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World Habitat Day 2018 - Waste Management in Canada

As a city grows, a major problem faced by it is the lack of upgraded infrastructure, resources and accommodation that accompanies the expansion. Pollution and waste management are important factors that cities and their populations are affected by. In Canada, Ontario is the highest producer of waste, with rates of disposal being as high as 12 million tonnes annually.

Canada is home to around 2400 landfills. Landfills are associated with the problems of harmful gases that arise from decomposing of organic matter, the major one being methane gas. These gases contribute to air pollution and the quality of air being breathed in by local residents deteriorates, posing harmful health effects directly. Landfill gases are a big component of smog, for example, and can worsen asthma. Older landfills, which have not been efficiently engineered, pose the threat of leachate seeping into the ground and contaminating water sources, which are consumed by residents. This leachate contains high levels of toxic metals, ammonia and organic compounds.

Ontario is currently in a transitional phase, to a circular economy. Under the new system, waste is seen as a resource and there is particular emphasis on the reduction and recycling of waste by businesses, industries and households. The aim of this strategy is to divert the load of waste going in landfills and minimizing all the problems and consequences that accompany dumping of waste into landfills. There are four programs currently in place that are based on diversion and they include the Blue Box Program, Municipal Hazardous or Special Waste Program, Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment Program and the Used Tires Program. The essence of these programs is to hold producers liable for the life-cycle of products, including disposal and to incorporate a sense of producer responsibility towards waste management.

Strategies for waste management need to be centered around reduction of waste upstream, rather than recycling and reuse of waste, which is what most action plans for waste management are focused on right now. The National Zero Waste Council of Canada (NZWCC) has devised a waste management strategy pyramid. According to the NZWC, waste reduction and prevention is at the top of the waste management hierarchy. There are economic disadvantages as well, of reducing waste further down in the chain, so reduction of waste upstream is primary, followed by recycling and reusing. According to NZWC studies, by reducing food waste alone, upstream, the cost of food could go down by 10-20%. Reducing waste upstream eliminates the costs and investments in transportation and processing of waste and is the most efficient way of managing waste.

The UN recognizes access to safe and healthy living spaces as a basic human right. In order to focus on the efforts being made by governments and organizations on providing solutions to housing and accommodation problems, as well as to highlight the issues faced by those who lack adequate living conditions, the UN dedicated the first Monday of October every year to this cause. World Habitat Day recognizes the need for the international community to join hands in order to build better communities around the globe.


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