RECYCLING: Get With the Protocol

Municipal waste management GAPs

By: Maria Kelleher
Solid Waste & Recycling Magazine 2001-12-01

Across-Canada team organized by CSR: Corporations Supporting Recycling recently developed generally accepted principles (GAP) for measuring municipal solid waste flow. The CSR GAP Protocol allows municipalities to report waste flow and diversion in a consistent manner across the country.

Until GAP, doing an “apples to apples” comparison of municipal waste flow and diversion was difficult. The types of materials included in waste diversion measurements varied according to local programs. For instance, some municipalities included waste from commercial establishments and apartment buildings, but others did not. This lack of consistency plagued attempts to compare municipal, provincial and even federal waste generation and diversion figures.

In early 2000, CSR struck a national initiative to examine how to apply standardized principles and practices to municipal waste flow measurement. A team of 25 members drawn from municipalities, private sector companies, NGOs and provincial governments as well as three national representatives (from Statscan, Federation of Canadian Municipalities and Environment Canada) met on a monthly basis during that year.

By mid-year, the team had devised the protocol, which was tested for ease of application in a number of towns, cities and regions. In December 2000, the first edition of the GAP Manual, which describes the protocol, was released.

The protocol includes a user-friendly flow chart in which diversion is reported for the current year and is calculated as diverted tonnes divided by diverted plus disposed tonnes. The chart also allows municipalities to report diversion rates against a historical base year. The form required to generate the chart can be downloaded from the CSR web site (linked to When a municipality has completed its chart it has the option of posting it online. At press time, there were 31 GAP charts on the CSR web site, and a number of submissions were being verified.

GAP is a work in progress, as more municipalities with different issues get involved. As a result of input from municipalities and a peer review process undertaken in 2001 the GAP Manual has been re-released twice, each time incorporating suggestions received from users.

More GAP protocols

Following the success of the initial GAP work, another team (“GAP 2”) will tackle the challenge of developing a standard protocol for measuring and reporting the costs of municipal waste management systems. The GAP 2 team was formed in early 2001. A draft GAP Cost Protocol has just been released, and is being “alpha” tested in four municipalities (Halifax, Guelph, Waterloo and Calgary), before the end of 2001.

The GAP Cost Protocol should be available to municipalities across Canada by spring 2002. In the same way that GAP 1 allows municipalities to compare waste flow and diversion performance, it is hoped that GAP 2 will allow municipalities to compare costs of different waste management systems

In the future, a “GAP 3” team will apply a similar process to the measurement of environmental impacts of waste management systems.

For more information, call the GAP info-line at 416-594-3456, ext. 238 or e-mail