes to amend the EAA by adding a new section 6.01, which would provide that proponents who wish to establish a landfilling site that is subject to Part II of the EAA obtain “municipal support” for the undertaking. Municipal support must be obtained, not only from the local municipality in which the landfilling site is situated, but from any other municipality located within a 3.5 km distance from the property boundary of the proposed landfilling site. This support, as set out in s. 6.01(5), is demonstrated by providing a copy of a municipal council resolution from each of the municipalities, indicating that the municipality supports the undertaking.

This requirement applies to not only new future landfill proposals but also to landfills currently undergoing the environmental assessment process, even though EAA approval had been previously obtained for the Terms of Reference for that environmental assessment process and even though the environmental assessment process was proceeding in compliance with the approved Terms of Reference.

Proposed section 6.01 applies only to landfills, as opposed to all types of waste management facilities based on the definition of “landfilling site” which is defined as a waste disposal site where landfilling occurs.

While section 6.01 certainly applies to new landfills within the province, it could also potentially  be read to apply to expansions of existing large landfills as well. Section 6.01(3) states that the section applies “in respect of a proponent who wishes to proceed with an undertaking to establish a waste disposal site that, (a) is a landfilling site; and (b) is subject to this Part.” While the plain meaning of “establish”, which connotes the initial or first approval and construction of a project, is consistent with the meaning used within the Environmental Protection Act in the context of waste disposal sites, “establish” is not defined within the EAA itself. This leads to the possibility that the unique characteristics of any landfill expansion could lead to an interpretation that the expansion involves the establishment of a waste disposal site. If that interpretation is adopted, then that has huge ramifications with respect to the future availability of landfill capacity in Ontario, exacerbating even more the imminent waste disposal crisis in Ontario.


NOT LEGAL ADVICE. Information made available on this website in any form is for information purposes only. It is not, and should not be taken as, legal advice. You should not rely on, or take or fail to take any action based upon this information. Never disregard professional legal advice or delay in seeking legal advice because of something you have read on this website. Gowling WLG professionals will be pleased to discuss resolutions to specific legal concerns you may have.

 

About the Authors

Harry Dahme is a partner in Gowling WLG’s Toronto office and past leader of the firm’s Environmental Law Group. He has practised exclusively in the area of environmental law since 1984, and has a solid reputation as one of the foremost environmental lawyers in Canada. Harry is certified by the Law Society of Ontario as a specialist in environmental law, and is described by Who’s Who Legal: Canada 2014 as “widely regarded as a leading authority in the field,” by Legal 500 Canada 2017 as “absolutely fantastic” and by Acritas Stars 2017 as “an acknowledged expert in environmental law.”
Jessica Boily is an environmental lawyer in Gowling WLG’s Toronto office. Her practice focuses on environmental litigation, drawing on her commercial litigation background to achieve successful and cost-effective outcomes. She uses her procedural expertise and technical knowledge to advocate for her clients. Jessica understands that complex disputes require creative scientific and legal approaches. Her clients appreciate her practical advice when managing and resolving multi-party environmental disputes. When litigation is necessary, her clients know her courtroom and tribunal experience will help them achieve the outcome they want.

Lessons Learned on Collection Policies in Ottawa

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Written by the Continuous Improvement Fund

In anticipation of the curbside collection contracts renewal, pending regulatory/policy change and the development of a 30-year Solid Waste Master Plan, the City of Ottawa retained Dillon Consulting Limited (Dillon) to complete a study and develop a curbside collection model. The model assisted the City in identifying the most cost-effective curbside waste collection system to help support increased waste diversion and reduce residential garbage, while also considering greenhouse gas impact, and cost of implementation.

The Microsoft Excel model was designed as a tool to assist staff in developing curbside collection options and/or new policies. It is based in Microsoft Excel.

The different waste diversion policies that were considered in the model were:

  • Bag/container limits for garbage
  • Pay As You Throw
  • Clear bag program for garbage
  • Containerized garbage program
  • Mandatory participation in diversion programs
  • Material bans e.g., grass clippings, organics and recyclables in garbage

The collection options considered in the model were:

  • Status quo
  • Weekly co-collection of blue/black box
  • Status quo level of service with a 4-day collection week
  • 4 day collection week
  • Status quo with separate weekly leaf/yard waste collection
  • Separate bi-weekly leaf/yard waste collection
  • Weekly collection of recyclables and leaf/yard waste

The model requires input of household information, collection seasons/periods, materials collected, truck compartment and utilization parameters, collection factors, collection costs and waste tonnage breakdown by material type to establish a baseline scenario, which is then used to compare against several different collection and policy options. It can compare new collection and policy options against status quo parameters including costs, vehicles required for servicing, diversion rates, and greenhouse gas (GHG) impacts.

Modeling required resources and system performance

Designed for adaptability, the model will allow other Ontario municipalities to analyze their integrated waste collection system by revising the inputs to the model and waste collection program policy customizations. The model produces several estimated outputs, including:

  • Number of trucks required (per season, per collection stream);
  • Number of hours required to collect materials (per season, per collection stream);
  • Annual cost per household and per person ($);
  • Capture rate (kg/person);
  • Diversion rate (%); and
  • GHG impacts (tonnes CO2 equivalents per year).

Note that this study only looks at residential households that receive curbside collection and does not include bulk material collection.

Lessons learned in Ottawa

Key outcomes of the modelling exercise for Ottawa were:

  • Higher curbside collection costs are attributed to weekly co-collection of dual stream recyclables and leaf/yard waste over a four-day collection week due to the number of vehicles required.

  • The lowest collection costs are for the status quo, and separate weekly or bi-weekly leaf/yard waste collection due to a lower number of vehicles being required than the other scenarios. Separate bi-weekly leaf/yard waste collection may produce less CO2 equivalents per year than status quo for all policy scenarios modeled.

  • Weekly co-collection of blue/black box under a four-day collection week is likely to produce the most CO2 equivalents per year due to the number of vehicles required and hours collecting waste materials.

  • There appears to be a correlation between cost effectiveness and greenhouse gas emissions; higher costs are attributed to model runs that have the higher number of CO2 equivalents per year.

  • Enforcement is key.

Quebec Government commits to Province-wide composting by 2025

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The Quebec government recently announced that is was putting $1.2 billion towards a composting strategy that will result in all citizens in the province having  access to composting services come 2025 and with the fully implemented by 2030.  In addition to providing composting services to citizens across the province, the plan is to manage composting in all industries, businesses and institutions by 2025 as well, in the goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 270,000 tonnes per year by 2030.

“We are taking another step forward by investing $1.2 billion to divert organic matter from disposal sites and ensure their recovery, which will significantly contribute to reducing our greenhouse gas emissions,” Benoit Charette, Quebec Environment Minister said in a statement. “Thanks to the support of the government and the municipalities, the entire population as well as industries, businesses and institutions will be able to contribute to an even healthier management of our residual materials.”

Currently, only 57 per cent of Quebecers have access to food waste collection services. The province’s waste totals in at 5.8 million tons per year, 60 per cent of which is organic matter. The waste sector also emits around 4.55 million tonnes of CO2 equivalent per year and is the fifth largest contributor in the province.

The new strategy aims to adapt collection services as well as processing facilities to Quebec’s many regions. To promote composting and limit waste, the government is increasing landfill charges from $23.51 to $30 per ton.  Charette said this sends a clear signal that Quebec intends to discourage the elimination of residual materials in favour of their recovery.

The government claims that for this strategy to work, all actors, including those at the municipal level, must share responsibilities – and it says it plans on helping them better manage their green waste and improving their ecocentres to do so. Quebec will work with municipalities to speed up the establishment of collection services and processing facilities. In addition, the province will promote the quality of the organic matter treated and the development of local outlets for composts and other residual fertilizing materials from this collection.

The program to reduce, recover and recycle organic materials from industries, businesses and institutions, administered by Recyc-Québec, will be awarded $9.6 million. The Crown corporation is also responsible for a new recognition program for sorting centres for construction, renovation and demolition residue. That program is the result of concerted discussions with the residual materials management industry.

In summary, the goals of Quebec’s compost strategy are as follows:

  • Offer the collection of organic matter to all citizens of Quebec by 2025.
  • Manage organic matter in 100 per cent of industries, businesses and institutions by 2025.
  • Recycle or recover 70 per cent of the organic matter targeted by 2030.
  • Reduce 270,000 tonnes of CO2 equivalent per year in greenhouse gas emissions by 2030.

The plan also intends to allocate funds to programs that finance the management of organic matter, which will help boost green infrastructures. The government says this will help boost the province’s economic recovery.

 

Understanding the Complexities of Waste Audits

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The Continuous Improvement Fund (CIF), a partnership between the Association of Municipalities of Ontario (AMO), the City of Toronto, Stewardship Ontario (SO) and the Resource Productivity and Recovery Authority (formerly Waste Diversion Ontario – WDO), recently published an article on understanding the complexities of waste audits.

The article provides extols the virtues of waste composition studies including the insights gained into program operations, aid in directing promotion & education (P&E) resources and developing long-term waste management strategies.  It also provides information on the correct sample size, frequency of sampling and distribution for a waste audit.

Below are some of the highlights from the original article.

How many samples should I take?

The challenge with waste audits is ensuring that an accurate representation of the waste being generated is obtained at minimal cost.  Statistical analysis provides information on confidence levels and margins of error.  Howe does that apply to waste composition studies? The confidence level and margin of error effectively represent a range, where if you repeat the same study, you can be ‘confident’ your results won’t change by more than the margin of error.

Factors Affecting Sample Size Determination

In waste composition audits, there is a broad range of materials that are sorted plus they vary in total amounts. So not only does the methodology need to consider whether the material is present, but also how prevalent it is as a proportion of the total sample composition. Not surprisingly, materials present in smaller quantities require more samples to achieve the same confidence level and margin of error as those that are more prevalent.

Additionally, there is a long list of factors that affect material generation and composition. Variables like household demographics, seasonality and program participation have a big impact on waste generation. In most cases, municipalities simply don’t have enough budget to develop a study that can consider all of the possible variables and achieve high confidence levels (i.e., > 90%) with low margins of error across the broad range of material typically present in the waste stream.

Trade-Offs

Recognizing that most municipalities have a limited budget, three key questions should be considered:

  1. How diverse is the population demographics?
  2. Are most residents provided with the same level of waste service?
  3. Are you looking for big picture trends or looking to target a specific material?

Available budget will ultimately dictate the number of samples that can be taken and the project team will have to decide how best to allocate them to examine the issues in question and address identified variables such as demographics. Obviously, the more consistent factors such as the waste service levels and population demographics are, the greater the data consistency will be and the higher the confidence level will be across a set number of samples.

By way of example, the current CIF/SO waste composition studies typically samples 100 single-family households broken down into 10 samples areas with 10 households in each sample area. The material is typically sorted into about 62 individual materials categories (e.g., PET, Newspaper, Cardboard) at an average ‘all in’ cost of about $110/household sample.

Dealing with Demographics

For most municipalities, it will be more important to focus their efforts on getting the sample distribution across the community right, especially if the data is being used for program planning. Recognizing that many communities have distinct demographic groups, it’s typically easiest to divide a community based on income levels as a surrogate for demographic differences. This can be done by obtaining Stats Canada data on household income levels, and proportioning it out into Low, Medium and High Income. Alternatively, a more complex analysis can be done that considers multiple factors through an Analysis of Variance (ANOVA) test as outlined in CIF Project #1059: Residential Audit Sample Optimization Toolkit.

Coming Soon: New tool for determining confidence levels and sample size

In order to help municipalities determine their confidence level for a set number of samples, the CIF has hired Martin Lysy, Associate Professor of Statistics and Director of the Statistical Consulting and Collaborative Unit at the University of Waterloo (PhD in Statistics, Harvard University, 2012) to develop a tool and guidance document to provide municipalities with an assessment of the trade-offs between statistical accuracy and budget.

The tool relies on ballpark estimates of waste composition data that the CIF has collected, or users can specify from their own historical waste audits. Based on these inputs and user-specified margins of error and confidence levels, the tool will estimate the number of samples required. Users can also test different sample sizes to see the resulting confidence levels and margin of error to ensure they can meet budget constraints. Work is still under way to finalize this new tool but if you want more information contact Mike Birett at [email protected] or Neil Menezes at [email protected].