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Toronto aims to get more condo and apartment dwellers recycling

"We are in an emergency state," Minister Benoit Charette said.
"We are in an emergency state," Minister Benoit Charette said. Mario Beauregard/The Canadian Press

TORONTO – If you’re one of the thousands of Torontonians who live in an apartment or condominium, you’re likely not doing your share of the recycling.

But the City of Toronto is looking to change that.

In an effort to increase awareness of the role condo and apartment dwellers play in waste diversion, the city has rolled out an intensive advertising campaign.

Toronto’s recycling campaign (City of Toronto)
Toronto’s recycling campaign (City of Toronto)

The campaign targets buses and streetcars covered in advertising. It’s designed to appeal specifically to those who use public transit — typically, those who live in multi-residential buildings.

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“Condo and apartment residents must stop treating their recycling like garbage, and understand their responsibility and role in reducing, reusing and recycling,” said Councillor Denzil Minnan-Wong in a statement.

Toronto’s recycling history

Twenty-five years ago this fall, the six former municipalities of Toronto rolled out their blue bin program for single-family homes.

But it would take another 15 years before the program was rolled out to multi-residential buildings like apartments and condominiums.

READ MORE: Global garbage crisis looming, say experts

The first blue box recycling program in the world was in the city of Kitchener in 1981.

Toronto’s Solid Waste Management Services Division has projected that the diversion rate – recycling both organics and waste – will be 67 per cent in single-family homes, but only 27 per cent in apartments and condos.

“We’ve got quite a bit of catching up to do,” Jim Harnum, general manager of the city’s Solid Waste Management Services, told Global News.

The challenge the city faces — on top of convincing people to cart their potentially stinky recycling down to a recycling room — is also convincing them that, not only are they doing their part for the environment, but also for their pocketbooks.

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All-round savings

For Torontonians, garbage collection is a service that residents must pay for. Recycling collection, however, is a free service.

But people who live in multi-residential units don’t see the obvious savings passed on to them, which is why it’s such a challenge to convince them that recycling does indeed save them money.

“We need to appeal to their environmental sense. With a single-family homeowner, we’re appealing to their pocketbook and their environmental sense,” Harnum said.

“So it’s much more challenging in the apartment buildings because of…the lack of financial incentive based on an individual unit basis.”

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“I think a bigger solution has been educating the residents. If everybody has a kitchen-catcher pail, you’re not the only one getting in the elevator with a stinky bucket of food waste.”

The city’s goal is to have an overall waste diversion rate of 57 per cent by the end of 2014. The ultimate goal is 70 per cent by 2016.

This means that the city faces the daunting challenge of pulling up its diversion in multi-residential buildings by 43 per cent in three years.

“I think we’re doing great. I think we can always do better,” Harnum said. “What the key focus for us, is we’re 25 years in the making with respect to single-family residential…and we’re almost at our target. We don’t want to wait 25 years to get to our target on the multi-residential.

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“From an environmental side of it, it’s costing all of us if we keep filling up these landfills with material that can be recycled.”