News / Toronto

Non-profit proposes three ways Toronto can become a 'zero-waste' city

Toronto Environmental Alliance warns city's landfill could be full by 2029 if no improvement is made

Metro file

The city’s landfill will be completely full by 2029 if garbage diversion rates don’t improve. So says a new report from the Toronto Environmental Alliance that outlines a three-step plan towards creating a “zero waste” city.

1. More recycling: 20 per cent of a typical residential garbage bag is filled with recyclable materials, and many buildings and businesses do little to no recycling, the report says. Providing equal access to, and encouraging more use of, blue bin recycling is key.

2. Organic waste: An average Canadian household spends $28 each week on food that’s not eaten and thrown in the garbage. The report recommends reducing food waste by donating it to community programs, increasing access to green bins and using compost to enrich soil on farms.

3. Reusing “leftovers:” Items such as broken toys, unused construction materials and discarded clothing or furniture shouldn’t end up in garbage bins. Cities like Vancouver and San Francisco have found ways to recycle the items. Vancouver, for example, reuses pieces of demolished homes on new builds.

… But how realistic is it?

The plan — tabled as the city prepares to start talking about its long-term waste management strategy — can help Toronto improve its recycling and composting rates to 85 per cent, up from 50 per cent. With a commitment from the city, more access to blue and green bins and more education, the zero waste philosophy “is very achievable,” said report author Emily Alfred.

Mayfair on the Green, a condo development in Scarborough, is one example. A door-to-door outreach effort that talked to people about sorting waste and recycling helped lead to big results over a three-year period. The building went from filling 20 dumpsters per month to just one, increasing their recycling and composting rate to 85 per cent — three times more the average for Toronto buildings.