Council Watch - July 2009

How to Reduce, Reuse, & Store Waste during the Strike, TEA Calls on Residents and City to Take Precautions at Temporary Dump Sites, TEA launches a new Good Neighbour Campaign and we need your help!

(1) How to Reduce, Reuse, & Store Waste during the Strike

The legal strike by the Toronto Civic Employees' Union Local 416 (CUPE) and the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) Local 79 has entered its third week.

Below is a quick list prepared by our Waste Campaigner Heather Marshall of what you can do to reduce, reuse, and store waste during the strike.
We may add to this list and if you have any tips email heather(at)

Once the labour disruption is over, the City will be picking up recycling and organics as long as it's in clear plastic bags. Invest in some plastic bags to store your extra recyclables in. If you get to the point of desperation and need to dump your garbage at a transfer station or temporary dump site, unfortunately you will have to combine your waste streams together. Organics create the biggest stink and attract pests so do your best to keep organic waste out of the temporary dumpsites where possible (local residents will thank you).


  • Leave wasteful and excessive packaging at the store if you can.
  • Buy items in bulk.
  • Carry groceries home in reusable containers or bags.
  • Try to buy items sold in refillable containers [examples: refillable milk and yogurt containers have deposits]
  • Return your LBCO and Beer Store bottles and containers to the store and get back the deposit.
  • Pack a waste-free lunch with reusable containers and a lunch bag.
  • Make sure you rinse all your food packaging before putting it in the recycling bin or garbage bag to prevent smell.
  • Make sure you flatten or break down recyclables or garbage before you throw it away to save space. [examples: pop cans, plastic jugs, milk/juice cartons, cardboard boxes, Styrofoam containers, etc.]
  • Find other uses for the containers and packaging you brought home [examples: crafts, pots for plants, bird feeders].
  • No one is picking up litter during the strike, so think twice about buying on-the-go packaging like pop cans, water bottles, candy wrappers, take-out food/beverage containers.
  • Buy a refillable coffee mug.  Toronto uses over 1 million disposable coffee cups every day. What a waste!
  • Buy a refillable water bottle.
  • If going to a park or beach, pack litter-free snacks and bring a small bag to store any garbage to take home with you. Remember, litter bins are not in service!


  • Throw away less organic waste by wasting less food. Buy only what you need for short periods of time and freeze leftovers if they will otherwise go bad.
  • If you have space, buy a small composting bin to turn your organic waste into healthy soil for plants.
  • If you do not have space, try to find a nearby location to compost with your neighbours or contact a community garden that may be able to take it.
  • Store small amounts of organic waste in a bag in the freezer so it won't rot or smell.
  • Some high-rise buildings in Toronto have composting on-site, but very few.  Talk to your property manager or building association about it!
  • Vermicomposting is a form of composting that uses live worms to break down organic material.  Kept in space saving containers that can be stored indoors or outdoors, they provide a viable option for high-rise residents!
  • If you are throwing your organics out with your garbage, wrap it in some newspapers to soak up some of the liquid.


  • Donate items that are gently used [examples: clothing, dishes, furniture, etc.]
  • Wait out the strike by carefully storing waste that needs special handling [examples: paint cans, batteries, electronics, bulky items like furniture] 

(2) TEA Calls on Residents and City to Take Precautions at Temporary Dump Sites

TEA has become aware that the City of Toronto is applying the pesticide permethrin to its temporary dumps as often as every 24 hours to combat pests attracted by the garbage. We understand that the application of permethrin is a requirement of the provinical permits for the temporary dump sites that have been set up to service Torontonians emergency garbage disposal needs during legal strike by CUPE 416. Residents and the City need to take precautions to reduce negative impacts stemming from the applications of permethrin and the creation of temporary dumps on sites that were never designed to house garbage.

What is permethrin?

Permethrin is a synthetic insecticide modeled after natural insecticidal characteristics of pyrethrin (which comes from the seed casing of chrysanthemums). It acts as a neurotoxin and will either repel or kill insects. Permethrin is generally viewed as a less toxic alternative to organophosphate and organochloride pesticides that have been used more traditionally as insecticides.

Although Permethrin is much less toxic then other traditional insecticides, it is linked with some health and environmental hazards. As with most chemical sprays, direct contact can cause immediate health effects such as skin rashes and headaches. It is also highly toxic to beneficial insects (i.e. honeybees) and fish. One long-term human health concern linked to low-level exposure comes with permethrin's potential to act as an endocrine disruptor, meaning it may interfere with our body's ability to communicate through its hormones, glands and cellular receptors. Possible effects, depending on time of exposure, could be increased risk of reproductive problems, effects to children's development and thyroid disorders. Permethrin is a 'suspected' endocrine disruptor, and health effects from endocrine disruption are still being researched.

How can I protect myself from exposure?

Children and pregnant women are among the most vulnerable and should take the greatest precautions. The biggest route of exposure is inhalation or ingestion (especially for kids, as they put their hands to their mouths often). Avoid areas while they are being sprayed. Be mindful that spray can sometimes drift onto surfaces nearby depending on method of spraying used and wind patterns. If you see spray drifting, especially due to wind, call the Ministry of Environment pollution hotline (1-866-MOE-TIPS ) or the Spills Action Centre (1-800-268-6060) and report it. Please also call TEA at 416-596-0660.

Permethrin takes at least thirty days to break down when applied to soil, so use precaution when in and around sites that have been recently sprayed.

What should the City do?

While temporary dump sites may be necessary during the strike, the City of Toronto has a responsibility to protect people and the environment from hazards associated with these sites. TEA is specifically concerned about sites that are next to sports fields, playgrounds, and waterbodies. Over the next few days, we will be reviewing specific dump sites that are of greatest concern and asking the City to:

  • Review and respond to the hazard of pesticide spray drift, especially in sites next to sports fields and playgrounds.
  • Review and respond to the hazard of water contamination and the potential of harming fish and other aquatic species at sites located next to water bodies.
  • Publically provide details of how they will clean up the temporary dump sites once they are no longer in use to ensure that any long-term contamination from the garbage and pesticides is eliminated before the public can access the site. This will likely mean keeping areas closed after the garbage is removed to allow for soil testing and mitigation.


(3) TEA launches a new Good Neighbour Campaign and we need your help!

A Good Neighbour Campaign is a community driven campaign that seeks to reduce pollution through community mobilization and pressure by talking directly to the business of concern. The goal is not to shut the business down but to make them a better neighbour.

TEA is working with the community of Alderwood in South Etobicoke. The focus of the campaign is a high end furniture manufacturer, Fleetwood Fine Furniture, on Browns Line south of Horner Avenue. Fleetwood is the highest emitter of toluene, xylene and volatile organic compounds in the area. These chemicals impact children’s development, make it hard to breathe, and could damage residents' livers, kidneys and central nervous systems. Also, as a result of these chemicals, there are days when the odours are so pungent that the residents have to bring their children and pets inside and close the windows – this is unacceptable.

How can you help?

Take five minutes and write a letter to Fleetwood!

Fleetwood needs to hear from all Torontonians and the residents of Alderwood need your support! Tell Fleetwood to work with the community by significantly reducing their toxic chemical emissions.

Letters are best written in your own words.

Below are a few suggestions for your letter:

  • Chemicals your company releases are having an impact on your neighbours; there are days where families are unable to take their children outside because the smell of paint fumes is overpowering. That is unacceptable.
  • We want you to stay in the community but we want you to be a better neighbour. Let’s build a healthy relationship that benefits us all.
  • Please reduce the pollution impact your company is having in the community. Help make our air cleaner and communities safer.
  • Please sit down with your neighbours and work with them to find tangible solutions. This is a great opportunity for your company to show courage and take the lead towards a greener, healthier future for us all.
  • I am optimistic that as the leader of your company, you will be able to enact change that will have a positive impact on your neighbours, employees and the future of Fleetwood.

It is important to send your letters to Reg Tiessen the President of Fleetwood and Allan Silber, the CEO of Counsel Corporation (parent owner of Fleetwood).

Reg Tiessen
President, Fleetwood Fine Furniture

Allan Silber

CEO, Counsel Corp.