Mayor's Zero Waste Task Force - 2001


Backgrounder and TEA's Recommendations on Mayor's Zero Waste by 2010 Task Force

The Mayor's announcement, in November 2000, of a Mayor's Task Force on Waste Reduction seemed at the time to be exactly the right medicine for Toronto's endless garbage problems. During the fall, Toronto residents sent a clear message, through attendance at City meetings and correspondence with their councillors, that they did not want their garbage to go to Kirkland Lake, and that the City should find a "Made In Toronto Solution" to its waste.

While we are concerned that a Task Force composed of the entire Council will be unwieldy, we believe that initial commitments in three areas will prevent this from being a problem. First, a participatory process that solicits the opinions and advice of residents, community groups, and experts is essential to developing a successful waste diversion program. Second, providing the Task Force with a directive to implement a series of "Quick Starts" will create immediate successes that all of Toronto can be proud of. Thirdly, target dates for program implementation measures should be set and supported through budgetary commitments to ensure that Toronto will reach City Council's commitment of 60% diversion by 2006, and 80% by 2009.

Lastly, the Task Force should carry out the City Council motions of October 12th, to urge the province to undertake better product and packaging stewardship initiatives in order to reduce the expense of waste management for cities throughout Ontario.

Participatory Process

A process that is open to public participation and input from a comprehensive array of community stakeholders and waste diversion experts is essential. This will help to ensure that the Task Force develops a made in Toronto solution to garbage that borrows the best elements of already successful programs operating in municipalities throughout North America, and that these programs have public's support.

  • Transparent Modelling of Costs: The modelling of costs associated with proposed waste diversion options must be available to the public for comment and scrutiny.
  • Continuing Public Engagement: The public has shown an interest in being part of Toronto's solution to garbage and should be involved throughout the development and implementation of the Task Force's Strategic Plan. The public meetings currently being held by the Task Force are an important initial step in engaging the public.
  • Non-Government Advisory Committee: A committee comprised of waste diversion experts and representatives from community groups that advises the Task Force will help pool knowledge and expertise for the Task Force, as well as increasing partnership and goodwill.

The Toronto Environmental Alliance (TEA), and other leading environmental groups have a wealth of experience in developing and coordinating strategies to successfully engage the public in environmental decision-making.

Quick Starts

There are many opportunities for quick start measures. These would be projects based on proven techniques for reducing waste without committing the City to any significant costs or restructuring of the current waste management system. As the name implies the programs could be implemented quickly.

  • Voluntary Take Back: The Regional Municipality of Ottawa-Carleton has developed an extremely successful voluntary "Take It Back" program for over 85 different product types. A similar program should be implemented in Toronto in order to cut down on the costs of waste management, especially especially regarding household hazardous wastes. Community-based organisations like TEA could play a big role in publicising this program to Toronto residents.
  • Ward-by-Ward Apartment Building Recycling Enhancement: Syracuse, N.Y. has a small staff compliment working with property owners and building management in apartments to expand recycling programs in a way that suits the particular layout and needs of each building. Toronto can begin to implement such a program this year by providing an apartment building in each ward with a similar service.
  • Door to Door Free Compostor Drive: Composters are currently sold by the city for $15. 8,000 were purchased in 2000. The number of home composters in use in the city of Toronto could be greatly increased if the composters were given free of charge in coordination with an education program. TEA has in the past five years run two door to door free home composter distribution drives. City staff has verified that 90% of the composters delivered through this program were used. Because of avoided collection and disposal costs the City would recover the cost of each free composter in 18-30 months, as well as saving system costs for the rest of the life of the composting unit (an average of 6 years).
  • Works Committee Start-up Projects: A number of excellent waste diversion start-up projects passed by council last year as part of the "3Rs Implementation Plan" are presently excluded from the budget. The Task Force should recommend that funding for these programs be put back in to the budget. Among these were curbside organics collection in selected neighbourhoods for single-family homes and restaurants, and free composters for schools and daycares. These programs would give municipal forces needed experience in organics waste diversion help ensure the success of citywide programs in the future.

Targets for Program Implementation

City Council set a bold target of achieving 60% waste diversion by 2006. As you know this is one of many, many targets that have been set for the City over the years. None of these were met. For example, in 1995 when the City rejected sending its garbage to Kirkland Lake for the second time, it made a commitment to 50% waste diversion by 2000. In 2001, we are presently diverting 26% of our waste from landfill through recycling and composting.

Toronto's failure to meet its past deadlines has little to do with its ability and more to do with its political willingness. Halifax, Edmonton, Northumberand and many other municipalities in Canada and the U.S. have achieved over 50% waste diversion by having the political will to follow through on their commitments to the public.

The City will achieve its current target only if the City also imposes target implementation dates for program delivery. We need to start expanding facilities, educating the public, implementing quick starts, and purchasing capital equipment. We need to commit today to a change in the collection system citywide by 2003.

The City needs to build these program delivery targets into its budget. Attachment B of Report 2 of the January 2001 Works Committee report to Council sets out a five-year capital spending program for waste recycling measures. However, many factors could make the proposed five-year spending program insufficient in reaching Council's target. For example, there may be a lag time for the purchase of collection vehicles, changes in expectations in household waste sorting behaviour, changes to collection systems, and expansion of recycling processing facilities as well as the likelihood of unforeseen expenses. Therefore, the city must accelerate this spending over a three-year period beginning with an expanded commitment for this budget year.

Product and Packaging Stewardship

A 1998 Environment Canada report says Ontario has done the least to encourage product and packaging stewardship. Very little has changed in the last two years and every municipality in Ontario is feeling the resulting financial burden. The Mayor's Task Force on Waste Diversion could lead the call in Ontario for provincial support of municipalities through better product and packaging stewardship initiatives. TEA could help the Task Force in this endeavour by galvanising the support of the public and possibly other municipalities.

TEA heralds the Task Force's commitment thus far to finding a made-in-Toronto solution to garbage. But without further substantial commitments, the Task Force will not have the tools needed to meet the ambitious goals set by Council in October.