Waste Collection

How to assess waste collection in your building

High-rise buildings have a number of challenges to reducing waste, compared to single-family homes. For example, in many high-rise buildings, residents can dispose of garbage in a waste chute on every floor, while recycling and organics need to be carried to the ground floor, basement or outside and across the parking lot. This makes recycling and organics more difficult than disposing waste in the garbage.

However, high-rise buildings also have opportunities and unique strengths to help reduce waste. For example, the availability of shared space, the expertise of staff, and the initiative of resident groups can all be leveraged to make it as easy as possible for residents to sort and reduce waste. The goal is improving access to and convenience of collection options for recycling, organics, and other waste.

There are many different ways to do this - every building is unique and will have its own path to zero waste.

IMAGE: Special waste collection area in a high-rise building

Assessing your building’s waste collection

Assess where and how waste is collected in your building: 

  • Main waste collection areas: where residents take their household garbage, recycling, and organic waste. This may include a waste chute, waste or recycling room, or an outdoor area. 
  • Common areas:  where residents spend time and may create garbage, recycling, or organic waste. This may include the lobby, parking garage, and other shared spaces.
  • Reusable and special waste collection: other forms of waste that should be collected separately.

Things to consider when doing a waste assessment

As you move through your building and these waste areas, ask the following questions. (You can keep track of what you find and record your answer using the Waste Collection Assessment Form.)

Access:  Do residents have access to recycling, organics and other special waste collection to keep these materials out of the garbage?

  • Do residents have an option to sort food scraps and other organics out of the garbage?
  • Do residents have collection for special waste, reusable goods and other types of waste?
  • Can residents with limited mobility access this collection method, year-round? For example, some large recycling or garbage bins may be too tall for some residents to reach, or have heavy lids or hatches that are difficult to open. 

Convenience: Are recycling, organics and other special waste collection options as convenient as garbage collection? 

  • Are recycling and organics collection areas convenient for residents and available where they need them?
  • Are recycling (and organics bins) in common areas of the building where residents spend time and create waste?
  • Sorting bins in common areas should be close together so that all options are visible. For example, put a recycling bin to collect detergent bottles in the laundry room beside a garbage bin to collect dryer lint and other waste. 

IMAGES: garbage, recycling and organics bins

ABOVE: Clear signs and information helps residents sort waste correctly.

Signs and Labels: Are clear signs and labels posted beside collection options to help residents sort properly, and learn where else to take their waste? 

  • Are there clear guides and signs explaining how to sort waste properly in every waste collection area? Reminders are important as sorting rules can differ at home and at work, and between buildings.
  • Are there clear labels and signs on sorting bins? Don’t assume that residents know which bin is for recycling and which is garbage based on the colour of the bin or the bag.


Assessing how waste is collected in your building is an important step in understanding the opportunities for improvement and where you can take action to move towards zero waste.