Category Archives: Environment

Green bins roll out for apartments delayed

All apartments were to receive organic waste collection by end of 2010
Could now be phased in by 2011 to reduce budget costs
By Kris Scheuer
(Originally written Nov.13.08 with update Oct. 20/09 for Town Crier.)

A plan to roll out green bin service in apartments is key to decreasing how much waste ends up in landfill.
When I first reported on this almost a year ago, the city planned to roll out organic waste collection in 300 buildings each month until all 4,500 multi-unit residential complexes were on board.
This was expected to divert an additional 30,000 tonnes of organic waste from landfill, according to city stats.
And it was meant to double the waste diversion rate in multi residential apartments from 13 percent to 26 percent. In other words, more organic collection means less food ending up in landfill.
This Monday Oct. 19, I was at the city’s budget committee and I will be back there tomorrow listening to the solid waste management’s capital and operating plan for 2010. Continue reading

Five cent bag tax resulting in reduced use

Councillor Walker wants proof five cent plastic bag fee reduces use
Grocery chains interim results indicates it has, for me it’s meant no new bags
By Kris Scheuer
(Originally written Oct. 4 for Town Crier.)

Most Torontonians want to do right by the environment.
The city has a policy aimed at getting us to reduce our use of plastic sopping bags and produce less garbage. And if we don’t follow along, it will cost us more money.
This five-cent plastic bag fee that kicked in June 1.
The city’s aim in this recent bylaw is to reduce the number of plastic bags that end up in littering the streets or sent to landfill.
Midtown councillor Michael Walker is asking how many fewer bags are being used as a result of the nickel charge.
The city manager responded Sept. 30 to Walker’s inquiry. The short answer is we don’t know yet.
The General Manager Geoff Rathbone will be reporting back to the city after May 31 when the policy is a year old. At that time industry will report back to the city on how many fewer plastic bags customers are using.
So far, Metro (which bought Dominion) grocery stores have reported that by June 29 there was already a 70 percent reduction in plastic bags compared to the monthly average.
Supermarket giant Loblaw introduced the bag charge earlier back in January and also reported a 75 percent reduction in plastic bags now that customers were charged.
We shall see if this reduction in plastic bag use was just initial reaction to the nickel charge and if consumers will embrace alternatives such as reusable bags or carts.
According to 2005 audit data by Stewardship Ontario, collectively in Toronto we use 457 million retail plastic shopping bags annually.
That’s 8.8 plastic retail shopping bags, per family weekly. Continue reading

Eco school status spreading in Toronto

Maurice Cody PS shows how it’s done
Leaside school achieves new platinum ecological rating
By Kris Scheuer
(Written Aug. 14 for Town Crier)

Maurice Cody Public School’s garden has become a haven for the neighbourhood. Photo by Kris Scheuer/Town Crier.

Environmental consciousness in schools is spreading like dandelions on a large pesticide-free lawn.
The Toronto District School Board boasted 259 eco-certified schools in the 2007–2008 academic year and that’s expanded to 310 in 2008–2009.
Being an eco school means not just teaching students about the environment but putting those lessons into practise. Schools in the program conduct waste audits and minimize garbage on site, conserve energy and create sustainable school grounds.
Not only is the number of eco-schools growing in the board, but so is the level of environmental stewardship. Continue reading

Burning biosolids in the beach?

Incineration was one of three options to dispose of wastewater sludge
But it’s not being recommended for Ashbridges Bay Treatment Plant
By Kris Scheuer
(Written  Sept. 10 for Town Crier.)

If you read the draft of the biosolids treatment plan for Ashbridges Bay you could be forgiven for thinking incineration maybe coming back to the Beach.
Incineration, also known as “thermal energy”, is listed in the report as one of three possible options but officials tell the Town Crier that burning biosolids at the site is no longer on the table.
“All the options for each plant site were evaluated,” said Deborah Ross with consultant firm AECOM, which is producing Toronto’s Biosolids Master Plan. “Thermal energy ranked high, but it’s not being recommended.” 
Instead, the plan is recommending the waste be converted into biosolid cake and used as fertilizer or, as a second or temporary option, sending the material to landfill. Continue reading

What I learned from city strike

We produce too much garbage, litter and packaging
I am doing my own waste audit to see how I can improve
By Kris Scheuer
(Column originally published in Town Crier Aug. 4)

Something stinks in the “state” of Toronto and it’s not just the garbage strike.
As a city hall reporter and lifelong Torontonian, here is my trash talk on garbage, litter and my top observations during the nearly six week labour unrest.
Number 1: we produce way too much waste, folks.
We deposited a total of 25,000 tonnes of waste in 26 temporary, neighbourhood garbage dumps, Geoff Rathbone, head of solid waste management told reporters on July 30.
Let’s think about that for a sec. The dumps opened June 25, some of them, such as Christie Pits, closed a mere 11 days later because they were at capacity. The amount of garbage we threw out at these dumps doesn’t even include the tonnes thrown out at seven waste transfer stations. Continue reading

The good, the bad and the smelly

Evidence from garbage strike is we still have long way to go in conservation quest
(Originally written July 17 by Kris Scheuer for Town Crier.)

Conservation and consumption.
There’s both good news and a shocking reality check when it comes to how much we conserve and consume in Toronto.
We are becoming more aware of ways we can cut back on our use of everything from energy to plastic bags.
But on the other hand, the garbage strike that hit the city at midnight June 22 made it oh so obvious that we are still producing far too much waste.
While it’s true that as the clock struck midnight, it had been two weeks since the last regularly scheduled garbage pickup for some folks, there were already reports of people illegally dumping waste in parks like Christie Pits on day 1 of the strike.
Continue reading

Toronto trash full of recyclables

Residential trash 80 percent full of recyclables Town Crier audit shows
That’s prior to summer 2009 garbage strike
By Sandie Benitah, Kris Scheuer and Eric McMillan
(Originally published in Town Crier Feb. 07 as a follow-up to a Dec/05 story)

Eric McMillan sorts thru 40 bags of residential trash. Pile on right is recyclables.

A year later, nothing has changed.
At the end of 2005, a Town Crier analysis of household garbage showed about 80 percent of what we were throwing out as trash could easily have been recycled in blue boxes and green bins.
In the year since then the disposal of Toronto’s million tonnes of garbage has been a major issue, with fights over whether to incinerate it, ship it to Michigan or bury it near London.
Here’s a suggestion: Just recycle it.
Twelve months after our original survey, the Town Crier has found that — still — most of our so-called garbage is recyclable.
For two weeks reporters collected garbage bags left at residential curbsides in Toronto: 40 bags in total, five selected randomly from each of our eight coverage areas. Continue reading

Toronto beaches unsafe to swim

City water tests reveal four city beaches temporarily contain too much E.coli
Sunnyside, Woodbine, Balmy, Bluffer’s beaches are risky for swims today: city
By Kris Scheuer

Swimmer dives in at Woodbine Beach. Photo by Kris Scheuer/Town Crier.

The good news is Cherry Beach is totally safe for a splashing in, according to the July 24 test results by the water department.
Unfortunately, that is the only Toronto beach with safe levels of E.coli posted today.
The city recommends against swimming at Sunnyside, Woodbine, Kew-Balmy and Bluffer’s due to high levels of E.coli detected in beach water.
So Torontonians and visitors, would you swim at any of the city’s beaches?
Have your say, are our beaches swim worthy or not? Continue reading

Homeless living along Toronto’s Don Valley

A NEW PUSH IS ON TO CLEAR HOMELESS FROM THE VALLEY
AND IT’S COMING FROM THE DON’S ECO-DEFENDERS
By Kris Scheuer
(Published in NOW magazine March 23-30/06)

Through a break in a chain-link fence, over train tracks and felled trees and down slick mud banks – there’s no quick or easy route to this chaotic homeless encampment tucked not so neatly into a secluded corner of the Don Valley.
It’s a sanctuary from the bustle of the city, an ideal place to avoid society for my guide, Kurt, and seven or eight other homeless people who call this scattering of tents, sleeping bags and garbage home.
An estimated 111 homeless encampments are scattered throughout the city’s ravines, parks and woodlands, including many right here in the valley.
The city used to tolerate the people who call the valley home — but now a slowly building movement for their removal is theatening their riverbed shelters. It started when council passed a bylaw banning sleeping in Nathan Phillips Square and other public spaces.
Staff from the city’s Streets to Homes programs and other departments have been paying more regular visits to the Don.
Some 20 encampments have been cleared city-wide, and interviews with city staff suggest that more evictions are planned come spring. Streets to Homes says its forays are aimed at helping valley-dwellers find rental accommodation. Continue reading

Zero waste goal hard to realize

Avid Toronto recyclers inspire my goal to throw out no trash

Kris Scheuer
(Originally written  January 31/07)

What if the city’s garbage trucks pulled up to our houses and found all the trash cans empty?
While this situation is unlikely to be realized at any point in the near or even distant future, at least two families are attempting to get to the point where they are throwing out zero garbage. The Town Crier has featured attempts by Beach resident Karen Buck to get her family to produce no trash. They now throw out only about five or six garbage bags in a 12-month period.
She is diligent. She tries to buy clothes that have biodegradable fibres and products that can be repaired, and to donate used products to Goodwill. She also keeps separate containers (for blue and green bins) throughout the house so nothing recyclable gets mixed in with regular trash.
Another couple, Sarah McGaughey and Kyle Glover, are attempting to throw out no more than one small shopping bag of waste every two weeks, but want to reduce this to zero waste. Click here to find out more about the Oakwood and St. Clair area couple’s process.
These families inspired me to give zero waste a try. I decided to conduct a test and report my discoveries here, but with the deadline looming I had only two days to do a trial.

Continue reading