Toronto highrises get organic waste collection

City rolls our green bins in multi-unit buildings over 18 months

By Kris Scheuer
(Originally written for Town Crier Nov. 13/08)
North Yorker Anne-Marie Ambert’s green conscience was eating away at her every time the condo-dweller threw food scraps in the trash.
So Ambert advocated for her building, near Yonge St. and Empress Ave., to be one of 30 test sites for city’s new highrise organic waste collection system.
As a result of having green bin pick-up since 2006, residents here reduced their waste output from five to seven industrial size garbage containers a week down to two, said Ambert, president of the condo board at The Boulevard.
The program was considered such a success here, Mayor David Miller chose this site to launch organic waste collection for all Toronto highrises.
“You have led the way in helping us find out how to do this,” Miller said Nov. 12. “People want to recycle but need tools to make it convenient and part of their daily lives.”
Over the next year and a half, the city will roll out the green bin program in 300 buildings each month until all 4,500 multi-unit residential buildings are on board. This is expected to divert an additional 30,000 tonnes of organic waste from landfill, according to city stats.

Anne-Marie Ambert demonstrates how green bin
works in her condo. Photo by Kris Scheuer.
We will have a massive garbage revolution,” Public works chair Glenn De Baeremaeker said at the launch. “We will stop at nothing to take things out of the garbage system and divert it.”
As the system is rolled out, all condo and apartment dwellers will receive a small kitchen container to collect organic waste. Depending on the set-up in their building, they will empty organics into a specially designated chute, a tri-sorter at the end of the hall or dump it in a central green bin container for city collection.
For first time users of the system Ambert has an important tip on when to dump your mini bin.
“As soon as it smells, I get rid of it,” said Ambert, who carries a bag of organics down to industrial-sized green bin on the condo’s main floor.
Currently, one third of the 600 people living in her 23-storey building use the green bin system. However, she expects participation to increase.
Firstly, info on the system will be posted in Chinese, Russian and Korean for residents who speak and read those languages. And starting this year, multi-res buildings will be charged by volume for waste (similar to single family homes) so there will be a financial incentive to throw out less garbage. For more about the green bin programs, click here.
Willowdale councillor John Filion said one thing that will help is having an environmental leader at each building to organize it.
“A highrise is like a vertical neighbourhood,” he said.  “So you really need leaders to get their neighbours involved.”
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