Municipal solid waste management in Canada

In Canada approximately 97% of the waste requiring final disposal is sent to landfills and 3% is incinerated. Provincial and territorial authorities establish waste reduction policies and programs and approve and monitor waste management facilities and operations including: incinerators, landfills and composting facilities. Municipalities are responsible the collection, recycling, composting and disposal of household waste.

Final waste treatment options such as landfilling and incineration have environmental impacts, including releases of pollutants to air and water. Today, by using advanced pollution control technologies and modern engineering, the health and environmental effects of waste disposal can be reduced. 


Landfilling is the primary method of municipal waste disposal in Canada. Modern municipal solid waste (MSW) landfills are designed and located to minimize the impacts on the social and natural environment as much as possible. Modern MSW landfills can collect and treat leachate - the rain water that accumulates and becomes contaminated as it travels through waste.  When equipped with the proper technology, landfills can capture greenhouse gases which then can be used to produce energy or renewable natural gas.

It is important to know that even modern MSW landfills are not suitable for the disposal of hazardous waste. Such waste should only be disposed of in hazardous waste landfills. Hazardous waste landfills incorporate extra environmental protective measures, store wastes in a secure manner, while any potential emissions are minimized and carefully monitored.


Modern incineration is a type of thermal treatment recognized as an effective method for eliminating a wide range of wastes.  Different types of incinerators are used in Canada such as Waste-to-Energy (WTE) facilities, municipal wastewater sludge incinerators, hazardous waste incinerators and biomedical incinerators.

Incineration can reduce the volume of MSW by 90%.  Today, incinerators use advanced air pollution controls and can include technologies that remove 99% of the dioxins and furans emitted from incineration. Additionally, best management practices are used in Canada such as implementation of the Canada-wide Standards for the emissions of dioxins/furans and mercury from waste incineration (CWS) developed by the Canadian Council of Ministers of the Environment (CCME):

For smaller incinerators, a Technical Document for Batch Waste Incineration provides guidance for owners and operators of batch waste incinerators to assist them in achieving the intent of the CWS, and reducing releases of other toxic substances.

In 2023, Morrison Hershfield conducted a study on waste to energy approaches for processing non-hazardous municipal solid waste (excluding materials diverted through recycling and composting initiatives) in Canada. This study determines the potential for large-scale waste to energy projects in Canada. 

Get a copy of the report.

Municipal solid waste organics processing

Composting biodegradable, food and yard waste is a very effective method of diverting a large proportion of municipal waste from landfill.  Other benefits include a reduction of greenhouse gases and a reduction of leachate from landfills. The finished composting end product then can be used for many beneficial uses.

Northern and remote communities

Northern and remote communities face many unique challenges with waste management, such as limited or no access to: recycling programs, hazardous household waste disposal options and properly designed waste management facilities. This results in environmental and health risks for northern communities, especially when open waste burning is used as a disposal method.

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