Zero Waste High-rises

Growing a movement of zero waste high-rises: meet eight new buildings that are taking action

We’re thrilled to introduce a new group of multi-residential buildings that are taking ambitious action on waste, creating more sustainable buildings, and building stronger communities!

After TEA launched the Zero Waste High-Rise Project online program in fall 2020, residents and building staff from over 50 apartments, condos and co-ops from across Toronto joined and took steps with the project. The online program provides free tools, guides, and learning events based on our previous research and studies on the common waste challenges and solutions for high-rise buildings, in partnership with the University of Toronto and 15 project buildings across Toronto! 

Now, we’re celebrating eight leading buildings from the online program that developed and implemented action plans that reduce waste! 

The buildings range from condos to apartments to co-ops, and vary greatly by size, location, and demographics of their communities of residents. Despite restrictions from COVID-19 and the challenges this posed meeting in person, they all demonstrated progress towards zero waste in 2021! These eight buildings showed that over a very short period of time, it is possible to improve waste diversion services and help shift the culture of their buildings.

Meet the buildings and their teams of residents and staff! 

Kensington Towers 

Kensington Towers had convenient recycling bins on every floor in their garbage chute rooms, but some residents were still making mistakes and putting non-recyclables in the recycling bins. To tackle this problem, the Green Committee created custom signs about common mistakes and posted them in every chute room. The Committee also conducted a study of recycling bins on each floor, checking each bin daily for a week. Their study found that 62% of checks showed no mistakes, and the most frequent error was black plastics in the recycling. The Committee shared the good news with the community that most residents are doing a great job at sorting, and gave feedback that black plastic is not recyclable in Toronto. The Committee plans to track their progress and share feedback with residents, ensuring their building can continue to improve their recycling.

Above: The Green Committee surveyed the recycling bins to monitor mistakes and put up custom posters to educate residents.

Queens Harbour

Residents at the Queens Harbour condo formed a Green Team to join TEA’s online program and tackle waste in their building. After attending a virtual tour and learning session, they decided to implement a new program they saw in other leading buildings - a sharing shelf! The Committee had already noticed some residents were leaving reusable goods in the recycling room, and a sharing shelf was a way to encourage reuse and foster a culture of waste reduction in the building. The team secured support from building staff and the condo board, and got to work right away.  They developed custom signs and posters and announced the new project in their building’s Facebook group. The Sharing Shelf has been more popular than anticipated with frequent turnaround of items such as books, toys, kitchenware and electronics! The Green Committee has quickly built on the popularity of the reuse area and added a white board and posters to share waste reduction tips with residents. 

Above: The Sharing Shelf is a popular place for residents to drop off and exchange reusable goods.


The Summit

The Summit is a rental apartment building with a Gardening Group that created and manages a community garden on the property. The Gardening Group wanted to do more to create a more sustainable and environmentally-friendly building. The Group assessed waste collection in their building and determined that adding some special waste collection areas and improving recycling signs would be a good start. As a rental building, the Committee knew they needed to work with the property administrator and gain the support of the building landlord to tackle waste. The Group collaborated with the building staff to identify space in the laundry room to collect special waste (like light bulbs and batteries) and secure new signs from the waste service provider. Now, residents have better sorting options and information to sort waste confidently. This creates a visible sense that the community cares about tackling waste. 

Above: The Gardening Group added a special waste collection station to the laundry room and an informative banner by the recycling bins.


Tamil Co-Op 

Property management staff at the Tamil Co-op were keen to reduce waste in the building, but didn’t know where to start. With help from building staff, they used TEA’s online waste assessment tools to identify a number of things they could do to make recycling and composting easier, from improving signs, to adding bins and even starting a green team. Staff decided the most important thing was to just get started, and chose a few simple actions to begin with. They added organics and recycling collection next to the garbage in the building lobby to ensure residents can sort waste properly in every part of the building. They also added an e-waste and battery collection for residents to keep these special waste out of the garbage. These are a great way to build momentum and engage residents in a shared mission to reduce waste.

Above: To encourage proper waste sorting throughout the building, staff placed waste collection bins in the lobby that include organics, recycling and waste.


Upside Down Condos II

The Green Team of the Upside Down Condo first learned about used cooking oil collection during a learning session with TEA’s online program. They decided this would be a great project for their building, to reduce waste and reduce plumbing issues by offering an alternative to pouring used cooking oil down the kitchen drain. The team researched service providers in their area and developed a plan to set up a collection area in the parking garage for residents to bring their used cooking oil. The Green Team created custom posters that used humour to promote the program and explain how much money the building could save on plumbing maintenance by preventing these clogs in the first place. The collection station also includes designated bins for collecting other special and hazardous waste and is now expanding to collect reusable goods! 

Above: The Green Team implemented a cooking oil collection program and made eye-catching posters to inform residents.


The Hemingway

The Hemingway Recycling Committee had previously received positive feedback from residents about the large, colourful signs they created for the building’s waste room that made recycling and composting more intuitive and inviting. After completing an assessment of their building’s waste areas through TEA’s online program, they noticed that there was an opportunity to do a similar refresh of each garbage chute room by providing clear and easy-to-read information. The Recycling Committee downloaded free waste signs from the City of Toronto website and posted enlarged versions of the signs in each chute room.  The Committee also worked with staff to start tracking recycling mistakes - and they plan to use this information to shape future communication efforts. 

Above: The Hemingway Recycling Committee added colorful signs to make recycling and composting more intuitive and inviting.


Ann Marie Hill Co-op

This Scarborough co-op community voted to close their garbage chute two years ago as part of a measure to reduce waste. Since then, recycling, organics and garbage collection are all taken to one outdoor enclosure. This makes them equally convenient which has led to an increase in recycling and composting and a reduction in garbage levels. In 2021, building staff realized the waste enclosure could use more sorting information and signs to help residents sort waste. The property manager worked with staff to design and build an outdoor education station beside the enclosure and filled it with guides on proper recycling and organics management as well as information on where to take special waste. Having information easily available further contributes to the building’s culture of reducing waste. 

Above: The Anne Marie Hill community built an outdoor education station near the waste area to help inform residents.


The Sailwinds

The Sustainability Committee at The Sailwinds in Whitby has been working on greening their building for a number of years, and were ready to tackle waste. The Committee created a working group that invited staff and management to collaborate with them on implementing solutions. To understand the challenges residents face with sorting and waste reduction, they used TEAs tools to do a walk through assessment of their building’s waste services and signage. They also developed a simple survey to hear resident opinions. These steps quickly revealed that residents really cared about the environment and reducing waste, but faced some barriers that made the choice of recycling less convenient. Based on the feedback from residents, as well as observations from staff, the Sustainability Committee is enacting a plan to make recycling easier in the building. So far, this has included adding more recycling bins and making them easier to reach, improving signs and adding an e-waste collection area - a first of its kind in a Whitby multi-residential building! The Sailwinds Sustainability Committee and working group have plans for events and more improvements to engage residents. 

Above: The Sustainability Committee at Sailwinds used TEA’s waste assessment tool to identify the barriers that residents faced when recycling.



The Toronto Environmental Alliance hosted an online celebration for the buildings who participated in the Zero Waste High-Rise Project Online Program and took action in 2021. You can watch the video recording of this celebration event to hear directly from residents and staff from these buildings about their new projects and process for taking action. 

Each building in the project was able to build community approaches to waste reduction in their own way by identifying barriers and opportunities. For more tips, tools and resources on reducing waste in your building, view our Zero Waste High-Rise Project Online Program hub