September 11, 2006

Audit shows 40% drop in Toronto's litter since 2002

Litter in Toronto is down by 40% since 2002, as indicated by the results of the city's 2006 litter audit, carried out during the summer by the same independent firm that has done previous audits. The reduction is twice the 20% improvement indicated in 2005, confirming that the city is on track to achieve its goal, set in 2002, of reducing litter by 50% over a five-year period (2002-2007).

This year's litter audit measured an average of 15 pieces of litter per site. This compares well to the previous findings of 20 and 21 pieces in 2005 and 2004 respectively, and to the 25 pieces of litter counted per site in the 2002 baseline audit.

Plastic items constituted the leading type of material, making up 27% of total litter counted. This finding was the same as in 2005. Paper products were the second most common type of material making up Toronto litter, accounting for 22% of large litter items counted. This is also consistent with the 2005 findings.

Factors cited as contributing to the improvement in litter reduction include a number of operational adjustments, such as a reallocation of equipment and personnel to high-litter areas and the increased use of mechanized street and sidewalk cleaning equipment. This includes state-of-the-art "waterless/dustless" sweepers, which can be used year-round and feature lower levels of air emissions.

The city has increased the number and location of litter bins on its streets since 2002, better facilitating safe disposal of garbage. As well, Toronto's litter operations staff has established a network of 64 manual street-cleaning "Bag & Broom" routes to clean up the most heavily-littered downtown areas by 9 a.m. and other areas between noon and 2 p.m.

Supplementing this network are 27 "Flying Squad Routes," mobilized vehicles dispatched to clean up specific littered areas.

Improved, more effective co-ordination of litter collection services has resulted in less littered streets, which in turn has promoted better behaviour by Toronto residents. (Research shows that people are less likely to litter if the streets are clean.)

Following the same methodology employed in the past, the 2006 audit examined 298 randomly-selected sites, including at least two sites per city ward. They were the same sites used in previous audits.

Annual litter audits help Toronto city staff determine emerging issues and responsibilities and develop a trend analysis by which the impact of litter reduction programs can be measured.

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