Scaling Up Solutions for Waste Reduction in High-Rises

The latest update from the Zero Waste High-rise Project.

Too many waste experts, policy-makers and others think that the waste challenges for high-rise buildings are simply too complex to solve. But with the Zero Waste High-Rise Project, TEA is working to identify scalable solutions to overcome these challenges and help Toronto on the path to zero waste. 

Over the last year and a half, TEA and researchers at the University of Toronto have been working with a group of six high-rise buildings across Toronto to identify innovative waste solutions for vertical communities, foster peer learning among high-rise building staff and residents, and motivate behaviour change at the household level.

1. Each of the project buildings received custom feedback on their building's performance and developed their own plan to reduce waste. 

Each building underwent a site-specific waste analysis - including an audit of what was in their garbage, compost and recycling streams. Providing custom feedback and information to a building equips them with the information and tools to make informed decisions about where to start and how to develop a waste reduction plan. For example, one building decided to tackle avoidable food waste when they saw how much uneaten food was being tossed out.

2. Each building created their building team 

The most effective and lasting change happens in buildings where property managers, maintenance staff and resident leaders develop and implement a plan together. To begin, each of the project buildings developed their building team. 

3. Tours and learning from 'model' buildings

TEA found leaders and facilitated meetings and tours of model buildings. This has inspired other building stakeholders to identify and take opportunities to reduce waste in their own buildings. Peer-learning has been a critical component of this project.

4. Buildings used their shared spaces as assets to make diversion easy and to start building a culture of zero waste.

While buildings have physical challenges for diverting waste, they also have assets, like shared space. For many buildings, this has allowed them to use new tactics to reduce waste and create a zero-waste culture. For example, some buildings have lending libraries or sharing shelves. Others have organized waste rooms with clear sorting for toxic and hazardous waste, medical waste and e-waste.

5. Improved access to recycling and organics bins

The typical high-rise building has one waste chute for garbage - even though most of the waste generated in a household could go in the recycling bin or the green bin. Some buildings are excited about innovative solutions - like turning their garbage chute into an organics chute. Another building has started door-to-door recycling collection for residents with disabilities to improve accessibility to recycling.

What’s next for the Zero Waste Project? 

This project is about scaling up solutions! Over the next year of this 3-year project, TEA will be expanding our project to new buildings and sharing what we’ve learned with the high-rise community across Toronto. 

Are you a high-rise resident? Here are two ways to connect with the project: 

  1. If you are a high-rise resident (or work as a staff member in a high-rise building) and would like updates on this project, including resources and tips you can use in your building, sign up here
  2. If you’d like to be considered for our next group of buildings, complete this form here

Thank you to our project partners and funders:

Ontario Trillium Foundation

An agency of the Government of Ontario, the Ontario Trillium Foundation (OTF) is one of Canada’s largest granting foundations. With a budget of over $136 million, OTF awards grants to some 1,000 projects every year to build healthy and vibrant Ontario communities.

Academic institutions

Researchers at the University of Toronto have partnered with TEA and are providing significant in-kind support for the design and detailed evaluation and analysis on waste practices, knowledge, and behaviour change among residents and building staff.