Ecofiscal Commission urges municipalities and provinces to make solid waste management systems more efficient by getting incentives right

Canada’s Ecofiscal Commission finds that improving solid waste policies can make waste systems more efficient—saving money while reducing the trash we create.

Ottawa, October 16, 2018—Canada’s Ecofiscal Commission today released a new report, Cutting the Waste: How to save money while improving our solid waste systems.

Canadians are generating more solid waste than ever before. On average, Canadians generate nearly double the amount of waste per capita compared to those in other high-income countries. And the more waste we produce, the more costly it is to manage—both for businesses and taxpayers that use these services.

But the solution isn’t just encouraging Canadians to reduce, recycle, and reuse. Instead, Ecofiscal’s new report finds that we should focus on making our waste systems—all the way from product manufacturing to waste disposal—more efficient and less costly. And the key to an efficient waste management system is getting prices right.

The report recommends several key policy tools to make waste management systems work better by reflecting the true costs of waste.

Municipalities should charge residents and businesses according to the waste they create. Those who make more waste should pay more, and those who make less should pay less. The report recommends doing so with “pay-as-you-throw” programs for residents and “tipping fees” that reflect the full cost of the service for businesses.

At the same time, provinces should implement “extended producer responsibility” programs that make manufacturers accountable for managing the waste that comes from their products. These systems can improve the efficiency of recycling programs while also creating incentives to produce goods that generate less waste or goods that can more easily be recycled.

Ultimately, by changing how we pay for waste management—and changing who pays—we can dramatically improve the efficiency of our solid waste systems. A more efficient system makes sense for families, municipalities, and businesses.

Cutting the Waste helps municipalities tackle the complex challenges of making their waste management systems more efficient. The report includes:

  • 6 interconnected problems in solid waste markets that make waste management systems inefficient.
  • A case study on the City of Calgary that highlights the progress made so far in its waste management systems, and how its considered pay-as-you-throw program could be improved.
  • 5 policy recommendations, including charging tipping fees that reflect the full cost of disposal, implementing pay-as-you-throw programs for households, and expanding and harmonizing extended producer responsibility programs.

The full report and executive summary are available at ecofiscal.ca/waste.

Quick Facts

  • Landfills emit roughly 20% of all Canadian methane emissions and are a significant contributor to global climate change.
  • On average, each Canadian throws out about 400 kilograms of solid waste each year. When factoring in commercial waste, this figure rises to nearly one tonne of waste generated for each Canadian—nearly double the amount of waste generated by those in other high-income countries.
  • Canadians make up 0.5% of the world’s population yet produce about 3% of the world’s municipal solid waste.
  • The Ecofiscal Commission is a trans-partisan initiative working to advance fiscal policy reform for the benefit of Canada’s economy and environment. The commission comprises 11 prominent economists and 16 advisers including leaders from politics, business and civil society.

Additional Resources

 Quotes

 “Better waste pricing is fair. Those who generate more waste will pay more, and those who generate less will save money.”
Chris Ragan
Chair, Canada’s Ecofiscal Commission
Economist and Director, Max Bell School of Public Policy, McGill University

“The Ecofiscal Commission report shows that fees that are directly tied to the amount of waste households and businesses generate is key to reducing waste in the system—both literally and financially. By getting the economics of their waste management systems right, municipalities can improve their systems.”
Lindsay Tedds
Associate Professor & Scientific Director, Fiscal and Economic Policy, School of Public Policy, University of Calgary
Commissioner, Canada’s Ecofiscal Commission

“The latest report from the Ecofiscal Commission shows municipal governments how to design smart waste management systems, that are financially and environmentally sustainable. Getting prices right can create incentives for businesses to innovate, improving the materials they use in their products and packaging.”
Peter Gilgan
Founder and CEO, Mattamy Homes
Adviser, Canada’s Ecofiscal Commission

Commission Spokespeople

  • Dale Beugin, Executive Director, Ecofiscal Commission
  • Lindsay Tedds, Commissioner, Ecofiscal Commission and Associate Professor & Scientific Director, Fiscal and Economic Policy, School of Public Policy, University of Calgary
  • Justin Leroux, Commissioner, Ecofiscal Commission and Associate Professor, Department of Applied Economics, HEC Montréal (in French)
  • Jonathan Arnold, Senior Research Associate, Ecofiscal Commission

Media Contact
Annette Dubreuil
416.825.1474 | adubreuil@ecofiscal.ca

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