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Author Archive for Rachel Kagan

Statistics Canada’s New Waste Management Survey Results: Paper Represents 36% of Diversion

Statistics Canada released the results of its biennial Waste Management Industry Survey: Business and Government Sector, containing waste diversion data for 2018.

The new data shows that Canadian households and businesses diverted 9,817,607 tonnes of waste in 2018, up 5.8% from 2016.

Of the total amount diverted, 3,519,689 tonnes were paper fibres (which includes newsprint, cardboard and boxboard, and mixed paper), representing 36% of the total amount diverted in 2018.

While paper diversion represents the majority of materials diverted from landfill in Canada, compared to previous years Statistics Canada data, paper diversion has been trending slightly down year over year since 2014.

The next leading category of materials diverted in Canada for 2018 was organics with 29% of the total share of diversion.

Digging deeper into paper diversion, of the 3.5M total tonnes diverted in Canada in 2018, about 44% was diverted through residential sources (ie. Blue Box recycling programs), while the remaining 56% was diverted through non-residential sources (ie. Industrial Commercial and Institutional collection).

Statistics Canada reported that Saskatchewan had the highest rate of residential paper fibre recycling among the provinces, at almost 70%, or 38,000 tonnes of its total 57,000 tonnes of paper recycling.

Below is a full breakdown of sources of paper diversion by province, for both residential and non-residential (IC&I) diversion. Of note, British Columbia had the highest IC&I paper fibre diversion rate at 78% (433,609 tonnes of its total 553,596 tonnes of diverted paper materials); while Ontario had the largest share of paper diversion by tonnage through both IC&I (736,790 tonnes) and residential (581,930 tonnes) sources.

Background on the Statistics Canada Data

Statistics Canada’s Waste Management Industry Survey of the business and government sectors is conducted every two years.

The 2018 results were released on March 8, 2021.

Some of the data contained in this blog are from Waste materials diverted, by type and by source (Table: 38-10-0138-01) which includes the following footnote:

This information covers only those companies and local waste management organizations that reported non-hazardous recyclable material preparation activities and refers only to that material entering the waste stream and does not cover any waste that may be managed on-site by a company or household. Additionally, these data do not include those materials transported by the generator directly to secondary processors, such as pulp and paper mills, while bypassing entirely any firm or local government involved in waste management activities.

Rachel Kagan

Executive Director Paper & Paperboard Packaging Environmental Council (PPEC)

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Providing Clarity on The Ottawa Citizen’s Cardboard Recycling Article

Last week, The Ottawa Citizen’s Kelly Egan wrote an article about cardboard recycling in Canada. In Thinking inside the box — pandemic creates crush of new cardboard, Egan provides some stats about paper packaging recycling and the consumption of trees — some of which are correct, and some of which are confusing.

Egan reached out to the Paper and Paperboard Packaging Environmental Council (PPEC) for some information on paper recycling, and while he used some of the data we provided, PPEC was not mentioned in the article.

With regards to recycling, Egan wrote:

“Paper and cardboard are considered the success stories in the recycling world. Two main reasons: as much as 98 per cent (depends who’s counting) of corrugated cardboard is recycled and any “new” cardboard uses very high content of recycled fibre.”

Yes, paper and cardboard are indeed success stories, and PPEC and the Canadian paper packaging industry is proud of that. As for who’s counting, it is Stewardship Ontario (who operates the Blue Box program under the authority of the The Waste-Free Ontario Act, 2016) who is doing the counting. Ontario’s 98% recovery rate for corrugated cardboard, the most recent available data, is from the 2020 Blue Box Pay-In Model.

As for recycled content, most of the paper packaging material made by Canadian mills today is 100% recycled content, according to PPEC’s most recent Recycled Content Survey. Old corrugated boxes and cartons are collected through residential Blue Box recycling programs across the country, as well as from the factories and supermarkets, and used to create recycled content product.

Egan goes on to write about tree consumption:

While this is considered a shining example of the so-called circular economy, paper and cardboard production does gobble up a lot of trees, as per this snippet from a recent Washington Post story: “Global consumption of trees reaches roughly 15 billion each year, including three billion for paper packaging, according to the Environmental Paper Network. The industry relies on recycling virgin fibre — the basis of cardboard boxes — five to seven times, saving trees and improving the bottom line.”

The Washington Post story Egan is quoting from is How Big Cardboard is handling the 2020 box boom (December 30, 2020). But using a global figure about tree consumption, in an article about paper packaging in Ottawa, could lead to some unnecessary confusion.

When it comes to Canada’s trees, less than half of one per cent of our forests are harvested for pulp, paper and lumber uses each year. In 2018, the harvested area represented 0.2% of the total area of forest land, according to Natural Resources Canada. And by law, all forests harvested on crown land (over 90% of Canada’s forest land is publicly-owned) must be successfully regenerated.

Not that we use of lot of trees to make paper packaging to begin with. On average, the recycled content of paper packaging shipped domestically is 71 per cent; and the balance of Canadian paper packaging comes from wood residues – wood chips, shavings and sawdust left over from lumber operations – with only 11% coming directly from trees (roundwood pulp), according to PPEC’s The Truth About Trees members only Fact Sheet.

According to the Washington Post article Egan quoted from, virgin fibre is recycled five and seven times; but according to our information, paper fibres can be recycled between four and nine times in Canada.

And while Egan refers to the “so-called circular economy,” PPEC truly believes that we do have a circular economy for paper packaging. Our Paper Packaging Flow Chart shows the cycle of how our material is collected, sorted, and sent to recycling mills to make new packaging; illustrating the circularity in the manufacture and use of paper, a renewable, sustainable and recyclable resource.

Rachel Kagan

Executive Director Paper & Paperboard Packaging Environmental Council (PPEC)

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PPEC Blog to Introduce Myself

Hello and welcome to my first blog as executive director of The Paper & Paperboard Packaging Environmental Council (PPEC). I am Rachel Kagan and as of February 1st I’ve taken over from John Mullinder, but you can still find him writing about paper on his personal blog.

But back to me… I enjoy organising information and data, drawing insights and identifying trends, and turning that into reports, blogs, social media posts, and other communication and advocacy vehicles.

For the past two years, I have been freelance consulting for small and medium-sized businesses and associations, providing research, legislative and policy analysis, content creation, and project management services.

Prior to that, I have 15+ years of industry association experience, working with members to develop consensus-based policy positions, as well as government submissions, industry reports, and presentations on packaging recycling and Extended Producer Responsibility, food waste, and climate change issues.

Over the past pandemic year, like others, my reliance on deliveries and online shopping has increased, and with it, so has my paper packaging (and my recycling of that paper packaging!). And in starting this role a few weeks ago, I haven’t been able to look at a corrugated box the same way since!

Thanks to PPEC, I now know that the wavy layer of the box is the corrugated medium, and the layers of paper are the liners; but more importantly, I know that those boxes are sustainable and made of recycled content.

And thanks to the Canadian Corrugated & Containerboard Association’s Humble Box Sanitary and Safe video, I also now know that the box being delivered to my home is hygienic and clean.

But I have a lot more to learn about the industry, so I am reading PPEC’s past blogs, Fact Sheets, and other informative resources.

I look forward to applying my experience, skills, and interest in sustainability to PPEC’s work in tracking, monitoring, and promoting the environmental performance and achievements of the Canadian paper packaging industry.

Please feel free to email if you have any questions or comments for me as I get started in this new role.

Rachel Kagan

Executive Director Paper & Paperboard Packaging Environmental Council (PPEC)

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