Although we have come a long way in reducing waste in our city, the average garbage bag in Toronto still contains only 21 per cent non-recyclable items! This means that 79 per cent of what we throw away should be disposed of elsewhere.

Waste Diversion

The contents of our garbage bags go to landfills and the best way we can minimize this is through waste diversion. Waste diversion is the process of diverting waste from landfills and can be achieved through reducing/reusing/recycling.

Mayfair on the Green

High-rise buildings in Toronto are notoriously inept at dealing with their garbage. One condo in Scarborough, Mayfair on the Green, was able to reduce their total waste by 95 per cent (1 dumpster a month, down from 20). Their waste diversion rate is a very high 86 per cent, well above the 26 per cent average for a high-rise building. This caught the attention of the Toronto Environment Alliance, and is quickly making headlines.

How did they cut garbage so dramatically? They went above and beyond the standard recycling room! Here are some examples of what they did:

  • They got everyone involved: the staff, the condo board and most importantly, the tenants.
  • Through education: going door to door to educate residents. Getting them excited about the project and handing out multilingual informational pamphlets.
  • A recycling room on the ground floor where tenants can collect items that require specialized recycling/disposal such as electronic waste, cooking oil, and hazardous materials such as cleaning supplies, batteries and old paint.
  • A sharing shelf: gently used household goods like books and clothes make their way to other tenants, or to a local charity.
  • The building replaced their garbage with an “organics chute”, discouraging garbage and acting as a very convenient green bin.

With rising waste management costs, it is no wonder we are seeing projects like this. The good publicity that this project has received will no doubt contribute to more condominiums getting involved.

Community pressure is important – from businesses, as well as the general public. When we see everyone else recycling, we feel a sense of obligation too. Who wants to be the only one on the street not putting out their recycling bins? With a little initiative and information people will get the momentum going

Garbage Bag Breakdown

Currently the average garbage bag in Toronto contains the following:

  • 41% organic waste
  • 20% blue bin items: paper/plastic/metal/glass
  • 6% reusable/donatable goods
  • 4% hazardous waste and electronics
  • 21% actual garbage (items we can’t recycle – yet!)

Luckily the majority of our waste can be recycled, but it is up to us to dedicate time and make the effort to put things where they belong.

Tips on How to Reduce Waste at Home:

  1. Donate: unwanted items instead of throwing them in the trash
  2. Rent or borrow: items that you will rarely use, such as tools
  3. Reuse: cooking oil, food containers, plastic bags
  4. Learn: about what is recyclable: common items that are not recyclable
  5. Buy only what you need: There are items we notoriously buy too much of (like 4L bags of milk when they are on sale) when this happens, offer some to your neighbours.
  6. Make recycling convenient: set up an organics/compost bin in the kitchen, put recycling bins in your office. Make it more convenient to access compost/recycling bins than garbage can.
  7. Use pictures/labels: Place labels on bins to identify where common items should be placed.

What works for you? Do you have any tips or tricks to make recycling as easy as possible in your home?