‘Tis the season to be jolly, but with gift giving, gatherings and feasts, the holiday season can produce a lot of waste. Remember the 3Rs – Reduce, Reuse and Recycle this holiday season.
Consider low waste, high impact gifts
- Give tickets to an event or show
- Donate to a local charity on behalf of a loved one
- Give the gift of learning with a course or class
- Purchase a membership to a club, gallery, museum or zoo
- Gift a service such as a cleaning service, spa treatment or oil change
- Give a tour or getaway weekend
- Host a holiday swap with parents in your area to exchange kids’ clothes and toys
- Skip the single-use bag and tissue when purchasing an item at a store
- Buy beautiful decorations that you want to reuse each year
- Bring nature into your home by decorating with pine cones, plants and sticks (don’t pick them off a live tree)
- Revive old decorations by adding a fresh coat of paint
- Shop second-hand for decorations to add to your collection
Get crafty when gift wrapping
- Use old crate paper, newspaper, maps, or calendars as gift wrap
- Reuse last year’s wrap, bows, ribbon and bags
- Learn the art of Furoshiki and create fancy gift wrap using cloth and other fabrics
- Paint and decorate bags and cardboard boxes
Make it a low-waste gathering
- Opt for reusable dishes, cups, cutlery, napkins and table cloths instead of disposable ones
- Plan your meals and send guests home with any leftovers
- Learn a new recipe to spice up leftovers
- Host a donation party and donate canned goods to a local shelter
- Throw a re-gifting party after the holidays to make sure the gifts given end up in appreciative hands
When you can’t reduce or reuse, put your holiday waste in its proper place:
Garbage: Foil/metallic gift wrap, ribbons and bows, bubble wrap, wooden fruit crates, broken dishes, glasses and black plastics
Green Bin (organics): Fruit and vegetable scraps, meat (including bones), spoiled cakes and cookies, soiled paper plates and napkins
Blue Bin (recycling): Paper gift wrap and cards, plastic over-wrap, cookie tins, plastic disposable cups, plates (if rinsed), aluminum trays, roasting pans
Use reusable bags for shopping and gift giving, reusable bottles and mugs instead of disposables when on the go and real dishes and cutlery at events. When shopping, consider thrift stores and garage sales.
Find new uses for things you would otherwise throw away. A few examples include using cookie tins for storage, turning old clothes into rags, using cans as pencil holders and using old jars as vases.
Organize a swap with friends or attend one of the many swap events happening in the city.
Borrow tools, party supplies, camping gear, sports equipment, board games and toys from a lending library or share things like a lawn mower or ladder with neighbours. You can also rent clothing for special events or one-time use.
Plan ahead, buy only what you need and consider the impact of packaging when making purchases.
The average Toronto household throws out 17 kg (37 lb) of clothing and other textiles each year (based on City of Toronto household waste audits). That’s one trend that needs to end.
Textiles that are put into the garbage end up in landfill, where they take up valuable space and release greenhouse gases contributing to climate change. Manufacturing clothing also has a significant environmental impact from the raw materials and energy used to the pollution created in the process. Reusing or repurposing clothing extends its life.
The City of Toronto is a member of the Ontario Textile Diversion Collaborative, a multi stakeholder group committed to minimizing the number of textiles going to landfill.
Ways to Shrink Your Clothing Footprint
- Shop consciously. Buy only what you need and look for clothes that are a high quality and will last.
- Give clothes a new life through donation. Find non-profit organizations where you can donate unwanted clothing and other items. Find City-permitted clothing drop boxes.
- Bring unwanted clothing back to retailers who have takeback programs.
- Buy second-hand. Thrift stores and garage sales are great places to find clothing that is new to you.
- Borrow, share or swap clothing instead of buying new or rent clothing for a special event or other one-time use.
- Repair clothing to extend its life. The City has a number of Sewing Repair Hubs across Toronto.
Find non-profit organizations where you can donate clothing and other items. To get donation locations from your smartphone or tablet, download the TOwaste app. Please note: the listing of these organizations is not a City endorsement.
Before you make a donation, please contact the organization to confirm their location and hours, what items they accept and in what condition. The condition of acceptable items varies between organizations, but none want items that are wet, mildewed or contaminated with hazardous waste.
Holiday Wish List
If you’re looking for ways to help people who are homeless and vulnerable this holiday season, you can make a donation to a community agency that serves them. Details about the types of donations they need can be found in each agency’s wish list.
How donations are used
Non-profit organizations use donations in various ways. Some resell clothing and household items to provide support and/or employment for those in need and fund their activities and research. Others distribute donations directly to their clients. You can support these organizations by donating reusable items and shopping at their retail operations.
What to do with items that are not accepted for reuse
If furniture or appliances are not accepted for reuse, they can be set out for collection as oversized items on garbage day. If you live in an apartment or condo, speak with your building manager about where to bring furniture and appliances.
Electronics that cannot be reused or donated can be put out on garbage day for pickup or brought to a Drop-off Depot or Community Environment Day. If you live in an apartment or condo, speak with your building manager about where to bring your electronic waste.
The City is currently looking at how to reduce single-use and takeaway items in Toronto. This includes public consultation on what items to target and what approaches to take.
This supports the Waste Strategy’s recommendation to explore mechanisms within the City’s power, including bans or fees, to achieve greater waste reduction and diversion
Many items that can be reused are thrown out every day. To help foster a culture of waste reduction, sharing, repairing and reuse in Toronto, the City is implementing five Community Reduce & Reuse Programs. Together, the programs will help to build sustainable communities and reduce the amount of waste going to landfill.
Food waste is a significant issue both locally and across the country. Over 50 per cent of food wasted in Toronto single-family households is avoidable. This includes leftovers and untouched food that could have been eaten at one point. Food waste often occurs when we buy too much, cook too much, or don’t store our food correctly. It’s estimated that avoidable food waste costs the average Canadian household over $1,100 per year.
Food waste reduction is a key part of the City’s Long Term Waste Management Strategy. Since food waste is not just a local issue, the City has partnered with the National Zero Waste Council, other government organizations and major retailers on the Love Food Hate Waste Canada campaign, a national effort to reduce food waste across the country.