zero waste

Invitation to join Zero Waste High Rise project

Building staff key to fostering culture of waste reduction in condos
Monday, March 16, 2020
By Sayan Sivanesan

Toronto Environmental Alliance (TEA) is currently accepting applications for buildings to join its Zero Waste High Rise project in the spring and summer of 2020 to receive resources and assistance with tackling waste.

Proper waste sorting in condos is an often challenging feat. In Toronto, only 24 per cent of waste from the average multi-res building is diverted from landfill, even though 86 per cent of multi-res waste can be recycled or composted. This gap translates to excessive garbage pick-up costs.

Much of this improper sorting can be attributed to the structure of buildings, which often makes garbage disposal more convenient than recycling and organics. Many older condos only have a single chute for garbage, while recycling and organics have to be carried downstairs or outside.

The good news is condos also have unique assets in the form of hired maintenance staff that can be leveraged to overcome these barriers. While staff carry out the day-to-day tasks related to managing waste, research shows that staff can be instrumental in fostering a zero-waste culture.

For example, Mayfair on the Green, a condo in Scarborough, has dramatically reduced its garbage output from 20 dumpsters per month to just one. Mayfair on the Green achieved this feat because staff in the building were motivated to collect organic waste more efficiently.

Superintendent Princely Soundranayagam learned that most waste generated by households is actually organic waste, which the City of Toronto will collect for free through it’s Green Bin program. This led Princely to implement changes that made organics disposal more convenient for residents.

Instead of residents needing to carry organics down to the ground floor, residents now drop-off organics in the chute, and take garbage downstairs instead. By doing so, Mayfair on the Green is saving tens of thousands in dollars in garbage collection costs each year.

As part of the first round of TEA’s Zero Waste High Rise project, staff and managers from buildings across Toronto toured model, zero-waste buildings like this to learn waste reduction tricks, and spark new approaches.

By learning about how waste billing works, and having the chance to ask peers like Princely questions, staff and managers who attended these tours have become emboldened to approach site-specific barriers with creativity.

A building in Mimico, for instance, has identified options to make recycling easier for residents: they changed to larger bins, increased signage, and added a door-to-door collection for residents with disabilities. As a result, the building has more than doubled recycling collection, and reduced waste costs by 25 per cent. After these changes were implemented, University of Toronto researchers involved with the Zero Waste High Rise project found that resident perception of staff and management improved.

The Zero Waste High Rise project will be sharing more success stories and lessons learned from these and other buildings in the coming months. Select buildings that apply for the program deadline by April 10th will receive customized support from TEA staff. including, analysis of the building’s current situation, TEA staff support to develop and implement a custom work-plan, and access to a micro-grant to help fast-track implementation.

Please visit TEA’s website for more details on the project.

Sayan Sivanesan is the project coordinator for TEA’s Zero Waste High Rise Project. He works with high-rise buildings across Toronto to measure their waste output, as well as develop and implement custom waste reduction plans.

TEA is a non-profit that campaigns locally to find solutions to Toronto’s urban environmental problems. The Zero Waste High Rise project is a project of TEA in partnership with UofT researchers, with funding from the Ontario Trillium Foundation and the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC).

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