Six high-rise buildings tackling waste and climate change

TEA’s Zero Waste High-Rise project is well underway with 6 buildings from across Toronto rolling up their sleeves to tackle waste and climate change.

Reducing, reusing, recycling and composting waste is a key way to cut greenhouse gas emissions and tackle climate change, especially by keeping food waste and other organics out of landfills. Unfortunately, the average high-rise building in Toronto recycles and composts at only half the rate of single-family homes.

Just because high-rise buildings overall aren’t hitting the City’s waste diversion targets doesn’t mean they aren’t motivated to change. Sixty buildings responded to TEA’s call for participants for the pilot project and many have been inspired by high-rise building champions like 430 Mayfair on the Green in Scarborough and 812 Burnhamthorpe in Etobicoke.

The Six Project buildings

The 6 selected buildings in TEA’s zero waste high-rise project are a mix of co-op and condominium high-rise buildings located across Toronto in the areas of Mimico, York Centre, Willowdale, Kennedy Park, and Downtown Toronto and all of the buildings have organic waste collection.

After forming a Building Team made up of building staff, board members, and active residents, TEA and our University of Toronto research partners conducted waste audits at each building.

A team of students from U of T were trained on waste audits and sorting - literally digging into waste, recycling and organics bins to identify key areas for improvement. In total, they sorted through nearly 1.8 tonnes of waste!

Compostable items like food waste, tissues and diapers and reusable items ending up in the garbage instead of the organics bin and non-recyclable packaging like black plastics in the recycling bin were common mistakes the team identified during the waste audits.

Waste and Climate Action

Partners in Climate Action, one of the funders of TEA’s zero waste high-rise project, is a Government of Ontario grant program that is part of Ontario’s Climate Change Action Plan to fight climate change, reduce greenhouse gas emissions and transition to a low-carbon economy. TEA is one of three waste-related projects Partners in Climate Action has funded because they know the province as a whole can achieve massive greenhouse gas reductions through increased waste diversion.

Reducing, reusing and recycling materials uses less energy than making new products out of raw materials. Composting organics and food waste instead of sending them to landfill prevents the generation of methane, a potent GHG, and helps restore healthy soil.

Up next, TEA and our University of Toronto research partners will be using interviews and surveys to identify key challenges that residents and building staff face when managing waste and source their ideas for how to improve it.

Thank you to our project partners and funders:

Ontario Trillium Foundation
An agency of the Government of Ontario, the Ontario Trillium Foundation (OTF) is one of Canada’s largest granting foundations. With a budget of over $136 million, OTF awards grants to some 1,000 projects every year to build healthy and vibrant Ontario communities.

Partners in Climate Action
This project is funded in part by proceeds from the Government of Ontario’s carbon market, as part of Ontario’s Climate Change Action Plan. The action plan and carbon market work together to support innovative initiatives that provide residents and businesses with more choices to reduce greenhouse gas pollution and save money.

Academic institutions
Researchers at the University of Toronto have partnered with TEA and are providing significant in-kind support for the design and detailed evaluation and analysis on waste practices, knowledge, and behaviour change among residents and building staff. Researchers at York University are providing support for the analysis of waste volumes, composition and the greenhouse gas emission impact of reducing waste and increased recycling and composting at each building.