Toronto is ready for a zero waste future. We have the programs and infrastructure to reduce, reuse and recycle almost all of our waste. We have an excited and robust group of businesses and communities ready to scale up with creative solutions that support a circular economy. Now is the time to continue our zero waste journey, and the 6 Pillars of zero waste will help governments and businesses take the next step.
Commit to zero waste with targets and timelines for Toronto
We need to commit to a zero waste vision for our city. Targets and timelines provide accountability and a way to measure our progress. Targets are best designed by residents and city politicians together. The City can develop targets and timelines to address waste directly under the City control, as well as what residents and businesses can do. Targets can focus on a timeline for eliminating all divertable goods from garbage, and a timeline for reducing the overall waste generation per capita.
Ensure equal access to the tools to reduce, reuse and recycle
To reach zero waste, we need to ensure that reducing, reusing and recycling waste is easy and accessible for everyone. Everyone has the right to the same waste diversion services, regardless of where they live, where they work and how they move around the city. Currently, this equal access does not exist: • Many people who live in apartments do not have access to green bins.37 • Most places of work have only basic recycling and no green bin service. The City can expand waste diversion programs and create policies so all residents and businesses have the same access. This will support a local resource recovery economy, green jobs, and help residents save money and reduce waste sent for disposal.
Make Education and Effective Communications a Priority
More than 85% of our residential waste stream can be reused, recycled or composted in existing programs in our city, but we’re only diverting 53%, far below that target. Better education will help everyone understand the tools available. Effective communication also includes listening - to identify what works (and what doesn’t), to answer questions, and to hear new ideas. Currently, communications and education make up just 1% of the city’s total solid waste management operating budget. The City needs to invest in research and tools to understand the best way to reach all Torontonians and then provide better communications and education. The City also needs to invest in front-line workers who are dealing with waste and recycling everyday to empower them to observe, evaluate and contribute to constant learning. Businesses, schools, and the companies that design and sell products all need to play a role in communicating recycling and zero waste strategies.
Tap into community excitement and innovation Zero waste thrives on partnerships.
The City needs to take a leadership role, but also partner with residents, community groups, and businesses. Every day thousands of City employees interact with Torontonians. These employees are all potential zero waste ambassadors. Residents and businesses across our city have innovative and exciting ideas for reducing waste. They often create solutions unique to their community. Community groups and schools host clean up days and competitions and share creative ideas to reduce waste. Small businesses sell used clothing, repurpose old furniture and recycle goods. All of these groups have a wealth of knowledge and capacity to help us get to zero waste.
Use incentives to influence behaviour and keep pushing for zero waste
Incentives such as rewards, fines and regulations can push zero waste even further, encouraging diversion and reducing waste. The City can increase garbage fees, set disposal bans for recyclable and organic materials, and use other regulations to reduce waste. Businesses and community groups can provide incentives to their own building users with rules, competitions and prizes for increased waste diversion. Green policies can be adopted by the City, businesses and institutions to buy recycled products, choose suppliers with zero waste policies and avoid disposables.
Zero waste is a journey. To keep moving ahead, it’s important to build in opportunities to step back and evaluate our progress. Ongoing data collection and research into how diversion programs are working and what’s left in the garbage, can help us identify how to get to zero waste. For instance, the City could form a committee of residents, community groups and businesses to share best practices and identify new opportunities to move towards zero.