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The Recycling Race

Posted by Blake Nijs on July 1 at 6:00 AM I constantly am looking for people with new and inventive ways to help sustain our Planet’s resources. My past blogs have mentioned many new technologies and their benefits to our society. Now I pose a question to the readers; what are your ideas? But first off, let me describe the current recycling statistics. 

Canadian households create 13.4 million tonnes of municipal waste[1]. To give you some sort of idea how much this is, think of 13 million pickup trucks.  73% of that waste was put in landfills and the other 27% was recovered through recycling efforts. Since this study was conducted in 2004, the amount of waste recovered has slowly been rising. Recently in my hometown Calgary, there have been large efforts to increase recycling. Some of these improvements include a residential blue bin pick up service[2]. Homeowners now do not need to sort their recycling. They simply put all recyclables in one bin, which is then picked up from their driveway. This service is not applicable to every area in Calgary yet, but there are large recycling deposit containers where people can come and dump their recycling. All of this recycling has lead to some major monetary gains for the Alberta region. The Alberta government has reported an $180,000+ gain[3] from recycling beverage containers. Calgary’s recycling program is not a new idea; it has been implemented in many other countries. The reason why Calgary adopted it so late is unknown. 

The United States has increased its paper recovery to an impressive 53.4%. Meaning that of all paper sold in the U.S.A over 50% is recovered although the U.S. is still not the best yet. They still produce approximately 251 million tonnes of municipal waste, of which 82 million tonnes is recovered. To do the math, that is an average of 32% waste recycled. The leading country in the EU, Switzerland, has an impressive 52% recovery rate of all waste[4]. When the U.S.A or Canada is compared to this statistic, it seems we still have a lot to learn. 

On a worldwide perspective today’s top five recycling countries are[5]:

Switzerland 52%
Austria 49.7%
Germany 48%
Netherlands 46%
Norway 40%

So with the above in mind...

What are your thoughts on improvements that we can take to increase these numbers?


[3] Unknown. (2009, June 22). City cashing in on refundables could reduce recycling fee. CBC News, Retrieved from http://www.cbc.ca/canada/calgary/story/2009/06/19/refundables-recycling-fee-blue-calgary.html#socialcomments

[4] Williams, A.W. (2008, August 22). Recycling by the numbers: the good, bad and ugly of statistics and comparisons. Retrieved from http://blog.sustainablog.org/recycling-by-the-numbers-the-good-bad-and-ugly-of-statistics-and-comparisons/ 

[5] Williams, M.W. (2010, April 27). Recycling statistics. Green News, Retrieved from http://environmentalpictures.blogspot.com/2010/04/recycling-statistics.html


Topics: recycling, strategy, sustainability        SHARE:  Share with Delicious Share with Stumble Upon Share with Furl Share with Digg Share with Reddit

8 Comments so far...

Interesting stats Blake. I am not surprised that many EU nations are outperforming North America in this area. Aside from cultural differences, I think a lot of it has to do with infrastructure and population density.

One thing I have noticed is that attitudes of people have changed. Most people feel that recycling is the right thing to do. In North America, most will only do it if it is convenient (like the blue bin system implemented in Caglary). The really interesting trend is that net consumption is on the rise in spite of recycling. How does this happen??

A toilet paper company who markets their product as being produced from recycled materials expects to sell MORE, not less. Consumers feel less guilty about consuming recycled or recyclable products or products with recycled/recyclable packaging materials.... the consumption trend (upward) doesn't change.

Recycling is great... recycling and reducing changes the environment.

Posted by Stacy Richter on July 2 at 11:56 AM


I completely agree, people are doing the right thing by recycling, however this makes consumers think that buying more is okay. A good example is Al Gore who purchases carbon offsets to make up for a house that uses 2.5 times more energy than average. If we were to take a greater step towards reducing, it would be more beneficial than buying our way out of trouble.

People should have realized that the first step in saving our planet is reducing, then recycling not the other way around.

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