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BC’s new Blue Box program a good model of real EPR

John Mullinder, Executive DirectorBritish Columbia’s new full producer responsibility program for the Blue Box is getting a bad rap, certainly in Ontario where some waste haulers, municipalities, and even a few provincial government people are calling it a disaster. Here are some of the claims we are hearing.

Claim # 1: That many municipalities are excluded from the program.BCQuote

In fact, BC municipalities had a choice on whether to belong to the stewardship program or not. Some 76 municipalities, regional districts and First Nations chose to join, while another 10 communities asked steward body Multi-Material BC to provide curbside service directly to their residents through private collectors, with no involvement from the municipality and at no cost to taxpayers. Together the local government and private collectors within the MMBC program provide service to 1.24 million curbside and multi-family households (72.3% of the provincial total). A further 20 municipalities initially chose not to join, but then reconsidered after the launch deadline and were placed on a waiting list. MMBC wants to add these latecomers as soon as possible, but it needs more steward funds (that is, fewer free-riders) before it can do so. So the quick answer to the exclusion claim is that the municipalities currently not in the program excluded themselves.

Claim # 2: That there is no enforcement and no method of performance monitoring or verification.

Membership of MMBC is voluntary. Stewards can choose to join MMBC or another body or meet their provincial obligations by themselves. MMBC has no control over stewards such as newspaper publishers or small business owners who have chosen not to join MMBC. It is up to the province to cajole, coerce, or take free-riders to court for not meeting their provincial obligations(1)BC passed a regulation last June that allows the Ministry of Environment to implement administrative monetary penalties (AMPs) on companies not in compliance with the regulations. We are not aware that any have been applied to date..

As for monitoring and verification of MMBC program performance, this is currently being done by independent auditors prior to the release of a report on the first seven months of the program on July 1st. Word on the street is that MMBC has met its 75% collection rate target.

Claim # 3: That municipalities were given a “take-it-or-leave-it” price for doing collection.

MMBC was under no obligation to offer municipalities any collection contracts. For political and ease-of-transition reasons, however, it chose to offer them the right-of-first-refusal on collection. The collection prices offered by MMBC were based on an analysis of the cost data that existed in 23 BC programs. Some municipal programs cost more, some cost less. The few municipalities that chose not to accept the MMBC offer had the option of collecting at their own taxpayers’ expense or getting out of the collection business entirely and letting MMBC do it. Ten communities chose the latter option and MMBC contracts out the provision of direct service itself(2)Regional District of North Okanagan, Regional District of Central Kootenay (areas H, I, J), Regional District of Kootenay Boundary (East Sub-region), Coquitlam, Anmore, Quesnel, Prince George, University Endowment Lands, Revelstoke, and City of Langley..  Most municipalities and regional districts (the 72% of BC households mentioned above) chose to accept MMBC’s price offer.

Claim # 4: That MMBC has created a monopoly on the processing of BC residential recyclables.

First, MMBC is a voluntary program which covers only its own members’ obligations. There is an opening for other steward bodies to form (and one is trying to). Second, MMBC issued a request for post-collection proposals that covered 10 geographic zones, offering respondents the opportunity to bid for each zone, a bundle of zones, or all of them collectively.

Several companies bid. The winner, which bid in each zone and was also able to offer a collective bundle, brought three separate partners together(3) Green by Nature partners include two PPEC-member companies, Cascades Recovery and Emterra Environmental, plus Merlin Plastics.  and included 26 sub-contracted companies . Its plan to centralise plastic, glass and metal processing for the province in one new facility(4)Paper-based packaging containing liquids is included in the container stream processed at this facility. was possibly the clinching factor, since it avoided the cost of each separate container processing plant in the province having to install the same expensive bells and whistles to sort materials. This promised to be a big money-saver for the system as a whole. Most of those 29 companies were involved in managing residential recyclables in the province prior to the May 2014 launch of the full producer responsibility program. They continue to be involved, but instead are now being paid by producers, rather than by municipalities.

While BC’s new EPR model for the Blue Box is not perfect, it clearly has a lot more going for it than its detractors are willing to admit, and is worthy of application, with some adjustments, in other provinces. A key challenge for both stewards and provinces going forward, however, is the sticky issue of free-riders, and how provinces act to effectively discourage them. Everyone wants a level playing field.

 

References   [ + ]

1. BC passed a regulation last June that allows the Ministry of Environment to implement administrative monetary penalties (AMPs) on companies not in compliance with the regulations. We are not aware that any have been applied to date.
2. Regional District of North Okanagan, Regional District of Central Kootenay (areas H, I, J), Regional District of Kootenay Boundary (East Sub-region), Coquitlam, Anmore, Quesnel, Prince George, University Endowment Lands, Revelstoke, and City of Langley.
3. Green by Nature partners include two PPEC-member companies, Cascades Recovery and Emterra Environmental, plus Merlin Plastics.
4. Paper-based packaging containing liquids is included in the container stream processed at this facility.

No good box should go to the dump!

John Mullinder, Executive DirectorThe paper packaging industry wants old corrugated boxes banned from landfill. A couple of provinces have already done so (Nova Scotia and PEI) but so far the others (including Quebec, Manitoba and Ontario) have only talked about it. It’s time for action!

The environmental benefits are clear. We estimate a ban on old corrugated containers (OCC) would reduce Ontario methane and carbon dioxide emissions by up to 175,000 tonnes/year, the equivalent of taking up to 33,000 cars off the road or eliminating the carbon emissions of up to 70,000 homes. It’s a move that’s perfectly aligned with Ontario’s climate change direction, and would demonstrate much needed provincial leadership on the waste or resource recovery file.

A ban would also mitigate a looming provincial landfill crisis (80% of Ontario landfills will be full within 15 years), and create between 200 and 300 jobs (a conservative estimate). It could Ban Old Boxes From Landfillbe extended to other paper grades (packaging and printed) for larger impact.

After hazardous wastes and organics, paper in general is the prime candidate for banning from landfill. And if the province is risk averse to banning all types of paper from landfill, then a pilot project banning OCC first would be a perfect “guinea pig.” Corrugated is a widely recycled material and has been for decades. Its national recovery rate is estimated to be 85 percent. Some 93% of the corrugated that ends up in Ontario homes is captured by the Blue Box(1)Stewardship Ontario 2013 data. Sales of old corrugated also provide more revenue to the Blue Box program ($15.5 million) than any other packaging material.. Even so, some 200,000 tonnes slips through industry and residential hands every year to end up in Ontario or Michigan landfills.

It shouldn’t be there. Every single packaging mill in the province uses old corrugated boxes collected from the back of factories, supermarkets, office buildings, or from curbside, to make new packaging, most of it 100% recycled content(2)There are eight packaging mills located in Ontario. Seven produce 100% recycled content board, the eighth 60% recycled content board.. We import OCC from the United States because we can’t get enough here.

So how about it Ontario? We understand that banning organics from landfill would make a bigger splash in the greenhouse gas stakes than banning corrugated would, but it could take five years for the necessary organics processing infrastructure to be developed. Why wait for corrugated? We have the infrastructure for recycling it right now. If nothing is done to ban corrugated from landfill for five years, that’s over a million tonnes of OCC needlessly languishing in landfill when Ontario packaging mills could use it; at least $100 million in foregone recycling revenues; an earlier Ontario landfill crisis; and close to 900,000 tonnes of unnecessary GHG escaping into the atmosphere.

We don’t care frankly whether it’s a landfill ban on OCC or a disposal or generator-based levy. Just get the stuff out of there!

References   [ + ]

1. Stewardship Ontario 2013 data. Sales of old corrugated also provide more revenue to the Blue Box program ($15.5 million) than any other packaging material.
2. There are eight packaging mills located in Ontario. Seven produce 100% recycled content board, the eighth 60% recycled content board.

Why do we junk so much good stuff?

John Mullinder, Executive DirectorRecent studies have highlighted how much food we waste (both in preparation and in the disposal of scraps) but we are also throwing away some perfectly recyclable other stuff, like paper. Why is this, and what can we do about it?

Here’s a look at what Ontario householders put in their trash, somewhat arbitrarily divided into the following three segments: recyclable material that should not be there; problem materials that could be redesigned for recyclability; and material that, at least in the short term, is unlikely to be recycled.

1.        Recyclable material that should not be in the garbage

Almost 80% of the paper in Ontario households is recovered by the province’s Blue Box system and sent on for recycling. This is great, but it still means that a lot of paper ends up in landfill: old boxboard cartons, printing and writing paper, even some old newspapers and magazines. You would think that after 30 years of the Blue Box in Ontario that we would be doing much better than this.

Is it lack of education or convenience, or a combination of the two? Millions of dollars have been spent by individual municipalities on Blue Box promotion and education. “We accept this.” “We don’t accept that.” “Throw it all together.” A common province-wide recycling message (“These materials are collected in every single municipality across Ontario”) would certainly reduce the current confusion and hopefully boost recovery rates.

Many municipalities have tried to encourage better consumer behaviour by limiting the “garbage opportunity”: by making recycling “free” relative to garbage, that is, by charging for garbage bags or bins; by reducing the number of garbage bags allowed at the curb and/or the frequency of garbage pick-up. We recognize that over 50% of Toronto residents now live in apartment buildings, and that this poses a significant recycling challenge. It’s a lot easier to dump something down a garbage chute than to separate the recyclables and carry them in the elevator to a downstairs recycling room.

Another challenge is confidentiality. Householders are reluctant to place their bank/financial statements and bills in the Blue Box. We would suggest buying a good shredder, bagging the shredded paper, and then placing it either in or alongside the Blue Box. And then there’s the human brain. A recent study suggests the human brain is wired to perceive flat paper as recyclable but crumpled up paper as trash. So don’t crumple your paper!

But it’s more than just paper that’s missing from Ontario’s Blue Box. The recovery rates for aluminum and steel beverage cans, and PET and HDPE bottles, are significantly lower than those being achieved in provinces with beverage deposit/refund programs. The missing tonnes are important. If three-quarters of the paper, cans and bottles now being trashed by Ontario householders were instead sent for recycling, the overall Blue Box recovery rate would jump from its current 66% to a very impressive 80%, a major achievement.

2.          Problem materials that could be redesigned for better recyclability

These are potentially recyclable items that pose technical challenges to processors because of their material composition. They include multi-layered laminates, compostable plastic containers and trays, black plastic takeout trays and nursery pots, full shrink wrap labels, metallized tubes, single serve hot beverage pods, coloured opaque PET, and non-PET clamshells. For a concise background document on the recycling challenges that these items pose to North American recycling programs, click here.

3.           Material that, in the short term at least, is unlikely to be recycled

These are primarily multi-layered paper-based or plastic laminants that serve a packaging function that is not currently technically or economically achievable through the use of a single material type (and therefore likely to be more easily recycled). These and some of the problem materials noted above are often cited as candidates for energy-from-waste treatment rather than recycling.

So that’s what’s in our waste and where we’re falling short. Now we just have to figure out what to do about it.

There’s some good stuff in this trash

Source: PPEC analysis of Stewardship Ontario data for Ontario households (2013).

 

Blue Box great for household paper: almost 80% recovered

John Mullinder, Executive DirectorThe world’s first Blue Box system was launched in Ontario over 30 years ago, went on to win a United Nations award, and today remains a convenient and easy method of collecting various materials from households and sending them on for recycling.

At heart, though, the Blue Box is a Paper Box. The major material brought into households, apart from organics and their resulting food scraps, has always been paper of one kind or another, and still is.

In the latest data year (2013), paper products represented two-thirds by weight of what was available for recycling from Ontario homes.  An impressive 76% of this paper was collected and sent for recycling (85% of the printed paper, mostly old newspapers; 93% of the old corrugated boxes, and 48% of the old boxboard cartons. There’s clearly room for improvement there).

The collection rates for the non-paper materials that end up in Ontario homes are something of a mixed bag: most of the non-LCBO deposit glass makes it to the Blue Box (91%), together with PET and HDPE bottles (59% and 57% respectively). But only 40% of aluminum packaging is being recovered and only 30% of plastics overall.

While the plastics industry is trying to encourage more recycling, and several PPEC-member companies are closely involved with these efforts(1)Cascades Recovery and Emterra Environmental are both involved in a Green By Nature venture to boost plastics recycling in British Columbia, and Canada Fibers recently announced its participation in a plastics recycling venture in Ontario, the ugly truth is that the recycling of plastic packaging is lagging way behind. The biggest change in this sector over the last 10 years has been the tonnage of what’s called “Other Plastics” being placed in the Blue Box. Whether this is because of the advent of single-stream (throw it all together) collection, or because residents are confused about which plastics are recyclable and which are not, and out of frustration just pitch them all in the blue box for someone else to sort out, is a good question. As for plastic film, its Blue Box recovery rate has barely budged, moving from 6% to 7% over a decade.

The stark contrast in recovery rates between materials raises some fundamental questions about the design of Ontario’s Blue Box system itself. There’s the perennial issue of whether some materials would be better on deposit; the role of energy-from-waste (EFW) in solid waste management; and whether the current industry funding formula is sending the “right” message to packaging and printed paper producers. Our next blog takes a look at the materials that don’t make it to the Blue Box, and what we may be able to do about it.

blueboxfinal

 

References   [ + ]

1. Cascades Recovery and Emterra Environmental are both involved in a Green By Nature venture to boost plastics recycling in British Columbia, and Canada Fibers recently announced its participation in a plastics recycling venture in Ontario

So much for the paperless house!

John Mullinder, Executive DirectorYou’ve heard of the paperless office. What about the paperless house? Not going to happen, at least, not anytime soon.

The weight of paper entering our homes these days is only slightly less than it was 10 years ago. But the types of paper products we use are definitely changing. As we embrace the digital world, we read far fewer newspapers and magazines. Glossy retail catalogues have been replaced by online alternatives, and those heavy paper telephone books have pretty much disappeared for good.

Making up the difference, however, has been a steady increase in the use of paper packaging or what is commonly called cardboard. What we are talking about here are the sturdy corrugated boxes used to deliver the new TV or kitchen appliance. You’ll probably find one or two in your basement or garage holding something they never came with. Eventually, you’ll put them out for recycling. Likewise your boxboard cartons (cereal and tissue boxes). The other changes you may have noted are fewer steel cans and glass bottles. These have both suffered from competition from plastics packaging which has grown substantially over the decade.

Fortunately, most of the paper products entering your home are high in recycled content and being recycled right across Canada. But that good  story deserves a blog all of its own.

What’s in Ontario Households (by weight)

Paperlessbyweight

 Source: Stewardship Ontario data 2003, 2013.

Food scientist warns retailers that live bacteria on crates is like a “smoking gun”

John Mullinder, Executive DirectorA third independent scientific study has raised concerns about re-using plastic crates to deliver fresh produce to retailers. This time it’s from the Center for Food Safety at the University of Arkansas(1)The two earlier studies, by food scientists at the University of Guelph and the University of California (Davis), are referenced in a previous blog.. The latest study concluded that bacteria adhered to crates and formed biofilms including salmonella, listeria and E. Coli, and that both commercial and industrial sanitising and scrubbing methods could not eliminate them.

“The food industry has a lot of food safety regulations in place,” lead researcher Dr Steven Ricke told The Produce News, “and we do a very good job. (But) what we don’t realise is (that) food-borne pathogens don’t always get the regulatory memo.” “You want to avoid opportunities,” he said. “We know (bacteria) can attach. How extensive is that attachment? How permeable into food products?”

“Our job as experts in food science is to determine how to avoid risks, and from what we know through research is, one, re-use is a source for contamination, and two, cleaning or scrubbing does not eliminate biofilms.”

“In addition to the scanning electron microscope work, we also did a molecular test, which means we had to recover live cells. These were definitely live cells, alive and recoverable, so the opportunity is there. Any guess as to where they go is speculation, but if they’re there and they’re alive they’re sitting there like a smoking gun.”

References   [ + ]

1. The two earlier studies, by food scientists at the University of Guelph and the University of California (Davis), are referenced in a previous blog.

It’s not as simple as re-use versus recycling

John Mullinder, Executive DirectorThe battle between the corrugated box and the plastic crate industries for market share in the fresh produce sector has traditionally been fought on both economic and environmental grounds. These arguments will continue, although it’s unlikely that any peer-reviewed life cycle analysis will ever deliver a knock-out punch to either of the combatants. The box will win on some life cycle criteria, the crate on others.

What is emerging, however, is the key issue of sanitisation. Retailers, growers and consumers are right to be concerned about the safety of the food they eat, although consumers probably don’t care too much whether it arrives by box or crate. They just want it to be safe.

There are two ways of achieving this. The traditional corrugated box system provides a fresh box for each delivery. Fresh doesn’t mean cutting down trees. In fact, most corrugated boxes made in Canada are 100% recycled content, partly made from those very same used produce boxes that Canadian retailers bale up at the back of their stores and for which they receive significant revenue.(1) “When we divert cardboard, not only do we reduce the cost and the environmental consequences of sending it to landfill, it’s all recycled and turned into revenue for us.”- Loblaw Green Team member quoted in Canadian Grocer magazine. PPEC estimates that Canadian retailers received over $50 million in revenue for their old corrugated boxes last year.  The boxes are recycled several times over the course of their lives, and meet rigid process control standards in their remanufacture.(2)Paper fibres can be recycled up to nine times. In a typical mill recycling process, the temperature of the paper sheet reaches 220-240 degrees Fahrenheit, well above 100 degrees Celsius, the boiling point of water and the temperature required for sterilisation. The converting process also involves high temperatures and other hygiene controls 

Having a fresh box every time minimises the potential for undesirable pathogens and bacteria being carried forward to the consumer. A recent independent study of corrugated produce boxes in the Northwest US, California and Florida, for example, found that every single one of the 720 corrugated boxes tested met acceptable sanitisation levels.

Warriner video backgrounds the issue

Warriner video backgrounds the issue

The crate system, on the other hand, a system based on using the same crates again and again, is clearly struggling to ensure that its crates are adequately sanitised between uses. University of Guelph food scientist, Dr Keith Warriner, recently found that a high proportion of crates arriving in Canada for re-use were in poor sanitary condition. Of particular concern was the high prevalence of food safety indicators, especially E. coli on 13% of the crates tested.

Similar conclusions were reached by Dr Trevor Suslow in a subsequent University of California-Davis study. Suslow even suggested that growers and packer/shippers protect themselves by doing rapid bacterial swab tests on the crates. Fresh produce, he told Food Safety News, shouldn’t come into direct contact with reusable containers. “If you can’t control contamination, you have to start looking for other options.”

 

References   [ + ]

1.  “When we divert cardboard, not only do we reduce the cost and the environmental consequences of sending it to landfill, it’s all recycled and turned into revenue for us.”- Loblaw Green Team member quoted in Canadian Grocer magazine. PPEC estimates that Canadian retailers received over $50 million in revenue for their old corrugated boxes last year. 
2. Paper fibres can be recycled up to nine times. In a typical mill recycling process, the temperature of the paper sheet reaches 220-240 degrees Fahrenheit, well above 100 degrees Celsius, the boiling point of water and the temperature required for sterilisation. The converting process also involves high temperatures and other hygiene controls 

A lasting legacy of New York’s famous garbage barge, PPEC turns 25

John Mullinder, Executive DirectorIt was the garbage barge that did it. Over several months in 1987, the waste-packed Mobro 4000 chugged between US ports, hoping to offload its increasingly smelly cargo. Port after port refused to accept it. Turned away by Mexico and Belize, the “most watched load of garbage in the memory of man” took on a life of its own, a television saga, its daily progress (or lack of progress) constantly tracked like the recent search for an airliner missing over the Indian Ocean.(1)NBC claimed at the time that the Mobro 4000 was “chased away by the warplanes of two nations, presumably Mexico and Belize. The second quotation, “the most watched load of garbage in the memory of man” is attributed to news anchor, Dan Rather. Here is an interesting video from the NY Times, Retro Report

Mobro4000

The Mobro 4000 morphed into a telegenic symbol of a wasteful society, and together with an OECD report that portrayed Canadians as among the worst wasters in the world, encouraged politicians to do something about waste, especially packaging waste. In true Canadian fashion, a multi-stakeholder committee was set up, plans drafted, and in 1990 a National Protocol proclaimed.

PPEC was not yet in existence, but the National Packaging Protocol certainly got the attention of its future members. High-level meetings were held, and the decision taken to send a delegation to Ottawa to tell Environment Canada just what a great job the paper industry was doing in recycling.

The Ottawa meeting did not go as well as expected. Senior industry executives were stunned to discover that corrugated boxes, in particular, were considered to be “public enemy number one.” On a weight basis, they were a key and inviting target. “But we’re a major packaging material,” the executives argued, “so of course there’s going to be a lot of it. We’re also heavier than most other packaging, so yes, we’re going to stick out.” Adding for emphasis: “We also have a great record of paper recovery.” Nothing seemed to matter.

Somewhat chastened, the group reassembled back in Toronto to pass on the bad news. We need a national umbrella body, they decided, that would represent all the various sectors of the industry, both mills and converters, on environmental issues. A body with one voice, not several; and one that would come up with practical solutions, rather than having stupid (government) ones forced upon us; a body that would tell our story, and promote our achievements.

PPEC was born. This year it turns 25.(2)PPEC is organising a special afternoon and dinner celebration of its 25th anniversary in Mississauga, Ontario on October 28. Registration details will be available shortly.

References   [ + ]

1. NBC claimed at the time that the Mobro 4000 was “chased away by the warplanes of two nations, presumably Mexico and Belize. The second quotation, “the most watched load of garbage in the memory of man” is attributed to news anchor, Dan Rather. Here is an interesting video from the NY Times, Retro Report
2. PPEC is organising a special afternoon and dinner celebration of its 25th anniversary in Mississauga, Ontario on October 28. Registration details will be available shortly.

False and misleading claims removed from IFCO website

John Mullinder, Executive DirectorThe North American paper packaging industry has served notice that it will challenge (legally, if necessary) any false and misleading claims about its operations and environmental impact. Case in point: major plastic crate supplier, IFCO.

IFCO is lobbying North American grocery retailers to move away from the traditional corrugated box system of delivering fruit and vegetables. In the course of promoting its plastic crate alternative, IFCO has made various economic and environmental claims. This is its right. But IFCO (and others) also have a responsibility to be able to substantiate any such public claims when challenged.

Among the most pernicious of IFCO’s recent claims were that “most (corrugated) boxes” were disposed of in landfills, and that only “a small percentage of used boxes (were) recycled.” These claims were so patently false (certainly to the corrugated industry) that for a while they served as a great example of IFCO’s lack of credibility on this issue.

Colley: Need for facts and data back-up.

Colley: Need for facts and data back-up.

But now the kid gloves have come off. The US-based Fibre Box Association recently sent a “cease and desist” letter to IFCO demanding documentation to substantiate its claims, or removal of them from the IFCO website. Within 24 hours of IFCO receiving the letter, the untrue statements had been removed. “Let’s use this (example) as a reminder,” said FBA President/CEO Dennis Colley, “to be fact-based; to have data to back up our claims; and to challenge those who don’t.”(1)FBA Forces IFCO Website Change, Board Converting News, December 22, 2014

For the record, some 89% of US corrugated boxes were recovered for recycling in the most recent data year. (2)US EPA Municipal Waste Characterisation tables, 2013. PPEC estimates the Canadian rate at about 85 per cent.(3)The most recent national recycling statistics for packaging materials in Canada are now 18 years old! In 1996, Statistics Canada estimated corrugated recovery at 76%. PPEC estimates this has improved since then, partly because of increased residential recovery efforts. The recovery rate for corrugated in Ontario’s Blue Box program, for example, was 85% in 2012.  In both countries, most grocery stores recover nearly all of their corrugated boxes in backroom balers. The baled material is then sold to generate revenue before being recycled back into new corrugated boxes.(4)“When we divert cardboard, not only do we reduce the cost and the environmental consequences of sending it to landfill, it’s all recycled and turned into revenue for us.” – Loblaw Green Team member quoted in Canadian Grocer magazine. PPEC estimates that Canadian retailers received over $50 million in revenue for their old corrugated boxes last year.

References   [ + ]

1. FBA Forces IFCO Website Change, Board Converting News, December 22, 2014
2. US EPA Municipal Waste Characterisation tables, 2013.
3. The most recent national recycling statistics for packaging materials in Canada are now 18 years old! In 1996, Statistics Canada estimated corrugated recovery at 76%. PPEC estimates this has improved since then, partly because of increased residential recovery efforts. The recovery rate for corrugated in Ontario’s Blue Box program, for example, was 85% in 2012.
4. “When we divert cardboard, not only do we reduce the cost and the environmental consequences of sending it to landfill, it’s all recycled and turned into revenue for us.” – Loblaw Green Team member quoted in Canadian Grocer magazine. PPEC estimates that Canadian retailers received over $50 million in revenue for their old corrugated boxes last year.

State of Canada’s forests explained in one easy to understand graphic

John Mullinder, Executive DirectorThe latest report on the state of Canada’s forests by the federal government department that’s charged with monitoring it (Natural Resources Canada) has a graphic that succinctly explains much of what PPEC has been writing about during the course of the year.

The Deforestation Myth:  Most of the deforestation occurring in the world is happening in tropical forests, not in Canada or even North America. The percentage of land lost to deforestation in Canada in the latest data year amounts to less than 0.02% of the country’s 348 million hectares of forest.  And contrary to popular opinion, the major cause of that net deforestation in Canada is not the forestry industry but rather forest lost to agriculture and oil and gas exploration. Canada’s net deforestation is represented by the smallest circle in the graphic. You have to squint to see it.

The State of Canada's Forests

The “Running out of Trees” mantra: The Canadian lumber and forest industry harvested less than 0.6 million hectares in 2012 (which is actually down by 12% on the previous year). That 0.6 million hectares represents less than 0.2% of Canada’s forest lands (as depicted in the second smallest circle). By law, that harvest must be regenerated, either naturally or by direct seeding and planting. Over a thousand new forest seedlings on average are planted somewhere in Canada every minute.

Natural disturbances have a far greater impact on Canada’s forests than human disturbances: Some 4.2 million hectares of forest was lost to forest fires (the red circle) in the latest data year, more than seven times the size of the commercial harvest. Even larger was the loss of forests to insects (mainly the mountain pine beetle), more than 14 times the area harvested (the turquoise circle).

Canada leads the world in independent, third-party certification of sustainably managed forests:  Over 40% of the world’s certified forests are right here in Canada where they are certified to one or more of the internationally recognised certification programs: Forest Stewardship Council (FSC), Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI) or Programme for the Endorsement of Forestry Certification (PEFC) which partners with the Canadian Standards Association (CSA).  This is the blue circle. More impressive perhaps is the fact that the area independently certified as sustainably managed forest is an incredible 255 times larger than the total area actually harvested. Now there’s a model for the oil and gas industry to follow!

 

If you want to get the facts on the state of Canada’s forests, in a very readable and concise format (43 illustrated pages before you hit the back-up data and sources), checking out this Natural Resources Canada report would be a great start.