March 15, 2021

Recycling & Waste Reduction


Managing Resources for Reduced Emissions

Recycling of “waste” resources, complementing waste reduction, not only conserves valuable landfill space, but can significantly reduce overall solid waste-related emissions, e.g. emissions generated from raw materials processing, manufacturing, hauling of waste, and potentially from incineration.

Waste as an Emissions Source
Waste reduction and recycling can reduce solid waste greenhouse gas emissions by both lowering the demand for new materials and products (referred to as “upstream impacts”) and by minimizing “downstream impacts” such as transporting waste over long distances and disposing of it in landfills.

Upstream Emissions

When materials such as metals and plastics are discarded rather than recycled, new materials must be used to make replacement products. The energy intensity and greenhouse gas emissions related to producing new materials is usually higher than that of recycled or recovered materials.

Downstream Emissions

The Regional District of Nanaimo (RDN) increased their solid waste diversion rate from 45% in 1998 to 57% in 2003.

Downstream emissions include emissions resulting from managing the waste materials, such as from hauling waste, and methane emissions from landfills. As landfills close and new locations become more difficult to find, transportation-related emissions are intensifying from increased hauling distances. However, landfill emissions, due primarily to methane production from organic materials, are typically much larger than hauling related emissions. Organics management is a key action to address these landfill emissions.

Local Government Role

Regional District of North Okanagan has upgraded recycling services at the Greater Vernon Landfill, increasing the amount of solid waste diverted from the landfill. / UBCM.
Regional District of North Okanagan has upgraded recycling services at the Greater Vernon Landfill, increasing the amount of solid waste diverted from the landfill. / UBCM.

Most local governments provide waste management services, such as waste collection, transportation, and landfill management. Often, solid waste management involves partnerships with private businesses, including haulers and materials processers. Whether services are delivered by government operations or by private business, waste reduction and recycling has the potential to address emissions associated with these services.

The Carbon Neutral framework for local government operations will not likely take into account upstream emissions reductions associated with solid waste, nor downstream landfill emission reductions. There may be some potential for local governments to reduce vehicle fleet emissions for hauling, depending on the location of materials processing facilities.

Although reducing waste and diverting materials from the landfill for recovery is dependent on public behaviour patterns, local governments can play a key role in shaping waste reduction and diversion through the provision of services and policies.

Community Examples

Salmon Arm Landfill Gas Capture Project
Ladysmith Curbside organic collection
Hartland Landfill Gas Utilization

Local Governments and Organics Management

In BC, many local governments, particularly regional districts, manage landfills. Many existing landfills are generating emissions from previously disposed waste; the proposed BC Landfill Gas Regulation aims to maximize reductions of landfill gas emissions and identify opportunities to increase landfill gas recovery and its beneficial use.

The Carbon Neutral framework for local governments currently does not recognize emissions reductions for landfills. However, these emissions are real and local governments can play a significant role in preventing useful organic resources from becoming potent emissions sources that cannot practically be recovered.


To facilitate organics diversion and resource recovery, local governments actions can include:

  • Set diversion and disposal targets for organic wastes – these may be part of resource management plans, zero waste strategies or other policies
  • Explore the opportunities for setting up community-scale/centralized organics collection and composting or other processing services
  • Work with private waste management services to provide collection and/or composting or processing services
  • Work with adjacent/regional governments to develop shared solutions
  • Promote and possibly subsidize backyard and apartment composting bins
  • Ban organic waste from the landfill, in conjunction with setting up alternate management services
  • Co-locate composting or other organics processing facilities with complementary facilities, such as wastewater treatment plants that produce biosolids

Low-Emissions Management Solutions

US EPA information indicates that there is a substantial reduction in net greenhouse gas emissions due to diverting readily degradable organic materials such as food trimmings to other methods such as composting, compared to landfilling.


Composting of organic materials is one of the solutions chosen by many governments and organizations to manage organic resources. There are a wide variety of methods and technologies available, many of which are relatively simple and require minimal energy input, others that are more intensive and mechanized, depending on site constraints and other factors. Compostable materials include:

  • Food trimmings
  • Yard and garden trimmings
  • Wood waste
  • Agricultural residues and manures
  • Paper
  • Wastewater biosolids
  • Different materials can be co-composted, potentially increasing the economic viability of composting operations.

All composting processes produce a useful, stable product that can be used to enhance soil quality and fertility, maintaining carbon storage in the soil and enhancing the ability of plants to sequester carbon from the atmosphere.

Other Management Methods

Other organics management and processing methods include anaerobic digestion (AD), which is suited to readily degradable organics such as food waste. AD produces biogas that can be used as a fuel source (typically for heating and power generation). Like composting, AD facilities can potentially handle multiple materials, including food waste, biosolids and manure. However, AD systems tend to be cost effective only at larger scales, due to the capital cost of equipment.

Less degradable organic materials such as wood waste can be co-composted with other materials such as food or biosolids, or can be potentially be processed into fuels using other technology such as gasification.

Other Considerations

Major considerations for organics collection and management include the potential for attracting wildlife and odour generation. These issues must be carefully considered in the design of programs and facilities.


The Regional District of Nanaimo has developed an Organics Diversion Strategy. Major initiatives include banning commercial organic waste from the regional landfill in 2005, and launching a residential food waste collection pilot program in 2007. Composting services are provided by International Composting Corporation.

The first municipality in B.C. to introduce universal residential curbside pick-up of organic waste, Ladysmith is dramatically reducing the amount of waste going into the landfill.

The District of Squamish, in partnership with Carney’s Waste Systems, provides organics composting services, and plans rollout of organics collection in 2009.


  • Land use and Transportation
  • Water and Wastewater