National Waste Benchmarking Study released

Recycling Council of Ontario reveals an immediate need for industry-wide improvement
Thursday, March 19, 2015

The Recycling Council of Ontario’s first commercial, industrial and institutional waste performance benchmarking study has been released, revealing an immediate need for industry-wide improvement, with greater transparency in how materials are managed.

The National Solid Waste Benchmarking Study, compiled to set benchmarks and inform best practices for waste diversion and reduction, shows that as recyclables become more economically viable and a future manageable resource, there’s a probable gap in how waste is understood and valued.

For the first time, waste generation and diversion data was gathered from 1,012 buildings located throughout Canada including 580 retail stores, 282 office and 150 retail centres. The data was recorded from April and August 2014, based on bills, audits and diversion reports.


Statistics reveal that out of the 402,000 metric tonnes (MT) of waste generated, 220,000 MT of materials were reused and recycled, with a diversion rate of 54.75 per cent.

By sector, office properties diverted the highest amount at 66.33 per cent, most of which was paper. Yet, 12 buildings reported zero diversion. Meanwhile retail centres, which report cardboard as a top recyclable, have some catching up to do with the lowest diversion rate at 48.66 per cent. In this latter category, only 39 per cent divert plastic and 35 per cent divert paper.

The province which diverted the most material is British Columbia at 58 per cent, followed by Nova Scotia at 57.37 per cent and Ontario at 55.74 per cent.

It is important to note that the challenge of reporting diversion is that there is no agreement on the mechanism of reporting diversion claims. Without common criteria, it is hard to develop a standard to calculate diversion claims. The RCO says this gap necessitates standardization of waste performance tracking and reporting.

Generation and capture rates

Looking at waste generation in office buildings, the study recorded a six per cent decrease from 2012 to 2013, while retail stores and centres suffered a performance decline, with a two per cent decrease. Yet a number of retail properties reported a 50 per cent increase, while others experienced about a 40 per cent reduction.

As there is no benchmark for year-over-year, the study suggests more analysis to determine possible causes for the difference between buildings.

Capture rate performance data included audits from 42 office buildings and 43 retail centres. Out of these 85 buildings, 77.59 per cent of divertable materials generated on-site were recycled and reused. About 22 per cent of these materials ended up in the disposal stream.


The study concluded that property managers indeed face challenges. There is lack of consistency in how waste management services are contracted and audited, while measurement data remains inconsistent, hindering companies from comparing their performance to competitors in a time when sustainability reporting is becoming increasingly expected.

Some recommendations going forth for further studies include, parameters to identity difference for year-over-year waste generation and open-ended questions to add context to the performance metrics reported. In addition, a large group of waste audits will enable better analysis per waste stream performance, as well as diversion rate comparison.

A list describing diverted materials, with total amount reused and recycled, will help expand knowledge of what is actually being recycled and reused across Canada.