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Study on the Effects of Sustainable Waste Management Policies, specifically composting

and recycling, on Municipal Solid Waste Reduction Efforts

McKenzie Scanlon

Department of Arts, School of Environment, McGill University

ABSTRACT (max 250 words)


Countries around the world are developing, often at very quick rates. This translates to

many advancements in terms of their economies and their levels of industrial development. This

is generally accompanied by a rise in the quality of life in those countries and an increase in

available disposable income. As the populations begin use of their increased resources, there will

be higher rates of municipal solid waste generation (MSW) (World Bank Group, 2012). MSW,

also known as trash or garbage, consists of “everyday items we use and then throw away” (EPA

Archives, 2016).

Improper management of waste production can lead to many negative environmental impacts. An

example related to the disposal of waste through landfills is the risk of the leaching of toxic

substances into water sources such as groundwater (Cabrera and Rodriguez, 1999). Another

example of a negative environmental impact, this time related to incineration, is emissions of

gases. These can include ‘heavy metals, dioxins and furans, which may be present in the waste

gases, water or ash gases” (City of Ottawa, 2016).

In 2010, “161 countries produced 1.3 billion tonnes of municipal solid waste” (Hoornweg

and Perinaz, 2012). According to the World Bank Group, global MSW production was

approximately the same. By 2025, this number is expected to “increase to approximately 2.2 billion

tonnes” (World Bank Group, 2012). Looking at the Global Solid Waste Composition, 46% of the

waste produced is organic, 36% is made up of paper, plastic, glass and metal, and only 18% is

qualified as “other” (World Bank Group, 2012). These numbers demonstrate that with an efficient

and sustainable approach to waste collection and removal, much of the produced waste can be

recycled, composted or disposed in another sustainable manner.

This leads to the question of the efficiency of the measures we currently have in place.

Does the implementation of sustainable waste management related policies have a significant

impact on the reduction of the quantity of garbage produced on a national scale? The purpose of

this study is to examine the effects of sustainable policies such as the implementation of recycling

and composting on national waste production. The study will compare rates of Municipal Solid

Waste in the city of Ottawa, before and after implementation of sustainable policies, as well as

MSW generation rates in the United States. We predict a decrease of MSW production rates after

the introduction of recycling and composting.


In order to find data on MSW production rates in Ottawa and the USA, I first did a Google

search to look up databanks that I expected would have data relevant to environmental

management. I started by looking up “Statistics Canada”, where I searched for “compost Ottawa”,

as this is a key area of waste management that this paper aims to analyse, and is often accompanied

by data relating to other types of waste management such as recycling. With this search, I found

multiple datasets relating to MSW production and collection, in Canadian provinces, “Composting

by Households in Canada”. I then followed up this search with a second Google search, this time

searching for “composting data”. Here I found a second data catalogue, “DATA.GOV”, again

searching the entire site for “compost”. I found another dataset, this time pertaining to “Materials

Municipal Waste Stream, 1960 to 2014” a dataset provided by the annual EPA report “Advancing

Sustainable Materials Management: Facts and Figures”. Finally, I used “Statista” to look for more

datasets. After searching for “compost”, I opened a few more datasets, including “Volume of waste

materials diverted in Canada from 2004 to 2014 (in metric tons)” and “Recovery of U.S. municipal
solid waste for composting from 1990 to 2014 (in million tons)”. This gave me data relating to

MSW rates in the USA.

Once the datasets were downloaded onto Excel Version 15.26, I selected the relevant

information and tables, and started statistically analysing them. I began by standardizing all the

data by dividing the values in the tables by the lowest value. This made making inference and

graphing easier. I then proceeded to do a conduct a Pearson correlation test. This statistical test is

used to evaluate the relationship between two variables, here MSW production rates in the USA

and the population estimates. Following this analysis, I made graphs of the data.

As a reader, I find “search” repetitive, if you can maybe alternate with an adjective. But

it’s a science report so maybe that’s supposed to be like that.


As shown in Fig.(Figure?) 1 there is an increase in the total amount of MSW generated, in

the amounts of compostable materials, being Food Waste, Yard trimmings and Miscellaneous

Inorganic Wastes, and the recyclable materials, here being Paper and Paperboard; Glass; Metals;

Plastics; Rubber and Leather; Textiles; Wood; Other. The amount of waste generated increased

exponentially from 23*546000 in 1960 to 90*546000 in 2000. The data keeps increasing at a

slower pace, ending up at approximately 95*546000. Why are these capitalized?

In Fig. 2, showing the amount of materials recycled and composted in the U.S. municipal

waste stream from 1960 to 2014, there’s an increase in the quantity diverted. In 1960, the total

amount of MSW recycled and composted was equal to 1*546000, in 2000 this number increased

to 13*546000. A steady increase between 2000 and 2014 leads to a final number of approximately

In Fig. 3, representing the total amount of MSW generated, with the proportion of the MSW

that is diverted from the landfills included, has increased since 1960. The amount being diverted

increases until about 2010, where the quantity stagnates at around 17*546000 tons produced per


Fig. 4 shows the Per(capital) capita municipal solid waste generation in the U.S. from 1960

to 2014 (in pounds per day). The data starts at 2.68 pound per day in 1960, increases until it reaches

a high at 4.74 pounds per day in 2000, then decreases to 4.4 pounds per day in 2010, where it

stagnates at until 2014.

Fig. 5 shows the relation between the amount of residential garbage and the recycling and

organic materials generated in the City of Ottawa. The amount of residential garbage generated

stagnates around 215000 tons from 2004 to 2009. At which point the amount decreases steadily

and reaches a low of 175050 tons produced in 2013. The amount of recycling and organic materials

generated stagnates around 105000 tons from 2004 to 2009. At which point the amount increases

steadily and reaches a high of 151050 tons produced in 2013.

In Tab.(Table?) 1, after conducting the Pearson Correlation test with the data from the total

amount of MSW generated in the U.S. in tons in between 1960 and 2014 and the U.S. population

estimates from 1960 to 2014 I found an R score of 0.980177846570979.


Fig. 1 and 2 show that even with an increase in the quantity of the waste being diverted and

recycled or composted, the rates of waste are still increasing. In Fig. 3, the graph shows that the

amount of U.S. municipal solid waste generated per person per day between 2010 and 2014 has

stagnated, but reduced from the rates in 1990 to 2007. The United States an average of 4.4 pounds
of municipal solid waste was generated daily per person in 2014. A major limitation of this study

was the difficulty of accounting for a rapidly growing population. This being said, a Pearson

Correlation test was conducted to assess correlation. With a score of 0. 980177846570979, a strong

positive relationship is drawn in between the population growing and the increase in waste

generated. This means that even with the limitation in terms of accounting for the growing

population, the amount of waste produced is correlated to the number of people producing waste.

In addition to this, looking at Fig. 5, in 2009, policies relating to sustainable waste management,

the Green Bin Program cause a change in the data. The decrease in waste produced, and the

increase in the amount of recycled and composted materials can be directly linked to the

implementation of the policy, as there were no other changes in the confounding factors (City of

Ottawa, 2016).

These findings will help promote the continued interest in the implementation of public

policies relating to better and more sustainable waste management. The data from the City of

Ottawa is far from the only example of this. Cities such as San Francisco in California, United

States, as well as Vancouver in British Columbia, Canada also show similar trends after

implementation sustainable policies for MSW management (Statista, 2015). With a world

population showing no signs of stopping increasing, measures such as proper waste management

are necessary to the long-term preservation of the environment (Gonzalo and Alfonseca, 2016).

However, these policies alone won’t have a significant impact, and other measures need to be taken

to reduce climate change and pollution.

 World Bank Group

EPA Archives, 2016 2016-03-29

 Cabrera and Rodriguez, 1999

 City of Ottawa, 2016

 Hoornweg and Perinaz, 2012

 Statistics Canada


 Statista

Cabrera G, Rodriguez D, Maruri A. 1999. Genotoxicity of the extracts from the compost of the

organic and the total municipal garbage using three plant bioassays. Mutation

Research/Fundamental and Molecular Mechanisms of Mutagenesis 426:201-206

Gonzalo JA, Alfonseca M. 2016. World Population Growth: 1900-2010: The Un Data. World

Fig. 1 Materials Generated in the U.S. Municipal Waste Stream, 1960 to 2014 (standardized
to 5462000 in tons)
This stacked line graph shows the amounts of waste generated in terms of the total amount of
waste produced, and the divertible waste (here with recycling and compost).
Fig. 2 Materials Recycled and Composted in the U.S. Municipal Waste Stream, 1960 to 2014
(standardized to 5462000 in tons)
This stacked line graph represents the amounts of waste recycled in terms of the total amount
of waste produced, and the divertible waste (here with recycling and compost).

Fig. 3 Per capita municipal solid waste generation in the U.S. from 1960 to 2014 (in
pounds per day).
This graph shows the amount in pounds of MSW produced per person per day.
Fig. 4 Materials Generated in the U.S. Municipal Waste Stream and Materials
Recycled and Composted in the U.S. Municipal Waste Stream (standardized to
5462000 in tons).
This stacked column graph shows the total weight in tones of materials generates
in the Municipal Waste Stream. The data is divided into material recycled or
composted and what is sent to the landfills or incineration centres.
Fig. 4 Recycling and Green Bin (Compost) data, City of Ottawa, 2004-2014 (in
This line graph shows the relation in between the decrease of residential garbage
generated and the amount of recycling and organics produced.
The sharp increase in recycling and organics produced and decrease in
residential garbage produced in 2010 can be linked to the implementation of the
Green Bin Program. And again in 2012, because of the implementation of
Biweekly Garbage pickup.

Tab. 1 Pearson correlation test, on relationship between Total MSW

Generated in the U.S. - Weight (in tons) from 1960 to 2014 and U.S.
Population Estimate from 1960 to 2014
The R-score of 0.980177847 shows a strong positive correlation, this
implies that as the population increases, the total MSW Generated
also increases.
Total MSW
Generated -
Weight (in Population
tonnes) Estimate
Total MSW Generated - Weight (in
tonnes) 1
Population Estimate 0.980177847 1