Wednesday, March 17, 2021

COVID-19 Impacts on Waste Disposal in 2020. Still Too Many Recyclables and Organics in Waste Stream.

The Metro Vancouver Regional District audits what people put into the waste collection system. The regional district performs this audit every few years. The Regional District recently released the results of the 2020 audit. COVID-19 had a significant impact on waste disposal due to closures and reduction of people going into offices, shops, and schools.

Overall, the number of single-use items disposed of was down in 2020. People disposed of 443 items per capita in 2018 and 359 in 2020.

Breakdown of single-use items by type and location. Select chart to enlarge. Source: Metro Vancouver

There was a significant increase in single-use items disposed of in single-family housing. There was also an uptick in single-use items disposed of in multi-family housing. The commercial/institutional sector saw a sharp decline in the disposal of single-use items. Cups and utensils saw a sharp decrease overall.

Also of note was the number of masks, gloves, and wipes people disposed of in 2020. While it seems a lot, these items represent less than 0.5% of all waste disposed of in 2020. These items belong in the waste system.

Personal Protective Equipment disposed of in 2020. Select table to enlarge. Source: Metro Vancouver

We have done an excellent job of diverting recycling and compostable organics such as kitchen straps from getting into the waste system compared to other parts of North America. But as a region, we still have a ways to go.

Some material may be present in more than one functional category, so totals do not add up to 100%. Select table to enlarge. Source: Metro Vancouver

I was surprised to see that 40% of our waste could be recycled or put into green bins. Many people still do not recycle or use green bins, even with recycling and organics programs readily available. There are bins in multi-family housing and curbside pickup for single-family housing. It would be interesting to see the barriers to recycling and using green bins for organics that some people face.

2020 was an unusual year for the waste collection system in Metro Vancouver. We can not use 2020 to see trends; it is a snapshot in time. It was interesting to see the impacts on the waste system from people staying at home more.

1 comment:

Unknown said...

In White Rock where multi family Units Waste Management was offloaded by Baldwin's Council to multiple trash pick up private firms 7 days a week - NO Green Organic trucks seen in ages. Seems ALL cardboard; organics, bottles/glass, newspaper ALL go to a landfill now for the same PRICE contract says pus additional ton damage increases. Asked suppliers and Metro Can for clarity - Zero response. Sigh.