NEWFOUNDLAND - January 30, 1998 - Canada exceeded its year 2000 target to reduce the weight of packaging sent for disposal fours years ahead of schedule, according to a report released today by the Canadian Council of Ministers of the Environment (CCME). The amount of packaging sent for disposal has been reduced 51 percent compared to baseline estimates established in 1988 by the CCME National Packaging Task Force, a voluntary group comprised of representatives from governments, industry, consumer and environmental groups. The target is one of three milestones identified in the National Packaging Protocol, a voluntary commitment to turn around Canada's packaging waste generation and disposal practices.
The Protocol created six packaging policies for Canada and voluntarily set as its main target a 50 percent reduction in packaging sent for disposal by the year 2000. The first target of a 20 percent reduction by 1992 was actually exceeded by one percent, for a total diversion of 21 percent. This achievement translated into 1.17 million metric tonnes less aluminum, glass, paper, plastic, steel and wood going to disposal. The second target was set for 1996 at 35 percent and the third target was set at 50 percent reduction by the end of the year 2000.
The 1996 results revealed that the weight of disposed packaging fell from 5.41 million tonnes in 1988 to 2.64 million tonnes in 1996, representing a 56 percent reduction on a per-capita basis. The year 2000 target was exceeded despite an 11 percent increase in Canada's population.
"Despite a growth in our population and GDP, we have significantly reduced the amount of packaging sent to landfill," said Newfoundland and Labrador's Environment Minister and President of CCME Oliver Langdon. "I am encouraged by our progress, impressed by the diligence of our stakeholders — from industry to consumers — and confident in our collective ability to further reduce the environmental impact of packaging in the future."
The most significant gains in packaging reduction were on the shipping, manufacturing and distribution side — which represented 60 percent of packaging used in 1988, compared to 40 percent for consumer packaging. According to George Cornwall, Chair of the National Packaging Task Force, the tremendous impact made at the front end of the process has paved the way for greater progress at the consumer level, which has already realized successes through trends such as light weighting, bulk purchasing and an increase in residential recycling.
The Protocol's milestone targets are measured against the 1988 Packaging Estimates, which are based on data from Statistics Canada's 1988 Census of Canadian Manufacturers; estimates provided by industry on packaging reuse and recycling; and merchandise trade data on the dollar values of imports and exports. The actual weight of packaging sent for disposal in Canada is determined through a number of activities, including a Statistics Canada survey sent to some 10,000 industrial establishments, inquiring about the weight of packaging used, reused and sent for recycling.
"Even though we have exceeded our year 2000 target through the efforts of industry in expanding and introducing new initiatives in reduction, reuse and recycling and through significant investment by municipalities in introducing and expanding residential recycling programs, we know that further progress can be made," said George Cornwall. In the months ahead, the Task Force will be reviewing the results of the 1996 survey, in detail, as part of a larger evaluation of the six policies of the Protocol. The review will concentrate on identifying areas where further opportunities for progress exist. CCME will also consider the need for a year 2000 survey as an opportunity to further monitor packaging disposal trends.
"No other country has examined its disposal of packaging with the rigour Canada has applied voluntarily," said Minister Langdon. "Our proactive response to the Protocol's call for action can serve as a model for waste diversion initiatives in other countries, and continued efforts under the Protocol can provide Canadian consumers with more opportunities to reduce, reuse and recycle," he concluded.
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