Solid Waste & Recycling


Toronto's new 60 per cent diversion plan

This spring, staff at the City of Toronto submitted their new report "Getting to 60 per cent Diversion and Beyond." The purpose of the report is to outline the major initiatives that will be required if the city is to achieve 60 per cent waste div...

This spring, staff at the City of Toronto submitted their new report “Getting to 60 per cent Diversion and Beyond.” The purpose of the report is to outline the major initiatives that will be required if the city is to achieve 60 per cent waste diversion. This is part of a longer-term goal to divert all waste from landfill by 2010, and has been sped along in part by the recent announcement from the province’s Environment Minister Leona Dombrowsky that municipalities must work toward 60 per cent of waste diversion. (See page 16.) Ms. Dombrowsky also helped by recently announcing that Ontario will adopt the CCME guidelines for compost, thus making the product more saleable. (The full City of Toronto report is posted on our website under the Posted Documents button, in the April/May section. See

The report offers a fascinating glimpse into the initial activities and planning of a major North American city dedicated to total waste diversion. Apparently the most viable new and emerging technologies that would handle the remaining 40 per cent of waste not easily diverted are mainly thermal (e.g., gasification). The city’s contract with Republic that receives waste residue at a Michigan landfill prohibits Toronto considering outright incineration. The contract is up for renewal or consideration in 2005.

The report is subject to approval by city council, and staff will report further requesting specific approval for the individual diversion initiatives and will identify any financial commitments necessary at that time. Council has apparently rejected staff’s recommendation that the city invest in a pilot plant to demonstrate new and emerging technology, and is instead directing staff to prepare to submit plans for the complete solution to the province’s Environmental Assessment process, once it’s deemed that the EA process is repaired. (Ontario is currently establishing a special committee to make EA process recommendations. See cover story.) This decision could favor a non-thermal process like extensive centralized manual and mechanical secondary waste separation and recycling, but no one knows for sure.

In 2001, council adopted the recommendations of Waste Diversion Task Force 2010, setting waste diversion goods of 30, 60 and 100 per cent by 2003, 2006 and 2010 respectively.

The city has exceeded its goal of 30 per cent residential waste diversion by 2003. In 2003, approximately 287,000 tonnes of residential waste resources were diverted from landfill, which represents a residential diversion rate of 32 per cent. The rate is a combined diversion rate for single-family and multi-family residences. The individual diversion rates are 43 per cent for single-family homes and 12 per cent for multi-family dwellings. Homes participating in the Green Bin Program are exceeding 50 per cent diversion.

Council approved diversion initiatives, such as rolling-out the Green Bin program to all remaining single-family homes in the city (Toronto, East York and York in October 2004 and North York in 2005), and improving recovery of recyclables is expected to get Toronto to a combined diversion rate of 41 per cent.

The key residential diversion initiatives that have been identified in the “Getting to 60 per cent and Beyond” report include: increasing the recovery of recyclables from apartments; mandatory diversion programs and enforcement; reduced bag limits/excess bag fees; single stream recycling and new recycling containers; addition of more materials to the recycling program; implementation of organics programs in apartments; and, re-use centres and greater diversion of durable goods.

Source separated organics (SSO)

The city plans to amend its residential collection bylaw to require the source separation of Green Bin organics once the Green Bin program is fully implemented in single-family homes across the city. SSO collection in apartments will be mandatory once SSO programs are implemented.

The city will investigate the feasibility of requiring that bags of residual waste put out for collection be translucent to ensure they do not contain recyclable or organic materials. Toronto also wants to hire 25 bylaw compliance officers and associated managerial and administrative support in 2005, to enforce the mandatory diversion procedures outlined in the report for single-family and multi-family residences.

A hybrid Pay-As-You-Throw (PAYT) program which features a limit of three bags per bi-weekly collection will be funded through the tax base and a charge (tags purchased from the city) for each bag or item collected that exceeds the set-out rate be implemented for single-family residences in 2006. Recycling and SSO collection would be provided at no charge.

The city will implement an automated recycling cart pilot involving a total of 3,600 homes (six routes) in a cross section of areas including areas of traditionally poor recyclers, areas of average recyclers and areas with on-street parking, in early 2005.

Toronto will implement a system that provides residents with adequate capacity for their recyclables following analysis of the cart pilots and other alternatives such as allowing the use of special recycling bags for overflow material, switching to weekly recycling collection or providing more blue boxes. (The city is issuing a Request for Quotations for plastic tubs and lids and will add this material to the blue box program in January 2005, if a viable bid from a stable market results.)

Staff want to implement SSO pilots in 50 multi-residential buildings by 2006, including high-rises, low-rises, Toronto Community Housing buildings and townhouse complexes, using various collection techniques. Test loads of apartment mixed waste will be sent to the mixed waste facility operated by Conporec in Quebec, to determine whether this is a viable contingency method in the event that SSO collection is not suitable for all apartments.

Subject to the pilots demonstrating that SSO collection and processing is viable for apartments and a waste-limit/fees policy being in place, the main rollout of SSO collection in apartments will commence in 2007 and be phased in according to the following schedule: District 4 — 2007; District 2 — 2008; District 3 — 2009; District 1 — 2010.

Guy Crittenden is editor of this magazine. With files from the City of Toronto. Contact Geoff Rathbone, Director of Policy and Planning, Solid Waste Management Services at 416-392-4715 or at

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