Solid Waste & Recycling


Toronto's Multi-Unit Waste Reduction Levy

As the City of Toronto further reduces waste to landfill, it's focused on the next frontier -- waste from multi-unit dwellings (with eight units or more) and high-rise apartment and condominium buildi...

As the City of Toronto further reduces waste to landfill, it’s focused on the next frontier — waste from multi-unit dwellings (with eight units or more) and high-rise apartment and condominium buildings.

The city has strong incentives to look to high-rises to achieve its diversion goals. The city provides collection for most buildings; diversion is often an untapped resource and this market segment represents the overwhelming primary development growth market in Toronto.

A “Multi Unit Waste Reduction Levy” is the financial instrument being used to introduce higher diversion, with an ambitious 60 per cent goal (as mandated by the province). The city has taken an “education first, enforcement second” carrot-and-stick” approach. Non-compliance may eventually result in the discontinuation of landfill exempt waste collection.

It works like this. Building management supplies a “Comprehensive Recycling Improvement Plan” to the city’s Solid Waste Management Department. A recycling handbook, container signage and promotional graphic posters are available for support. Resident information cards in 20 languages are now available, too.

Smaller buildings face different infrastructure and behaviour challenges than their high-rise neighbours. Generally, smaller buildings see their occupants take materials to the containers. The container infrastructure changes based on available space may be more flexible.

High-rises have restricted space infrastructure, greater behavioural change and greater multiple language issues. Rental building tenant turnover and apathy may compound the challenges.

Property managers and building superintendents will become the front line “recycling co-ordinators.” They need to get educated. Some buildings may find resident recycling “champions” to help.

Billing is prepaid quarterly, with a city supplied and maintained transponder “reader” devise, attached on the bins. It sends a signal via satellite to the accounting system. Driver run sheets are used for backup. This will be North America’s largest foray into this European transponder waste billing system. A “mock levy billing system” is projected to become live actual billing in June.

Currently, waste collection services are provided up to twice weekly. Recycling collection is to be provided on a weekly basis.

There are bound to be “growing pains” for all stakeholders, particularly during the start-up phase. Under the plan, locations will pay the levy on waste disposal over the allowable limits of approximately 0.10 cubic yards or .046 compacted yards weekly, per resident.

The levy’s for overages are on an escalating scale per yard, in three-yard increments. It starts at $ 2.76 ($ 6.30 compacted) per yard for the initial three yards, maxing out after six yards at $ 8.28 ($18.90) respectively. It’s assumed all bins are full.

Existing high rises were not designed to accommodate multi floor recycling. Creating a convenient system infrastructure can maximize resident participation. A financial incentive exists to maximize diversion, with the 60 per cent target. Many may place containers at the ground floor (or underground) while others may choose to retrofit existing chute systems.

A key factor for retrofitted chutes is a foolproof “lock-out” system on all floors. Finding a reputable, innovative, experienced vendor with the right equipment and retrofit solution for each specific building will be the “secret to success.” One such organization is the Metro Group an OWMA member, which has focused on being a one-stop shop to the high-rise building and property management equipment and service market.

Doug King is with Metro Jet Wash. Contact Doug at

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