COVID-19 and Waste: Tips for High-Rise Buildings

During the COVID-19 pandemic, our lifestyles have changed and this affects the type and amount of waste created at home. To support high-rise residents and building staff, TEA's Zero Waste High-Rise Project team created a list of tips and printable signs/posters to help manage and reduce waste during this time.


  1. During the COVID-19 pandemic, paper hygiene products go in the garbage, and not in organics. The City of Toronto has adjusted its sorting guidelines temporarily and states that until further notice, tissues, napkins, and paper towels should be tied securely and placed in the garbage, not the organics bin.
  2. Place disposable gloves, masks and wipes in the garbage. Do not place these items in the garbage loose - tie them securely in a bag. Some wipes are advertised as ‘flushable’ but these too must go in the garbage. Flushed wipes can clog building pipes and the City’s sewer system. This creates extra work for staff and significant costs for the building.

Recycle right:

  1. With an increase in product, grocery and food deliveries at home, there can be an increased amount of recyclable and organic waste in the building, especially cardboard. It’s important to continue to sort recycling and organics properly.
  2. Flatten the cardboard, then place in recycling. It is important to flatten cardboard and empty padding, bags and other materials before placing it in the recycling. This helps ensure sufficient space in the blue bins for everyone’s recycling.
  3. Rinse food containers. You may be getting more take-out or prepared food at home. Remember to rinse containers well to remove all food and oil before recycling. Greasy pizza boxes can be placed in the organics bin.
  4. No black plastic, black styrofoam in the recycling. Remember that black plastic and black styrofoam waste are not recyclable and should go in the garbage.
  5. Food waste belongs in organics. On average, 50% of the waste produced by households is organic waste. Now that more residents are preparing and eating meals at home, it is important that food waste does not go in the garbage or recycling. This will help save money for the building and can reduce staff time cleaning the garbage and recycling bins.

Hold onto reusable and special waste:

  1. Hold onto reusable goods for future donation. While you’re home you may want to do some ‘spring cleaning’, but please hold onto the reusable household goods, clothing, books and toys. Charities and businesses that collect reusable goods are not an essential service and their activity is suspended until further notice.

Please wash your hands frequently - before and after using the chute room or touching any bins.

Signage is an important tool to help people understand how to sort waste.  

(Note: these were designed for high-rise buildings that offer organics collection).

More resources: 

  • You can track the City of Toronto's COVID-19 guidelines for affected services here.
  • If you’re unsure about sorting you can refer to the Toronto Waste Wizard, or use the TOwaste app.

Sign up for updates on the project.

This resource was developed for project building in the Zero Waste High-Rise Project. The Toronto Environmental Alliance's Zero Waste High-Rise Project is a partnership with researchers at the University of Toronto. The project is funded by the Ontario Trillium Foundation, an agency of the Government of Ontario, and the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council. Read more about the project.