Zero Waste + the “Leftovers”

Toronto’s recycling and compost system means that 85% of residential waste can be recycled, composted or otherwise diverted from disposal. The 15% “leftover” includes items like unrecyclable disposable products, packaging, broken toys, furniture and construction materials. Fortunately, other cities are showing that these materials don’t need to end up in the garbage bag.

Zero waste strategies increasingly reduce, reuse and recycle so that we’re moving towards a day when there is no waste left.

Toronto regularly adds new materials to the list of what can be recycled in the Blue Bin, and is finding other ways to reduce waste. In 2013, 3,000 tonnes of bulky waste such as mattresses, furniture and large appliances were dismantled and recycled at the City’s Durable Goods Centre. 

ST PAUL, MINNESOTA - In this city, unwanted and unwearable clothing and textiles are picked up at the curb with other recyclables.

OWEN SOUND - This small Ontario city collects household pots, pans and cutlery in their Blue Bin.

Zero waste requires companies and businesses to do their part to reduce waste.

While some companies are making big steps, new Provincial rules will help reduce waste even further. Companies that import or make products like furniture, carpets, textiles and appliances may soon be responsible for the waste from their products and packaging. This type of producer responsibility law is already used in Ontario to ensure electronics and tires are recycled properly.

INTERFACE CANADA - This company built recycling into their design. Customers can replace carpet tiles as needed (instead of the whole carpet) and old carpet tiles are recycled into new ones.

Zero waste strategies need governments to take the lead and use incentives like fines, rules and rewards to reduce waste and deal with problem wastes. 


Some special types of waste cause big problems, or need unique solutions. Experience in other cities show that restrictions, deposits and incentives can help get to zero waste. Cigarette butts, gum, and coffee cups are small, but they make up a large part of Toronto’s litter problem. Construction, renovation and demolition waste such as wood, drywall, brick, and plastics are easy to recycle, but they often end up in landfill.

SAN FRANCISCO - There is a 40 cent fee charged on all cigarette packs sold in this city, which helps cover the $11 Million spent on litter and beach clean up of cigarette butts every year.

VANCOUVER - This historic city requires that 75% of demolished pre-1940 buildings are recycled or reused. That increases to 90% for buildings with heritage character, and the City plans to expand to newer buildings.


This page is from TEA's report Zero Waste Toronto.