Municipal Solid Waste Disposal in B.C. (1990-2021)

This indicator reports the estimated amount of municipal solid waste disposed per person for each regional district and for British Columbia. The per‐person disposal rate is an estimate of how many kilograms of solid waste each B.C. resident sends to a landfill or other disposal site in a given year.

Key Facts and Figures

  • Approximately 2.7 million tonnes of municipal solid waste was disposed of in B.C. in 2021. While there has been an overall decreasing trend in municipal solid waste disposal rates since the 1990's, much of the waste disposed of could be reduced (by not being generated in the first place), repurposed, composted or recycled.
  • Waste reduction efforts have become more and more important as the B.C. population continues to increase, landfills approach their capacity for receiving new waste, and the imperative to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from waste disposal grows.
  • Tracking waste disposal across B.C. is important as it provides historic trend information and the current status of waste disposal—both of which inform and guide efforts to reduce the amount of waste we create.
  • In 2021, British Columbians disposed of an average of 506 kg of municipal solid waste per person — down 63 kg per person since 2012, though higher than the low of 473 kg/person in 2016.
  • Provincial initiatives which support decreases in waste disposal rates include the CleanBC Plastics Action Planorganics diversionfood waste prevention, and extended producer responsibility (recycling) programs, and funding for organics infrastructure and collection.
  • Variability in disposal rates from one region to the next is influenced by factors such as population density, economic activity, tourist and transient population fluctuations, distance to recycling markets, the role of various stewardship agencies operating in an area and the capacity and infrastructure in place in a region. While disposal rate data do not tell the whole story, they are useful in setting the stage for continuous improvement in waste management in B.C.

Interpreting the Data:

  • 2021 disposal rates were provided by regional districts.
  • Where no bar is shown on a chart for certain previous years, a verifiable estimate was not available.
  • Historic disposal rates cannot be directly compared between years because the data were collected using different methods. However, the data from 2012 onward have been collected using the same methodology.
  • In some cases, waste from light industry may be included in the municipal solid waste disposal rate data as it cannot be disaggregated.
  • Regional district population estimates are sourced from BC Stats. Alberni-Clayoquot, Metro Vancouver, Squamish-Lillooet and East Kootenay population estimates have been adjusted to take into account tourist poplations, based on data submitted by the regional districts.
  • Disposal rates for Comox Valley and Strathcona are reported as one as they handle their waste streams together.
  • The 2020 disposal tonnage for Thompson-Nicola Regional District and Regional District of Central Kootenay was updated in October 2023 based on new data provided by these regional districts and the updates are now included in the data presented. The updates were not large enough to change the provincial disposal rate of 499 kg per person in 2020.

Regional districts that wish to update the waste disposal data reported above should contact the Environmental Standards Branch. Input from regional districts will also serve to inform future waste reporting methodology development.

The R code supporting this indicator is available on GitHub.


*By accessing these datasets, you agree to the licence associated with each file, as indicated in parentheses below.

Updated November 2023

Suggested Citation: Environmental Reporting BC. 2023. Municipal Solid Waste Disposal in B.C. (1990-2021). State of Environment Reporting, Ministry of Environment and Climate Change Strategy, British Columbia, Canada.