TEA Convinces Council to Get the Facts on Waste Diversion

With too many questions unanswered, City Council voted against a plan to move forward with contracting out waste collection in Scarborough. One of the key questions that TEA brought to Council's attention is why waste diversion (recycling and composting) rates* are worse in districts served by private collectors.


In a surprising turn of events at last week’s Council meeting, Mayor Tory echoed TEA’s advice and voted with a majority of Councillors to seek more information about what impact privatization might have on service levels and diversion rates in Scarborough.

At the Council meeting, a number of Councillors brought up waste diversion rates as a concern - read TEA's summary of what happened at Council.

TEA highlighted the better diversion rates east of Yonge Street using the City’s data.

Councillors echoed concerns raised by TEA in a report launched just a few days earlier where TEA highlighted the difference in diversion rates using the City’s data (see map above). The report also highlighted the inadequate monitoring and reporting that occurred after the city privatized waste collection west of Yonge Street in 2011 (see graphic below). The report is also the latest example of TEA’s watchdog role that ensures waste services in Toronto are best for the environment. (Click here to read the summary of the report)

The Public Works Committee has received only 7 of 18 required reports comparing collection districts since 2012

The Council decision is good news for the environment, as staff have been directed to provide more details and information about why diversion rates differ across the city. 

As Toronto’s environmental watchdog, here’s a peek at how TEA responded to this issue leading up the vote: 

  • Emily, TEA’s Waste Campaigner, monitored and researched the issue for months and brought the potential environmental impacts of privatization to Council’s attention at the January Public Works & Infrastructure Committee meeting. Soon after, TEA’s concerns were published in news stories by the Toronto Star, CBC Toronto, and City News.
  • On the Friday before Council’s vote, TEA's in-depth report Protecting Scarborough's Success  highlighted key reasons that Council should reconsider rushing ahead with further privatizing waste collection. We emailed our report to all 44 Councillors and the Mayor of Toronto, offering to meet with them anytime. Our new report quickly received media attention from the Toronto Star and Scarborough Mirror.
  • The same day we released our report, we sent an action alert to our Scarborough supporters, encouraging them to contact their Councillors before tomorrow’s vote and our door-to-door canvass team helped community members contact their Councillors as well.
  • TEA's role as a watchdog goes back for many years: In 2011, when the area west of Yonge (District 2) was contracted out, TEA published Look Before You Leap, a report outlining the need for strict monitoring and enforcement, and highlighting problems Toronto has experienced in the past with private contractors. TEA worked with environmentally-minded councillors to ensure that waste diversion levels would be tracked and reported by district, and that all districts would be monitored closely. Since 2012, TEA has reviewed staff reports on the environmental performance by district. 


*Waste diversion rate refers to the percentage of total waste that is diverted from the garbage and into programs like the Green Bin and Blue Bin.