Rebuilding Place in the Urban Space

"A community’s physical form, rather than its land uses, is its most intrinsic and enduring characteristic." [Katz, EPA] This blog focuses on place and placemaking and all that makes it work--historic preservation, urban design, transportation, asset-based community development, arts & cultural development, commercial district revitalization, tourism & destination development, and quality of life advocacy--along with doses of civic engagement and good governance watchdogging.

Saturday, March 05, 2016

Best practice multiunit residential zero waste project in Scarborough/Toronto

The Toronto Star reports ("Scarborough condo leading way toward ‘zero waste’") on a best practice zero waste project for a 282 unit condominium high-rise community of multiple buildings with approximately 1,000 residents.

Through various activities including door-to-door outreach, they've reduced the number of trash pickups in one month by 95%, from 20 dumpster loads to one..  From the article:
The 1,000 or so residents of Mayfair on the Green responded to skyrocketing waste fees with a multi-pronged diversion campaign. They turned the garbage chute into an organics collector, tapped city educational tools including multilingual signs and cut trash output to one dumpster every two months from one dumpster every week.

“If you really talk to the people and they really understand, they will help,” says Princely Soundranayagam, the building’s superintendent who has spearheaded the transformation since 2004.

“Also, put a dollar mark (of savings) in front of them. In the beginning it is hard to get people to change but once you explain the benefits, they will co-operate to save money and for the environment.”

The condo used to spend $7,000 to $10,000 a year to get drains cleared. The problem stopped when Soundranayagam gave residents empty containers to bring down used cooking oil. Now they sell the used oil.
Commenter charlie and others ("Why Can't You Pour Grease Down The Drain?," Business Insider) have written about the problem of cooking oil disposal in multiunit buildings.

In "More on zero waste practice (and DC)" I commented that there is plenty of opportunity for best practice development in waste reduction on the part of multiunit residential properties and that is an area where DC could distinguish itself nationally in terms of sustainability planning.

The Scarborough program shows there is great promise in creating multiunit residential focused diversion programs in major cities, including DC, where no such initiative appears to be underway. 

According to the Star article, the Mayfair complex diverts 85% or more of its waste stream, while the average diversion rate for multiunit buildings in Greater Toronto is 26%.

The report Zero Waste Toronto: A Vision For Our City, by the Toronto Environmental Alliance features the Mayfair complex as a best practice that the rest of the city should strive for.  The report includes a listing of a number of best practices from around North America mostly, but also other places.

Toronto has many of its own environmental best practices to tout including Community Environment Days, which sound like the environmental "festivals" that I suggested could be created as part of city zero waste practice in association with certain diversion programs.
From the blog entry:
The special collection day the first Saturday of the month could be treated as a “special collections fair and expo” and include representatives from organizations such as those listed above, either to promote donation of materials to those organizations or to collect them directly.
The Toronto program also schedules an annual event in each city ward--which in Toronto are many, 44.

Six Pillars of Zero Waste from the Zero Waste Toronto report

1. Commit to zero waste with targets and timelines for Toronto
2. Ensure equal access to the tools to reduce, reuse and recycle
3. Make Education and Effective Communications a Priority
4. Tap into community excitement and innovation
5. Use incentives to influence behaviour and keep pushing for zero waste
6. Keep learning

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At 7:54 AM, Anonymous charlie said...

As long as private haulers just take our recycle materials to the landfill/incinerator I don't see much incentive to move to waste stream over.

The explosion in cardboard boxes is making it very difficult.

In terms of reuse, I'd propose something like a "REUSE Monday" where everyone coordinates on putting on reuse on the streets one day a month, and the city picks up everything that doesn't get picked over.

Having actual metal collection in the areas would be helpful as well.

At 8:36 AM, Blogger Richard Layman said...

the motivation for the complex in Scarborough was cost reduction. They find about $20K or more in annual savings.

But yes, to do this would require significant changes in waste collection and regulation.

wrt you reuse day, Salt Lake City does a derivation of this, they schedule them by neighborhood, only once/year maybe. But people are free to pick, and then after the city picks the stuff up. I don[t know if they sort it.

Metal collection yes, is another high value items that should be collected, added to the waste stream collection system, among others.

... I found you can recycle batteries at Lib. of Congress and wine corks at Whole Foods...

the one problem with resuse monday being once/month is that I imagine a lot of buildings won't want to store the reusable stuff for that time, they don't have much room, etc.

Definitely it's worth doing some research on setting up optimized intra-building waste collection and storage systems.

At 11:06 AM, Anonymous charlie said...

yeah, the costs caught my eye but also made be a bit suspicious.

20 to 1 dumpster reduction is great, but then there are increases in recycle pickup. As I said looking at our single stream stream about 75% of it is now cardboard boxes. Zero newspaper. And it isn't much of a savings in DC. I think we are paying a landfill fee on both (need to check).

(a in place glass crusher would help.)


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