March 6, 2006

Toronto reports rise to 40% in residential waste diversion rate

Toronto increased its residential diversion rate to 40% during 2005, up from 36% in 2004. The 40 per cent rate, which amounts to over 346,000 tonnes of waste diverted from landfill, represents a combined diversion rate for single-family and multi-unit residences and is calculated in accordance with approved methodology. The breakdown works out to 53% for single-family homes and 13% for multi-unit dwellings, compared to 48% and 12%, respectively, in 2004.

The figures were reported by Toronto Mayor David Miller at the unveiling of the city's newly retrofitted materials recovery facility (MRF) at the Dufferin transfer and processing site. "This accomplishment helps to continually reduce the number of garbage trucks bound for Michigan landfill," he noted, adding, "We now send less than 100 trucks a day, down from a peak of 142 daily trucks in 2003."

The increase in the single-family diversion rate is attributed mainly to the implementation of the Green Bin program. The 2005 results reflect the full impact of the organics collection program in the Toronto, East York, York and Etobicoke districts. The North York district joined the program last October, so the full impact will not be seen for this area until 2006.

"The Green Bin Program also has a positive impact on the Blue Box program by increasing the capture rate of recyclables in the Green Bin serviced areas," said Richard Butts, the city's general manager of solid waste management services. "Besides the residential waste diversion programs," he continued, "we also collect recyclables from commercial establishments serviced by municipal waste collection, from businesses through depots at our transfer stations, and from schools, agencies, boards and commissions. In 2005, an additional 31,000 tonnes of recyclable materials were diverted from landfill through these programs."

The retrofitted Dufferin facility includes innovative technologies to make it a state-of-the-art integrated waste management facility capable of handling three different types of curbside collection, garbage, green bin organics and single stream recyclables (combination of paper and container recyclables co-mingled and set out in one recycling box). One of the new technologies being explored is "optical station," which permits machines to automatically sort out different types and colours of plastic bottles and jugs.

The processing facility handles 100,000 tonnes of single-stream recyclables yearly, equal to half of the containers and paper collected from the City's curbside and multi-unit recycling programs. The transfer station component at the site receives 80,000 tonnes per year of residential and commercial/industrial waste, approximately 11% of the annual total managed by the city.

The organics processing facility at the Dufferin site processes 25,000 tonnes per year of material using a patented German anaerobic digestion technology; Toronto is the first municipality in the western hemisphere to implement this technology.

The achievement of the 40% diversion rate is a step toward an even more ambitious goal, namely 60% by 2008. A major challenge will be improving multi-unit diversion rates beyond 13%.

To do this, Toronto is building on its 2004 blitz, which made basic recycling programs available in all 5,100 apartment and condominium buildings it services. Organic collection pilot projects are underway to test the most efficient and effective way to divert organic material from multi-unit dwellings. The city is also requiring multi-unit buildings to develop individual waste diversion plans to encourage higher recycling rates.

Other measures being considered include: possible reduction in bag limits; establishment of re-use centres for convenient drop-off and pick-up of re-usable items; and expansion of the Blue Box program to include plastic film (bags) and polystyrene.

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