As a resident of a major urban center, I have access to a range of resources and tools to help me recycle: from a 3-1-1 call center ready to answer my questions, to an online Waste Wizard tool that provides information about where material can be reused or recycled. For a member of the business community in the same region, it’s not always so clear where to turn for help improving sustainability. Finding hands-on support at low to no cost can prove challenging.
Partners in Project Green is a business-led, not-for-profit organization that works with enterprises in the Greater Toronto Area to help them achieve their sustainability goals. Initiated by the Greater Toronto Airport Authority and Toronto and Region Conservation, Partners in Project Green provides comprehensive, integrated support for sustainability efforts in four key areas: water conservation, energy efficiency, employee engagement, and waste management.
Our flagship waste management program, Material Exchange, is a free, online waste and recycling marketplace open to organizations operating throughout the Greater Toronto Area. Registered participants may use this web platform to list unused waste and recycling materials that would typically be landfilled, and organize exchanges with other local organizations.
Once registered on Material Exchange, users enjoy immediate access to:
- Browse listings to identify and source material and services
- Create listings to offer and request materials
- Receive email notifications about new listings
- Connect with other local organizations looking to exchange unwanted resources
- Report on the results of exchanges to highlight success stories
Key to the platform’s success is the active facilitation support we provide to our users. If there is no activity on a listing, the Material Exchange team steps in to help identify solution providers and increase the likelihood of a successful exchange.
Material Exchange is growing in popularity, with 275 users now registered on the platform. Since it launched, users have made 140 exchanges, diverting 4,683 tonnes of material for reuse or recycling. In 2016, users exchanged a wide variety of materials, including coffee pods, pallets, hospital equipment, construction equipment, furniture, recycling bins, freezer packs, organic material, duvets, and ash trees.
Our users can be broken down into two key groups: generators and solution providers. Generators are organizations from the industrial, commercial, and institutional sectors that are generating and offering waste to be repurposed or recycled. Solution providers, meanwhile, are organizations willing to accept this material for reprocessing.
In many cases, solution providers are haulers, material recovery facilities, brokers, and specialty recyclers. However, as Ontario moves towards the circular economy and industrial ecology, a growing number of generators on the platform are themselves acting as solution providers.
Material Exchange has, for example, helped to ensure used hospital equipment was reused locally. In 2016, Runnymede Healthcare Centre used the platform to find other institutions interested in accepting several high-quality, lightly-used hospital bathtubs that would otherwise have been earmarked for landfill.
Through Material Exchange, Runnymede Healthcare Centre identified two local long-term care facilities with use for the bathtubs: Sarsfield Colonial Homes and Jarlette Health Centre. The result: 1.5 tonnes of hospital equipment was reused. (To purchase bathtubs like these new would have cost the two facilities approximately $110,000.)
“Material Exchange is a fantastic opportunity for community and health care providers to offer quality used items to other organizations so they can benefit from their use,” said James Abraham, care service co-ordinator at Jarlette Health Services. “The staff, residents, and management at Leacock Care Centre are very thankful for the generous donation from Runnymede Health Centre.”
“[Our] top priority is to enhance the health and well-being of our patients and the local community, and our deep commitment to sustainability reflects this,” said Karl Karvonen, manager of facilities and environmental sustainability at Runnymede Healthcare Centre. “Our hospital’s collaboration with Partners in Project Green’s Material Exchange platform helped us to reduce our environmental impact.”
A wide cross-section of industrial, commercial, and institutional organizations use Material Exchange to identify potential partnerships and divert material. Some come to us seeking a one-time solution, while others are looking for support for an ongoing diversion program. We help organizations just starting their waste management initiatives, as well as those already far down the road toward zero waste.
Registered participants include organizations of all sizes, from those with a handful of employees to others with a workforce in the thousands. Last year alone, our users included the likes of Ikea, Maple Leaf Foods, Greater Toronto Airport Authority, Air Canada, and Coca Cola.
Material Exchange drives the local circular economy, helps local businesses improve their diversion rates, and supports the growth of new end-markets for recycled goods. The platform gets results—and it produces case studies demonstrating alternative business models for diverting waste, improving sustainability, and saving money.
To showcase such innovation, Solid Waste and Recycling magazine is launching a new column where I will be highlighting case studies and lessons learned from Material Exchange to inspire your business.