News / Toronto

Toronto tower residents lag behind on recycling

Condo tower dwellers recycle or compost less than a third of their trash.

Mayfair on the Green superintendent Princely Soundrayanagam shows where the building's Green Bin waste is collected from the organics chute. The north Scarborough tower has managed to recycle or compost 80 per cent of its trash.

Holly Thomson/Toronto Environmental Alliance

Mayfair on the Green superintendent Princely Soundrayanagam shows where the building's Green Bin waste is collected from the organics chute. The north Scarborough tower has managed to recycle or compost 80 per cent of its trash.

High rises. Low recycling rates.

According to the city, single-family homes are diverting 68 per cent of the garbage from the landfill, compared to only 29 per cent for those who live in rental or condo towers.

If the trend continues, Toronto’s landfill, located outside of London, Ont., will reach capacity by 2029, said Rob Orpin, the city’s acting deputy manager of solid waste management.

Expanding the landfill could take years and cost millions, he said.  

The problem is two-fold, Orpin said. Although new buildings are required to have modern sorting systems, the surfeit of older towers in the city tend to have a single garbage chute, making recycling and composting more labour-intensive.

Tower dwellers are also not charged based on how much garbage they produce, said Emily Alfred of the Toronto Environmental Alliance (TEA).

“It’s anonymous. People don’t get a bill so individuals don’t see the benefit in reducing their waste,” she said.

One tower in northern Scarborough called Mayfair on the Green has managed to divert 80 per cent of its waste. Orpin called the 283-unit building “the poster child for proper diversion” in Toronto.

The building’s garbage chute is reserved for organic waste. Residents drop off recycling and garbage downstairs, where they can also recycle e-waste, cooking oil and other hazardous materials.

“They cut their annual waste fees from over $15,000 to something like $1,000 this year,” said Alfred.

TEA is calling on the city to boost the amount of recycling education it offers to tower residents.

“If the city was serious about recycling in apartments, they’d double their outreach staff,” Alfred said. “It’s a lot cheaper than getting a new landfill or building an expensive incinerator.”

That may be difficult, however, as the solid waste department is looking to trim its communication budget by $300,000 next year.

“We’re still confident we can get our message out next year with the budget we have,” Orpin said.

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