Wednesday, November 27, 2019

With lowest recycling rates in our region, multi-family households need to step up game.

Our region, Metro Vancouver, is a North American leader when it comes to recycling. 64% of waste was recycled by people in our region in 2018. This is higher than the Canadian average which is around 27%.

This is a number that we can be proud of, but it is well short of the goal of recycling 80% of waste by 2020.

A look at the numbers shows where there are gaps.

Sector Recycling Rate (2018) Disposed (tonnes/capita) Disposed (tonnes/ household)
Residential - Single Family 64% 0.16 0.54
Residential - Multi-Family 37% 0.22 0.45
Commercial/Institutional 46% - -
Construction/Demolition 78% - -

The construction industry is close to meeting the goal of 80% diversion of waste. This includes both construction and demolition waste.

About 60% of people live in single-family housing in our region. Around 2/3rd of their waste is recycled. The rest of us living in multi-family housing where the recycling rate is only 1/3rd. This is low. It is interesting to note that people living in multi-family also generate more waste per capita.

The commercial and institution sectors recycled 46% of waste.

As someone who grew up in single-family housing, but now lives in an apartment, I have an idea about why the recycling rates are lower in multi-family housing.

When I lived in a single-family house, I remember that we had a strict limit on the amount of garbage that would be picked up. If you wanted to throw out more, you had to buy stickers. There was a direct link between waste and cost.

In multi-family, most people see garbage bins as limitless. People don’t see the connection between more waste and more cost. This is because it is diffused through strata fees. This is an example of tragedy of the commons. People recycle who live in multi-family housing because they believe it is the right thing to do.

To change people’s behaviour, Metro Vancouver will need stronger tools to make it costly for waste hauler to pick up garbage bins full of recyclable material. Education will also be required show the link between waste and strata fees. Even a bit of peer pressure to recycle from neighbours may be required.

Metro Vancouver diversion rate for waste from all sectors 1994 to 2018. Select chart to enlarge.

While recycling rates have been climbing steadily, there is still much more work to do. Besides recycling, we also need to look at reducing the amount of waste generated in the first place. With the province considering a ban on single-use packaging, I believe we will get there.

For more information, please read the Metro Vancouver Recycling and Solid Waste Management 2018 report.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Well researched, thanks for this work! I will figure out how to print it out and give it to my strata council!