Calculating the True Cost of Waste

 

It’s well known that Canada’s building sector contributes significantly to national GHG emissions—as much as 17 per cent of emissions. But it is more than just the operation of buildings that contributes—it’s also the impact of construction, materials and waste.

As we recognize Waste Reduction Week in Canada, we are encouraged by the way the industry is implementing green building programs like Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED), the Zero Carbon Building Standard, Parksmart and TRUE Zero Waste in order to minimize construction and operational emissions including those from landfill.

Landfill emissions rival those of the building sector with a portion attributed to building construction and operational waste. Leaders from various sectors of Canada’s green building sector are reducing landfill emissions by pursuing waste diversion credits for LEED projects and TRUE certification for facility and operational waste reduction. Efforts from LEED alone have resulted in diverting over 3.6 million tonnes of construction and demolition waste from Canadian landfills since 2005.

By analyzing how materials flow through our jobsites, buildings and society, we can better understand the environmental and financial costs to waste. Considering the entire lifecycle of materials discarded during day-to-day operations shifts our perception of waste so that we can begin to view it as a resource or even a commodity. Canadian companies such as Riverside Natural Foods, Cintas and Que Pasa Mexican Foods are leveraging the TRUE Zero Waste certification as a pathway to redesign how they approach waste and their supply chains to minimize environmental impacts while boosting their bottom line. These TRUE leaders have been able to achieve up to 98 per cent waste diversion by changing their practices and engaging with vendors, haulers and staff.

As we celebrate Waste Reduction Week, we will be sharing success stories from members in various sectors and hope you will do the same to help everyone take a step forward and reduce their waste and carbon footprints.