Toronto high-rises get low scores on recycling - CBC News

CBC News accompanied TEA on Earth Day to explore how high-rise trash isn't getting recycled.

Education, making it easier for residents to recycle keys to improvement, Toronto Environmental Alliance says

Emmett Shane and Charlsie Agro
CBC News Toronto
April 22, 2016


Image: Emily Alfred, a senior campaigner at the Toronto Environmental Alliance, took CBC News on a tour of condo dumpsters to show how little of the city's high-rise waste gets recycled. (CBC)

Toronto needs to do a lot better when it comes to recycling waste from its thousands of residential high-rise buildings, a local environmental group says.

CBC News accompanied Emily Alfred, a senior campaigner with the Toronto Environmental Alliance (TEA), on a tour of the dumpsters that sit outside many of the city's condo buildings.

Examining the contents of those dumpsters demonstrates Toronto has made little progress diverting its high-rise trash, Alfred said.

"Orange peels, cans, glass bottles ... most of this looks like it could be in a green bin or recycling bin," Alfred said as she rummaged through the contents of a big, black dumpster sitting outside one of Toronto's more than 5,000 condos.

"The average garbage bag in Toronto contains 70 to 80 per cent of recyclables, compostables, hazardous waste, e-waste," Alfred said. "So, if we just focus on education and getting people to put things in the right place in the first place, our problem will disappear. It's not a sexy, new solution; it's going to take hard work."

According to Alfred, the problem is that condos often put recycling bins and green bins in areas that are difficult for residents to find or difficult to access.

"It's often easier for residents just to put their trash down the garbage chute," she said.

For years, the City of Toronto has said it's working toward diverting 70 per cent of trash from landfills to recycling. So far it has fallen far short of that goal, with a residential diversion rate of just 53 per cent in 2014, according to the city's website.

Just 26 per cent of the waste from residential high-rises gets recycled in Toronto, according to the TEA.

But city officials said they're doing a much better job of diverting recyclable waste from Toronto's Green Lane landfill just outside London, Ont. Right now, about 50 truckloads of Toronto trash gets dumped at Green Lane.

Years ago, "upwards of 130, 140 tractor trailers per day" were making the trip to Green Lane to dump Toronto's waste, according to Derek Angove, director of processing and resource management for the city's Solid Waste Management Services.

But Angove conceded the city is not satisfied with its current waste-diversion rate.

Toronto lags behind Vancouver, which recycles 61 per cent of its waste, the TEA said.

If Torontonians don't clean up their act, the TEA believes the Green Lane landfill could be full by 2029. But Alfred believes the landfill's lifespan could be extended by 20 years if the city does a better job of recycling.

"It should be just as easy to recycle and compost as to put things in the garbage," Alfred said. "So you could have rules making it as easy as possible everywhere you go, and the same access no matter what building you're in."

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