Municipal solid waste: a shared responsibility

The word “waste” refers to any material, non-hazardous or hazardous, that has no further use, and is managed at recycling, processing, or disposal sites. Municipal solid waste (MSW) refers to recyclables and compostable materials, as well as garbage from households, businesses, institutions, and construction and demolition sites.

In Canada, the responsibility for managing and reducing waste is shared among federal, provincial, territorial and municipal governments.  Municipal governments manage the collection, recycling, composting, and disposal of household waste, while provincial and territorial authorities establish waste reduction policies and programs, approve and monitor waste management facilities and operations.

For its part, the federal government complements the activities of the other levels of government by controlling international and interprovincial movements of hazardous waste and hazardous recyclable material, as well as identifying approaches and best practices that will reduce pollutant and greenhouse gas emissions from the management of waste.

Through a wide variety of programs, the federal government provides funding for pilot projects, community activities and major infrastructure in order to reduce waste sent to landfills and improve how Canada manages its resources. It also collaborates with provincial, territorial, municipal and indigenous partners to develop and implement standards on matters of mutual concern such as the management of plastics and mercury from used fluorescent lights. Under the Canadian Council of Ministers of the Environment (CCME), environment ministers from the federal, provincial and territorial governments work together to improve waste reduction policies and practices across Canada.

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