Waste Management and Sustainability in Canadian Cities
Canada is among the world’s top thirty most environmentally sustainable countries, according to the United Nations’ Environmental Performance Index. A major contributor to this ranking is the efforts of waste management facilities in Canadian cities towards sustainability. With falling commodity prices and a changing climate, new approaches must be taken in urban centres towards environmental consciousness. Large Albertan cities like Edmonton, under the guidance of North America’s Waste Management Services, continuously invest in the environment and their goals to conserve it. They strive to achieve and aid other organizations in achieving their sustainability goals, from zero-waste living to decreasing greenhouse gas emissions. By collaborating with sustainability-driven organizations, offering convenient waste disposal services to Canadian citizens, and by taking an eco-friendly approach to waste management, Canada’s Waste Management Services aligns urban development in cities with sustainability.
Waste Management Services (WMS) partners with organizations like GreenBiz, which hosts annual conferences for global sustainability leaders to discuss pairing profitable business plans with environmental consciousness. In 2016, WMS and GreenBiz teamed up to redirect 94% of waste by composting 68.2% and recycling 25.7%. As the industrial standard for zero waste is 90% or higher, Waste Management Services and GreenBiz met the standards for what is known as “Zero Waste to Landfill”. This certification offers credibility to the company and an aim for sustainability objectives, and ensures that action is being taken by businesses to “go green”. Waste Management Services and GreenBiz’s collaboration, along with WMS’s other waste-diminishing partnerships, set a supreme example of successfully making businesses more environmentally conscious.
In addition to its partnerships, Waste Management Services urges Canadians to take independent action to make their waste management approaches greener. With the support of the City of Edmonton’s voluntary participation in waste diversion, Edmonton’s Waste Management Services diverts more than 50% of household waste from landfills to recycling and composting. Since Edmonton initiated a curb-side recycling initiative in 1988, over 90% of its citizens have become participants in recycling programs. These programs conserve landfill space, with 20% of Edmonton’s waste being diverted from landfills. In addition, Edmontonians can reduce their individual carbon footprint and earn some pocket money by using bottle return depots. WMS also encourages Canadians to consider in-home composting of organic material. While this goal is undoubtedly a step in the right direction, Waste Management recognizes that composting can sometimes be inconvenient. To remedy this, they offer yard waste pickup and food and organic waste pickup services to turn household organic waste "into earth-friendly mulch without going through the hassle of composting at home” (wm.com). For added convenience, WMS also offers Canadians large item pickup and hazardous waste pickup. This citizen participation and the benefits it reaps makes Edmonton a model of sustainable urban waste management.
Eco-Friendly Waste Management
But how are these statistics achieved? WMS’s efforts to “Think Green” turn waste into a resource and focus its business on sustainability. Waste Management Canada is North America’s largest residential recycler, recycling and reusing nearly 14 million tonnes of material each year. They focus on single-stream recycling, where all recyclables are mixed together in a single collection bin. This method of recycling is simple for consumers and businesses; it increases both efficiency and sustainability by reducing vehicle mileage and the corresponding tailpipe carbon dioxide emissions. In addition, WMS uses naturally-fuelled fleet vehicles, which eliminate 30,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions annually. In recent years, Waste Management Canada has also developed their E-Cycling program, which collects electronics and other challenging products to recycle and works to break down and repurpose them safely. Since 2012, Waste Management Services has set up over 200 collection sites across North America, garnering both the “Responsible Recycling” and “E-Cycling Industry Operating Standard” certifications. WMS’s dedication to renewable energy is represented by their landfill-gas-to-energy (LFGTE) facilities. Through innovative landfill technology, the landfill gas byproduct of waste decomposition is converted into electricity or transportation fuel, which will increase efficiency of LFGTE utilization and save landfill space. By saving landfill space, WMS conserves natural habitats - a “long-term goal […] to create 100 certified wildlife habitat sites and protect 25,000 acres by the year 2020” (wm.com). This goal has been so successful that it has already been met (an entire decade ahead!), and the prioritization of wildlife preservation will continue in urban sites.
An increased carbon footprint is inherent in urbanization, however the efforts of North America’s Waste Management Services have been extremely successful in lessening this impact; this is achieved both by the integration of the waste management system itself and also by the contributions of organizations and communities who prioritize sustainability.
All statistics gathered from Waste Management North America.