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Out of the trash, into the blue box

We've come a long way in reducing and re-using

Garbage day used to mean pitching out old newspapers, bottles and soup cans with the rest of the trash, but curbside recycling has made it just as easy to toss that pop can in the blue box as to stuff it in the garbage can. Back in 1982, only about two percent of our municipal waste was recycled. Now, 52 percent of Canadian households have curbside recycling while many others have access to recycling depots or both. That means less junk is going to landfills.

With recycling, almost everything old can be new again: most community recycling programs pick up paper, cans, glass and plastic, and many recycle Christmas trees, yard waste and large appliances too. Despite all this, each of us still throws away 18 kilograms of residential waste daily.

Geo Map
Waste factors
  • Recycling uses less energy and non-renewable resources and emits less air and water pollution compared to producing new materials.
  • Recycling plastic uses only five to ten percent as much energy as manufacturing new plastic.
  • Every tonne of crushed waste glass used saves 1.2 tonnes of raw materials and 135 litres of oil.
  • Every glass bottle recycled saves enough energy to light a 100-watt bulb for four hours.
  • Every tonne of newspaper recycled saves 19 trees and three cubic metres of landfill space.
  • From 1988 to 1996, the volume of cardboard boxes, paper bags and cartons sent to landfills was cut by 60 percent.
  • Every tonne of cans recycled saves 136 tonnes of iron ore and 3.6 barrels of oil.
  • Since 1985, more than 400,000 tonnes of cans have been diverted from landfill.
  • Every aluminum can recycled saves enough energy to power an average television for 108 minutes.
  • Toronto spends $59 per tonne to send blue box materials to recyclers compared to $87 per tonne to send waste to landfills.
  • Recycling creates six times as many jobs as other waste management options. These jobs include: haulers and sorters of material, equipment manufacturers, importers and exporters.

- Mary Vincent, Steven Fick, Canadian Geographic
This article first appeared in Canadian Geographic magazine, May/June 1999. It may not be reproduced without written permission from Canadian Geographic.

For more information on our recycling Geo Map in the May/June 1999 issue, see the following sources:


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Canadian Geographic magazine is an excellent resource for teachers and students. It provides posters in both official languages, such as the St. Lawrence Seaway map, as well as short geography related news items suitable for current events. In addition, the June issue each year is devoted to environmental issues such as wind energy.”

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