17% Diversion – What does this mean?

On November 26, 2010, in Speaking Up, by Justin

“Winnipeg diverts 17% of its residential waste” is a phrase that has come up often during this project. What does this mean?

According to the Federation of Canadian Municipalities[1]:

Waste diversion directs garbage away from landfills or incinerators through, reuse, recycling, composting or gas production through anaerobic digestion.  Waste diversion is a key component of effective and sustainable waste management.

Waste management is the process of collecting, processing and disposing of waste.

City of Winnipeg diversion programs

Brady Road Landfill diversion programs

  • More than 500 tonnes of metal recycled each year
  • More than 5,000 tonnes of glass diverted and used for road base
  • More than 2,000 tonnes of wood waste diverted and turned into flooring and other products
  • Bicycle recycling – over 4,000 removed and refurbished
  • Recycling of sand from street sweepings (potential to reuse up to 40,000 tonnes per year)

Winnipeg has a highly successful blue box recycling program, but for residential material only. The Garbage and Recycling Master Plan will need to address waste from other customer groups (i.e., institutional, commercial, industrial, construction and demolition).

Winnipeg’s diversion rate

  • In 2009, our diversion rate was 17 % – 293,000 tonnes of residential waste[2] went to the landfill and 49,000 tonnes were diverted.
  • This is the lowest rate among major Canadian cities. The chart below shows how Winnipeg’s diversion rate compares to other cities.
Approximate waste diversion rate comparison of major Canadian cities

Approximate waste diversion rate comparison of major Canadian cities. Edmonton: 60%; Halifax 57%; Metro Vancouver 55%; Toronto 67%; Winnipeg 17%

Waste diversion in other cities is higher because they have programs to divert organics (kitchen and yard waste).

What’s in our garbage?

All residential waste in Winnipeg can be divided into four main types.

  • 28% food waste
  • 24% yard waste
  • 15% recycling
  • 33% other waste

How much did we divert in 2009?

  • 45,000 tonnes from the residential blue box program
  • 2,200 tonnes of yard waste from City programs

The future of garbage and recycling in our city

  • How can we divert more?
  • What kind of opportunities do you see for increasing our waste diversion in Winnipeg?
  • What percentage should we target for waste diversion?

[1] Federation of Canadian Municipalities (2009). Getting to 50% and Beyond: Waste Diversion Success Stories from Canadian Municipalities. P. 1.

[2] ~230,000 tonnes disposed through home collection and ~64,000 tonnes from small loads disposed at Brady Landfill

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7 Responses to 17% Diversion – What does this mean?

  1. Karen Smith says:

    Watch "Hummus" on Oasis HD on March 8, 2011 – this is an incredible documentary and everyone should watch it to learn about what's happening in the world re: agriculture and composting and our environment. Pass it on!

  2. Karen Smith says:


    Composts can vary quite widely in their chemical and physical characteristics, since
    many of these depend on the original feedstocks used and the conditions maintained
    while the material was composting. In general, though, composts share ability to provide
    these benefits:

    · As compost breaks down in the soil, it provides the fertilizer nutrients of
    nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium in forms that are readily available to
    · Unlike most inorganic fertilizers, compost functions as a slow-release store of
    nutrients, so that the nutrients are available as the plants require them instead
    of in one intense flush.
    · Compost also provides a wide range of important micronutrients not found in
    commercial fertilizers.

    · Added to sandy soils, the organic matter in compost increases the soil’s waterholding
    ability so that both rain and irrigation water are held in the root zone
    for plant use. This can significantly lower the irrigation requirements in the
    · orchard industry and other applications where water use is restricted or
    prohibitively expensive.
    · Compost lightens heavy (high clay) soils, allowing better infiltration of both
    air and water into the root zone. This improves plant health and helps to
    prevent sealing of the soil surface caused by water pooling.
    · Organic matter functions like a sponge, enabling soil to retain nutrients and
    moisture in the root zone. Inorganic fertilizer nutrients as well as those
    released by the compost itself are kept from leaching down into ground water.
    · Soil structure is improved, allowing effective drainage, extensive root growth,
    and soil aggregate stabilization, so that soil is less subject to erosion by either
    water or wind.
    · Earthworm activity is encouraged, further enhancing soil fertility.

    · Compost is biologically active, supplying a range of microorganisms that
    enhance the health of both soil and crops.
    · Compost appears to suppress some types of plant disease—the exact
    mechanism is not yet fully understood [see Disease and Pest Control in
    Useful Tools].

    · Properly processed compost will not introduce weed seeds or human
    pathogens when applied.

    When used as a mulch, compost can:
    · Conserve soil moisture, reducing the need for irrigation in dry areas
    · Miminize weed growth
    · Insulate soil to slow temperature changes; dark colour may also help soils to
    warm more quickly in spring and retain heat longer in the fall.
    Beyond the traits common to all composts, it is important to know that different
    feedstocks can produce finished composts that vary in some of their characteristics.
    Different plant species may be benefited, harmed, or unaffected by particular traits—
    knowing this can help compost producers match their finished product to applications
    where it is most likely to be successful. It may also provide an opportunity to produce a
    custom-matched compost for a particular market. Composts can vary considerably on the
    following characteristics:

    · most composts are in the neutral pH range by the time they are mature. Those
    utilizing feedstocks that are significantly either basic or acidic may end up
    with a product that is still above or below neutral. Many crop and turf species
    are not noticeably affected by this difference, but sensitive species can be. In
    addition, some commercially grown plant species actually prefer relatively
    acidic or basic conditions.

    · Immature, active composts may be preferred by those building biofilters or
    covering landfills, while greenhouse growers require a very mature, stable
    product to use in seedling mixes. Many applications can tolerate a range in
    maturity levels, but sensitive crops require a more mature product.
    Other physical factors that can vary from compost to compost, and which may
    affect market targets include:

    · Different applications vary in how much plastic, glass, and other noncompostable
    material will be tolerated in the final product.

    · Screening the finished compost can produce a more widely desirable end
    product, but field, orchard; reclamation and landfill applications may not
    require the expense of this added step. In fact, a coarse-textured product is
    preferred for applications relying on compost’s air filtering ability, such as
    biofilter construction and landfill covering and capping.
    Whether they are growing and maintaining turf, producing trees or plants for sale,
    or maintaining fruit orchards, commercial growers are familiar with the requirements of
    their particular crops. To target a particular market effectively, it is important to develop
    a thorough understanding of that market’s particular needs. Compost producers need to
    be completely familiar with the capabilities of their particular process and with the
    characteristics of their own product in order to demonstrate and explain the relevant
    benefits compost can provide to specific groups of horticultural producers.

    Acknowledgement to The Composting Society of Canada for this literature.

    Composting is good for so many reasons.

  3. Karen McLachlan says:

    Businesses including government, retail, industrial, health, entertainment and manufacturing need to be mandated to separate their food/organic waste and have this diverted from the landfill. This waste can be composted into beautiful compost in a matter of weeks under ideal conditions including weather and management. It makes absolutely no sense to have this piled at the landfill when it can be recycled into lovely new soil and be placed in gardens, flower beds and used to build up where soil is lost.

    It's time to do this now.

    Residential could be started too within a very short time.

    It's time to get moving on this.

  4. Guest says:

    If you want to divert more by recycling, make it easier for people to do. The blue bins are small, and pick up isn't very coordinated. For example, I have to wheel the automated garbage cart to the backlane, and carry the blue box to the front street.

    Blue boxes are also too small to encourage greater "diverting". My recycling is always full far before the collection date. In my case, what would help is having a recycling cart as big as the garbage cart, on wheels, and having them both picked up in the same place. (Both in the backlane. With the same truck, that would be even smarter.)

  5. Aaron says:

    I think backyard composting is overlooked by this kind of analysis, the city doesn't keep track of how much waste households are diverting themselves, they only count it once it reaches one of the city programs. Backyard composting is the cheapest and cleanest way of diverting waste and it doesn't have the ugly side effect of putting more trucks on the road for some sort of city collection program.

    • SpeakUpWinnipeg says:

      Hi Aaron,

      We don’t include backyard composting when calculating our diversion rate, but we have some statistics on the topic.

      Over 40,000 backyard composters have been sold through the City’s truckload composter sale since 2002. Based on estimates of 60% usage at 100kg per composter, these backyard composters potentially divert over 2,000 tonnes of waste each year.

      Thanks for the feedback and please let us know if you have anymore questions!

  6. DENNIS PHAM says:

    one of the reasons i chose winnipeg university is this