Zero Waste High-Rise Project Spotlight: Oak Street Co-Op

We are profiling the stories of success from buildings participating in the Zero Waste High-Rise Project. Learn more about Oak Street Co-Op and how they are tackling waste and improving accessibility in their building.

The Oak Street Housing Co-op is a member-run, cooperative building in downtown Toronto that joined the Zero Waste High-Rise Project in Fall 2019. The co-op has an eight-floor tower connected by a tree-lined walkway to 49 townhouse units.

Zero Waste High-Rise Project Spotlight: Oak Street Co-Op

The building project team: Oak Street Housing Co-op’s building team includes the Property Manager, building staff and a team of residents.


Staff of the building led a DIY construction process during the COVID-19 pandemic 

The Oak Street housing co-op is in downtown Toronto, overlooking the Don Valley. This building has made incredible improvements and shown how the right approach can make waste reduction more accessible for all. 

As part of the Zero Waste High-Rise Project, the building team reviewed their waste collection areas in their co-op. While garbage is collected in a waste chute on each floor of the tower, recycling and organics were collected outside in large bins.

They heard from residents that the large outdoor bins were difficult to get to, especially for residents who use mobility devices, such as wheelchairs. "These members would experience problems accessing our organic bin in front of our building especially in the winter months," said Lana, Oak Street’s Manager.

Staff from Oak Street Co-op participated in building tours and peer learning sessions hosted by the Toronto Environmental Alliance to get ideas on how to make waste collection accessible and convenient for residents. 

They were inspired by the convenience of an organics chute on every floor at Mayfair on the Green, and also by the indoor ground-floor organics chute in the Hugh Garner Co-op, another building participating in the Zero Waste High-Rise Project. 

They reviewed their options and decided that they, too, could make organics collection much easier for residents by installing an organics chute in the lobby of their tower. Lana said, "we immediately thought this could be a component in making proper waste disposal easier especially for our senior members and members with disabilities." 

Oak Street Co-op building staff did some research, contacted a waste chute company and contacted staff at the two buildings they’d just toured to ask about the installation process. 

When the COVID-19 pandemic began, their plans slowed down but they didn’t give up. It took a bit more time to get the chute door delivered, and new cleaning duties took priority for staff, but they kept moving forward step-by-step.  

In August 2020, the new organics chute was installed! Check out the process of installing a chute - completely done by the staff of the building! 

In August 2020, the new organics chute was installed! Check out the process of installing a chute - completely done by the staff of the building! They cut out part of the wall to install the new chute.

“This has been very well received especially by the members who use a wheelchair or scooter,” said Lana. "A good volume of organics is being dropped in the ground-floor chute and overall us making members aware of organics has even increased the traffic to our outside organic bin."

They shared a video of their new organics chute in action, and we’re thrilled with the results!

How they made it happen: 

  • The building team learned from the success and approaches taken by other buildings through peer learning sessions with the Zero Waste High-Rise Project. 
  • The team completed a building walk through to look at how convenient and accessible waste, recycling and organics collection is at their building. They chose to address access barriers as a key part of their waste reduction plan. We’ve created a tool to help building assess your building’s waste services as part of Stage 2 - Finding Opportunities in the Zero Waste High-Rise Project’s new online program. 

Get involved with the Zero Waste High-Rise Project! Sign up for our online program to learn more about reducing waste in your building and get access to tools, resources and peer learning events!