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Reduce, Reuse and Recycle
Multi-residential Building Recycling Programs in York Region
By Amy Hartman | Other articles by Amy Hartman
Reduce, reuse and recycle sounds like a simple concept, yet in our busy lives it is often difficult to implement on a day-today basis. It involves a personal commitment. Buying items with less packaging and using reusable bags and bottles are some easy ways to reduce the amount of waste we produce.
Waste reduction programs for residents living in condominiums are often faced with additional challenges, such as awkward building layouts, language and cultural barriers and high resident turnover. Communal waste collection areas in buildings make residents less personally accountable for how they dispose of their waste. For example, a resident can anonymously place recycling, like cardboard, down the garbage chute or in the garbage bin. In a single-family home, residents observe their neighbours' participation in curbside recycling programs, which provides added motivation for waste diversion.
While most buildings provide a convenient garbage system with access to chutes on every floor, the same convenience is not always offered to residents for recycling. The majority of buildings require residents to take their recyclable materials to a less convenient centralized location. To recycle, more effort is required. Municipal waste audits have revealed recycling rates are much lower in multi-residential buildings than singlefamily homes. Building managers, superintendents and residents can take advantage of many simple waste programs that create community and support reuse and recycling efforts.
Property management can get involved in reuse programs by promoting "swap" tables. Swap tables enable residents to exchange good-condition, reusable items they no longer want or need, for other items they can use. Located in a common area or a waste room, swap tables are convenient for condominium residents to share and reuse items rather than throw them out. As the saying goes, "one person's trash is another person's treasure." An added bonus to swap tables is the items are free!
Recently, York Region partnered with four multi-residential buildings in the Towns of Richmond Hill, Newmarket and Georgina to promote swap tables. In buildings with limited space for a swap table, a swap event was promoted in advance and held in the lobby for a day or over a weekend. One building swapped 300 items in more than a month, diverting in excess of 225 kilograms of material from the landfill. Residents enjoyed the convenience of swapping items in their buildings, the excitement of finding new things at no cost, and the economic and environmental benefits of swapping. Surveys found 97 per cent of residents were satisfied with the initiative!
Property managers can also create a bulletin board or online forum, where residents can post pictures of items they are looking to give away or trade on swap days or any other time of the year.
Textiles, including clothing, bedding and towels, represent up to five per cent of the materials disposed of in Ontario. Clothing donation bins are a great way to recycle as the majority of donated clothing is reused or repurposed. Textiles that are torn or in poor quality can also be placed in a clothing donation bin. Many organizations accept small housewares and accessories too.
Consider hosting a clothing donation bin in your community. Some organizations offer a permanent donation container and regular collection service, or seasonal collection over the weekend.
Electronic waste (e-waste) contains materials that can be recovered and recycled into new products. Ontario Electronic Stewardship (OES) works to ensure end-of-life electronics are recycled in a safe and environmentally sound manner. Recovered materials including precious metals, glass, cables and wires are put back into the supply chain and are used to make new products. Consider setting up an e-waste recycling program in your community through OES, or post a sign with York Region's Waste Depot hours and locations in the waste room so residents can drop off their e-waste, free of charge (limits apply). Please visit york. ca/wastedepots or OES at recycleyourelectronics. ca for more information.
Household Hazardous Waste
Buildings, residents and management can implement a household hazardous waste recycling program in communal waste rooms to facilitate proper and safe disposal of hazardous materials such as batteries and compact florescent lightbulbs (CFLs). Mail-in battery recycling programs are also available at no cost, and require little time and resources. Alternatively, batteries and CFL bulbs can be brought to York Region Household Hazardous Waste Depots or Community Environmental Centres, free of charge (limits apply). Please visit york.ca/wastedepots for more information.
Beer and Liquor Containers
Consider collecting alcohol containers in a central location within the building. Proceeds from the returns can be used as a fundraising opportunity or applied to a social committee. LCBO and Beer Store glass is reused through the Beer Store recycling program and requires fewer resources and less energy than creating new bottles. Aluminum cans are recycled into aluminum sheets then used to make new cans.
Waste Management Design Guidelines for New Developments
Many York Region cities and towns have design guidelines that outline best practices for managing waste in multi-residential buildings. These guidelines ensure waste management needs are considered during the planning stages of a development. Ideal multi-residential programs accommodate recycling, organics and garbage deposit locations either in a common area that is most convenient to residents, or through a tri-sorter chute system.
Multi-Residential Working Group
Multi-residential properties are a key part of the growth plan in York Region. Multi-residential households are expected to more than double over the next 25 years (2016 to 2041).
Together with its nine cities and towns, York Region has formed the Multi-Residential Working Group. Made up of municipal staff, this group is committed to continuous improvement through the development of new programs and sharing data to track successes and address any upcoming challenges in this growing housing area. In 2016, the working group developed promotional materials and conducted waste audits. Waste audits provide an understanding of the type of materials and weights being disposed. The data is used to measure progress, plan new initiatives and educational campaigns. In 2017, the working group plans to pilot battery and textile collection in apartment and condo buildings and use new data collection techniques.
Bindicator and Online Tools
Many cities and towns offer online search tools to help you better understand what goes where, should you be unsure of how to dispose of something. In York Region, the "Bindicator" exists as an online and easy-to-use waste directory. Visit york.ca/bindicator for more information and to search for drop-off locations.
Food Waste Reduction
About 40 per cent of the food produced in Canada is thrown away. More than half of this waste is thrown out from homes — uneaten leftovers, untouched fruits and vegetables, food that's "bought and forgot." There are many things residents can do to reduce food waste, regardless of a formal organics program in the building. York Region's Good Food program focuses on making good food purchasing and cooking choices to improve health, allow more family time, reduce stress and food waste. Try meal planning, bring a list to the grocery store and purchase only what is needed. Properly store food in your fridge, keep raw meat, poultry and fish on the bottom shelf where it's coldest. Pick a day of the week to eat leftovers. Encourage friends and neighbours to participate in similar behaviours. York Region has resources and literature available to help residents reduce food waste. Visit york.ca/goodfood for information.
Become a Recycling Expert!
You can become a recycling expert if your local municipality provides recycling and/or organics programs to multiresidential buildings. Here's a question to test your knowledge: Are plastic bags accepted in the garbage or blue box? Answer: In York Region, plastic bags are considered garbage. Understanding what materials go where will help maximize your diversion from landfill. Here are some tips on how you can share your knowledge to other residents in your condominium:
- Start by checking out the recycling tips listed below
- Invite your city or town to give a presentation or host an information booth to promote waste diversion programs
- Ask your city or town for resources like posters for chute and waste rooms
- Ensure waste room is kept clean and tidy
- Place a recycling bin by the mailboxes to collect unwanted flyers; pair with a garbage bin so residents can put paper and envelopes in the recycling and plastic sleeves in the garbage
For more information on the multiresidential reuse and waste diversion programs listed above, please contact your local city/town or York Region at 1-866-665-6752.
Multi-residential Recycling Tips
- Place recyclables loose into the recycling containers (not in plastic bags); check your local city or town for a list of acceptable materials
- York Region Community Environmental Centres accept large, clean polystyrene (foam packaging) to be recycled; meat trays, plates, cups, packing peanuts or take-out containers are not accepted and should be placed in the garbage. Visit york.ca/cec for drop-off hours and locations
- Residents can use a reusable bag to store recyclables under the kitchen counter to save space
- Keep plastic lids on plastic beverage bottles and place in recycling; remove metal lids and place separately in recycling
- Not all plastics are recyclable; toothbrushes and cutlery (of any kind) are not recyclable and should be placed in the garbage when no longer needed
Did You Know?
- In 2015, each York Region resident generated approximately 313 kilograms of waste. That's the weight of a grand piano! Each resident avoided 201 kilograms of garbage by using the blue box, green bin, yard waste and other initiatives.
- There are multiple return-to-retail locations for used paint in York Region in addition to the four York Region Household Hazardous Waste Depots. Visit york.ca and regeneration.ca for more information.
- Many retailers take back plastic bags – check out york.ca/waste for a list of locations.
- According to Statistics Canada, households throw away up to $1,500 in food each year.
- In 2016, York Region residents kept 91 per cent of their total waste from going to landfill (includes energyfrom- waste).