Oy vey, the data! Using data to understand how much material we recycle, compost and throw away

Did you know, on a daily basis approximately 600 tonnes of total waste is collected from the curb?  Of that, 45% is Blue Box recycling and GreenCart organics, and 20% is yard waste.  And there is an average of 60 collection vehicles on the road everyday picking up residential waste!

Now imagine that happening five days a week, 52 weeks a year – that’s a whole lot of action, which results in a lot of information that needs to be tracked.

So why do we need to know so much?

It is astounding how much data is collected by Halton Region.  There are so many, reports, strategies and studies, along with accompanying statistics and graphs, that are compiled on a regular basis to help ensure various services for residents are well thought out and achievable.  Waste Management Services is one Region division that uses a lot of data!

If you read our recent blog post on Waste Management Legislation, you are now more aware of the various governing bodies that control different aspects of disposing, diverting and managing waste.  Because Halton Region manages waste at a municipal level, we have to report everything to the higher powers (industry funders, and the provincial and federal governments) — and I mean everything!

HWMS Scalehouse

If you have ever been to the Halton Waste Management Site (HWMS), you will know that when you arrive you go to the Scalehouse — this is where all vehicles get weighed in and out, including the Miller Waste Systems collection trucks, which are one of Halton’s contractors you see out there everyday collecting waste at the curb.  All waste management facilities have a scale because weights must be kept and tracked.  We need to know how much material is being processed or disposed of every day, week, month, and year!

Miller Truck Collecting Recycling & Organics

In Halton, the waste collected from your house is picked-up by a few different trucks.  Garbage is collected in one truck and taken directly to the HWMS for disposal.  Yard waste is collected in another truck and taken to the HWMS where it is composted on site.

The recycling and organics are collected together in a co-collection vehicle (one truck with two compartments inside).  The recycling and organics vehicles go to two private transfer stations: Leferink in Georgetown and Norjohn in Burlington.  From there, the materials are shipped in large transport trucks to their respective processing facilities: the Blue Box recycling goes to Emterra Environmental in Burlington where the items are sorted and sent to market, and the GreenCart organics goes to the Central Composting Facility in Hamilton where it is turned into beautiful, nutrient-rich compost.

Every single load that is brought into any of these locations is tracked and weighed.  We track what, where, and how much is collected.  The information collected is vital to operating an efficient and cost-effective waste management program.

We use this data to plan our annual budgets, to predict the remaining life of the landfill, and to assess waste management trends.  For example, Blue Box recycling tonnages were down by a total of 4.7% from 2006 to 2007, however this was a result of less glass being placed in the Blue Box due to the start of the deposit return program for all liquor bottles in Ontario.

We also use all of this information to report to Waste Diversion Ontario (WDO) the amount of waste materials like Blue Box, tires, electronics and household hazardous waste that is managed by Halton for recycling.  WDO uses this data to determine how much funding we’ll receive to support our various recycling programs.

Other “datacalls” requiring data gathered from our programs include:

Tracking these tonnages, as well as conducting regular waste audits, is also the way we are able to determine if our waste diversion programs are in fact working.  We need to have a benchmark in order to measure whether a program is successful, which is reported to Halton Regional Council on an annual basis.

In addition, we use these statistics as a way to determine possible future initiatives such as those in our Solid Waste Management Strategy.

So, as you can see from this quick overview of the exciting world of data collection and analysis, there are quite a lot of reasons why we ask you so many questions when you pull up to the Scalehouse to unload that pile of garbage!

All of the information that we collect has a purpose, and I have to say — we have quite a file room!

About Andrea Graham

I currently work in the Waste Management Services division for Halton Region as the Administration Technician. This involves data management and analysis, and financial administration of the waste collection and processing contracts. I am determined to travel the world, and you may see me scooting around town on my Vespa.
This entry was posted in Blue Box, Disposal, Education, GreenCart, Household Hazardous Waste, Landfill, Product Stewardship, Recycle, Reduce, Reuse and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to Oy vey, the data! Using data to understand how much material we recycle, compost and throw away

  1. Pingback: Oy vey, the data! Using data to understand how much material we … | TrashQuote.com

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