Waste collection workers are a key part of Toronto's waste diversion system

Every day, hundreds of workers in all parts of Toronto do the hard - and often dangerous - work of picking up our garbage, recycling, organics, yard waste and heavy bulky furniture and appliances.

Waste collection workers are doing an important green job and they’re part of the green circular economy, getting our waste and recyclables to the right place!

When Toronto City Council was considering changes to how waste services are delivered*, some asked: “How do waste collectors actually affect the environment? Aren't they just picking up the garbage?”

Though residents are responsible for sorting waste and setting it out correctly, waste collection workers play a key role, too.

Collection workers play a key role in maintaining and improving Toronto’s waste diversion rate:

  1. Collecting the right materials. Collection workers are required to ensure that recyclables, organics and waste get collected properly and are not contaminated or mixed together in the truck.

  2. Rejecting heavily contaminated bins at the curb. Collection workers are expected to reject recycling bins that are obviously and heavily contaminated. For example, recycling bins with large black garbage bags sticking out of the top, or fluorescent light tubes, propane tanks and materials that are recyclable, but not in the Blue Bin.

  3. Not picking up certain types of waste. Residents frequently put out incorrect materials at the curb, and collection workers are required to leave it behind. For example, extra garbage bags put out by residents that don’t have the required yellow tags, or prohibited materials such as renovation waste, or hazardous materials.

  4. Educating residents by letting them know what mistakes they made. Collection workers are provided with waste notices - stickers and ‘cart hangers’ - to leave behind for residents explaining why their waste wasn’t collected, and where to go for more information.  

Getting to zero waste, and achieving higher recycling and composting rates requires that we look at every opportunity to reduce waste, sort better, and increase education and awareness. The little improvements add up!

*In January 2017, Council was considering whether to contract out waste collection in Scarborough, the part of the city with the highest recycling rate. TEA urged Council to get the information on why Scarborough is doing better before rushing into major service changes. TEA believes the City needs to monitor and supervise waste collection workers across the city closely to make sure that mistakes aren't being made, and that corners aren't cut. We believe that with better tracking, data and reporting, the public and Council can quickly find out why some areas do better than others, and fix it!