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Over the last century, an enormous amount of metals and minerals materials have been used to build the infrastructure and to manufacture the products that enable the Canadian economy to function and grow. The drive to use materials more efficiently has given rise to a growing recycling industry. Many end-of-life products and infrastructures are managed accordingly, but many others are not.

Statistics Canada reports that total solid waste disposal increased by 8% between 2004 and 2006. The robust economy has led to higher production and consumption levels in Canada; fortunately, the amount of material recycled has also increased, by about 9%. Performance indicators are mixed, however: a significant amount of recyclable materials, roughly $1.5 billions worth, continues to be discarded every year in Canada. Canadian government must contribute to the implementation of smarter programs and policies to make Canada more resource efficient.

The Enhanced Recycling program, for example, was a six-year endeavour to stimulate discussion among public, private and non-profit sector partners. A number of projects were launched to bridge information gaps, explore new areas with resource recovery potential and introduce new ideas and programs. The process established a national network of stakeholders in maximizing resource efficiency and minimizing waste.

The momentum generated by the Enhanced Recycling program must continue. The price of maintaining the status quo is the opportunity value of the ever-increasing amount of recyclable material discarded in Canada. Our collective recycling knowledge must be expanded so that new policies and programs to reduce waste (whether of resources, energy, time or money) can be developed.