‘A lot of money’ could be made diverting organics from landfill - Toronto Star

Toronto Environmental Alliance is urging the city to make diverting organics from landfill the first priority of the long-term waste strategy.

Betsy Powell
Toronto Star
June 19, 2016

Photo Caption: Reducing the amount of organic waste going into landfills should be a priority of any long-term waste strategy, the Toronto Environmental Alliance says.

Forty per cent of Toronto’s residential garbage sent to landfill every year is organic material that could be composted and turned into cash, according to a new report.

“There’s a lot of money that can be made just by processing our organics. and you also get good, nutrient-rich compost at the end of it,” says Emily Alfred, of the Toronto Environmental Alliance.

On Monday, Alfred will urge members of the public works and infrastructure committee to make diverting organics from landfill the first priority of the city’s long-term waste strategy.

It’s estimated Toronto’s industrial, commercial and institutional sector generates 840,000 tonnes of waste every year, 280,000 tonnes of it food and organics, according to the environmental alliance’s latest report, called Organics First: Setting Toronto on the Zero Waste Path.

A decade after Toronto became the first major North American city to mandate green bins to collect organics from houses, many highrise apartment and condo buildings with private garbage services still don’t compost food waste, the report notes.

An estimated $10 million in renewable natural gases is lost every year when organics end up in landfill, according to the report.

“We think the city should pass a law that all condos and apartments should have to have green bins, and all businesses should have to compost food waste as well,” Alfred said.

Businesses and restaurants should also be required to have mandatory organics collection as a condition of their business licence, Alfred said.

“Thousands of tonnes of food is just going into garbage from restaurants and businesses.”

Staff is recommending council endorse a goal of, by 2026, seeing 70 per cent diversion of materials collected from industrial, commercial and institutional customers that receive city services.

But focusing on education to reduce waste is not effective enough, Alfred said.

“When it's up to companies to voluntarily choose to reduce waste, or to recycle or compost, unfortunately, we don't see much action. That's why we're in the situation we're in today,” she wrote in an email.

“While there are some real sustainability superstars and local businesses that are showing it can be done, the majority just don't do it.”

Other jurisdictions have learned that requiring businesses to compost their food waste is far more effective. Cities such as Vancouver and San Francisco, as well as the state of California have seen a big jump in composting and collection of green bin waste in all businesses because it's mandatory.

In just a few weeks, large food businesses in New York City will be required to collect and compost organics.

Toronto’s strategy, which must be approved by council, outlines some options to require more diversion from the commercial sector, even those that don’t rely on the city for services.

The options include passing new bylaws to require all multi-residential buildings to divert recyclables and organics, as well as exploring whether banning “certain packaging and other material,” mandating recycling separation and imposing levies might result in greater waste reduction.

As originally published: ‘A lot of money’ could be made diverting organics from landfill