Ontario residents generate more garbage during pandemic

With the support of Ontario municipalities, representing close to 8.5 million residents, data has been gathered to better understand the high-level impacts of COVID-19 on residential and commercial waste generation. Since the week of March 9th data has been tracked and compared to the same period in 2019.

While certain waste management restrictions remain in place in many municipalities, there still has been increase in materials residents are hauling to the curb every week.

Based on the 12 Ontario municipalities surveyed, front line waste management workers have been collecting on average four percent more residential garbage, 12 percent more residential green bin materials while the amount of Blue Box materials have remained relatively static.

Not every municipality is being impacted in the same way. For some waste generation has remained relatively static, potentially the result of people migrating out of these communities given the closure of universities, colleges and certain businesses. For others there have been much greater waste generation rates (e.g., upwards of 15 percent increases in garbage and 20 percent for green bin materials).

Although data has been more difficult to acquire on commercial waste, preliminary data received indicates that overall commercial waste is down. Restaurants appear down in excess of 70 percent, and manufacturing appear down by roughly 15 percent.

However, food processing/grocery store waste is up in excess of 20 percent. Anecdotal information also suggests that bio medical and healthcare waste tonnage has increased considerably as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Data will be collected for at least the next month to better identify trends as municipal waste operations return to normal. The results of the survey should help governments better plan and develop more effective strategies for managing waste flows during COVID-19. In the next iteration of this report we will add our data analysis of Western Canada data.

All data has been collected and analyzed by Paul van der Werf, Peter Hargreave and Rob Cook. The latest version of their “COVID 19 Waste Generation Report” presents a more detailed overview and commentary of this data.