Special Waste Collection

RESOURCE: Collecting special and reusable waste

Having convenient and accessible waste collection areas, combined with clear signs and information for residents, is a foundational element of getting your building on a path to zero waste. Get tips on how to manage other types of waste in your building beyond recycling, organics and garbage.

Beyond recycling, organics, and garbage, there are many more types of household materials that can be sorted and kept out of the garbage: reusable materials, like household goods and clothing that can be sold or donated for reuse, and special waste, like electronics, hazardous liquids and batteries, that need special management to prevent pollution. These types of materials combined can make from 5-15% of household waste.

Providing convenient and accessible options and understandable and clear information will keep these materials out of the garbage - reducing waste and preventing pollution. This can also benefit others in your community and contribute to a culture of zero waste in your building.

Here are some tips to providing  reusable and special waste collection:

1. Set up clean and well-labelled collection areas

Having a designated area with multiple bins, or clearly marked collection zones, makes it easier for residents to sort. Use clear labels with pictures and symbols, and include additional instructions if needed at the sorting area. Keep the area tidy and clean so residents can sort easily.

A Green Team at a downtown building refreshed their special waste collection area and added cooking oil collection to their waste room. Read more here.

2. Use special collection events.

If you’re short on storage space, you can also set up special collection events or times for residents to bring their unwanted goods to a common area. Many charitable organizations can schedule pick-up days for used clothing or household goods, electronics, bulky furniture or hazardous materials.

A downtown co-op with limited space hosts electronic waste collection days in their lobby twice a year. Residents can bring their goods to the lobby and parking lot starting in the morning, and a charity comes to collect the goods in the afternoon.

3. Provide clear information on collection

Reusable items and special waste may not be something residents regularly deal with, so it’s important to provide clear information, posters and guides on where and how the building collects it. Use posters in the waste room, provide guides in resident welcome kits, and have the information available in the building office or website. 

A west end co-op offers a tip sheet for residents that are moving: It includes tips on charities that collect used goods, and reminders about the types of special waste (batteries, electronics, cleaning supplies) collected in the waste room.

4. Understand the hazards

Some forms of special waste - such as flammable goods, fluorescent tubes and compact bulbs and medications can be hazards. Follow the directions of your service provider on how to collect these materials. Ensure your containers can collect materials safely (e.g. to prevent breakage of fluorescent tubes and bulbs that contain mercury), or collect materials and store them in locked storage areas. Clear these materials out on a regular basis to prevent build up. 

Staff and green team members at a downtown building regularly empty the collection bins in the recycling room and move materials into the locked waste storage room until their next pick up.

5. Build a zero waste community

Providing convenient collection for reusable and special waste can do much more than reducing garbage, it’s also a way for the building community to show a shared commitment to protecting the environment. Identifying charitable organizations to receive donations, or setting up swap events are another way for the building to show support for the broader community and to connect with neighbours. 

The Green Team at a North York condo set up a Reuse-It shelf for residents to offer unwanted household goods to neighbours to take for free. Read more here.


Multi-residential buildings can reduce waste and contribute to a culture of zero waste by providing convenient collection options for reusable and special waste. High-rise buildings can make use of shared spaces to organize special waste collection zones or events, and the initiative of staff and residents to promote and communicate about the collection.

The Waste Collection Assessment form will help you assess how waste is collected in your building. 

Find it here: https://www.torontoenvironment.org/finding_opportunities_waste_collection_assessment

If you'd like more information we have a full resource guide on how to assess your waste.

Resource Guide: 


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