Every year, the City of Toronto manages close to 900,000 tonnes (almost two billion pounds) of waste. This requires money, energy, and resources and takes up valuable landfill space. Waste reduction should always be top of mind as the less waste produced, the less there is to manage. Join the waste reduction movement to reduce your climate impact and help keep items out of landfill.

Refuse

Do not take items unless you’re going to use them. Say ‘no’ to bags, receipts, extra napkins and cutlery. Avoid produce and other items wrapped in too much packaging.

Reuse

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. Check the directory of business that have a reusable container program. When shopping, consider thrift stores and garage sales, as well as buying items in bulk using your own containers. Consider volunteering with a Reduces group in your neighborhood or start a new one!

Repurpose

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.

Swap

Attend a swap, whether virtual or in-person, or organize a swap with friends or neighbours. The Swap It Toolkit, a multi-language and customizable package of resources, includes everything you need to organize a successful swap event in your community, building, or workplace.

Borrow/Share/Rent

Consider borrowing or sharing less frequently used items, such as tools, party supplies, camping gear, sports equipment, board games and toys. Lawn mowers and ladders can be shared with neighbours, while clothing can be rented for special events. Consider visiting the Toronto Tool Library and the Regenesis Borrowing Centre. You can create a neighborhood sharing group like Junction Triangle ThingShare or Plate Share.

Repair

Extend the life of items like clothing, appliances and electronics by repairing them and keep an eye out for repair events in the city. Learn about the City’s Bicycle Repair and Sewing Repair Hubs. See a list of Toronto repair shops, upcoming repair events and other resources at Repair Café Toronto.

Shop Consciously

Plan ahead, buy only what you need and consider the impact of packaging when making purchases.

Donate

Give clothing, books, toys and more a new life by donating them. Also consider donating ice skates that are in good condition but no longer fit or are not being used. Find non-profit organizations where you can donate unwanted clothing and other items. Find City-permitted clothing drop boxes. Consider donating to a community agency serving refugee claimants.

Try one of these sustainable swaps to help reduce your everyday waste.

Disposable Item Sustainable Solution
Coffee cup Reusable travel coffee mug
Disposable cutlery Saying ‘no’ if you don’t need them or pack regular cutlery
Paper Napkin Cloth napkin
Plastic or aluminum food wrap Beeswax-covered cloth wrap or reusable container
Coffee pod Brewed coffee or pour-over or reusable coffee pod
Plastic produce bag Mesh or other reusable produce bag
Dryer sheet Dryer ball
Paper towel Tea towel or cloth rag
Single-use water bottle or carton Reusable water bottle
Disposable bag Tote or reusable bag
Parchment paper Silicone baking mat
Disposable sandwich bag Reusable silicone or fabric sandwich bag

 

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.

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.
  • 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.
  • 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.

Find non-profit organizations where you can donate clothing and other items. Find City-permitted clothing drop boxes. To get donation locations from your smartphone or tablet, download the TOwaste app.

Please note: the listing of these organizations is meant to be a helpful resource but is not a City endorsement.

Consider donating to a community agency serving refugee claimants and donating ice skates that are in good condition but not longer fit or are not being used.

Important Note About Donations

Please check an organization’s website or contact them to confirm their location and hours, what items they accept and in what condition. Note that some organizations offer pickup and others require appointments for drop off. The condition of acceptable items varies between organizations, but none want items that are wet, mildewed or contaminated with hazardous waste. Please do not leave items outside of drop-off locations or donation bins.

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.

 

Please note: the listing of these websites is meant to be a helpful resource but is not a City endorsement.

Reasons to reduce single-use and takeaway items

  • Single-use accessory items (such as eating utensils, straws, stir sticks, condiment packets, napkins, and beverage takeout trays) are generally not recyclable or compostable, and are common litter items.
  • Single-use and takeaway items require valuable resources and energy to produce, collect, process and dispose of.
  • Foam containers can have serious impacts on the environment because they break down into little pieces that are easily ingested by fish and animals.
  • Foam containers are difficult and costly to recycle.
  • Black plastic cannot be sorted mechanically at the City’s recycling facility, so is not accepted in the Blue Bin Recycling Program and is sent to landfill.
  • Take-out containers that are soiled with food and other residue can contaminate otherwise clean recyclables, resulting in entire loads being sent to landfill.
  • Plastic items labelled as compostable and biodegradable, as well as plastic lined products, such as hot beverage cups, that are put in the Green Bin are screened out and end up in landfill. The Green Bin program was designed primarily to handle food waste as well as some fibre/paper products (like tissue and paper towel). It was not designed to process single-use items, products or packaging – even those labelled compostable or biodegradable. Learn more about what should go into your Green Bin (organics).
  • Plastic items labelled as compostable and biodegradable are not recyclable, as they are made of materials that are meant to break down quickly as opposed to conventional plastics, which have a much longer lifespan and can be recycled into a new product. Once recyclables are collected and sorted, they are baled and sold to partially offset the operational costs. Plastic items labelled as compostable and biodegradable will lower the quality of the plastic bales making them less valuable and more difficult to sell. Learn more about what should go into your Blue Bin (recycling).

Ways to reduce single-use and takeaway items

Single-use accessory items (such as eating utensils, straws, stir sticks, condiment packets, napkins, and beverage takeout trays)

  • Say “no thanks” to single-use items when they are offered.
  • Only accept single-use items if you need them.
  • When ordering via apps or online, specify items that you don’t need.
  • Carry a fork, spoon, cloth napkin and reusable straw in your bag or purse.

Single-use cups and containers, foam (expanded polystyrene) cups and containers, black plastic containers, and plastic or plastic-lined items labelled as compostable or biodegradable

  • Bring your own reusable containers and travel mugs.
  • Bring containers when dining out in case you have leftovers.
  • Ask restaurants if they have reusable containers that you can borrow or rent.
  • Ask for a reusable cup or dish when dining in.

Shopping bags (paper and plastic)

  • Bring your own reusable bags or tote boxes.

Find information about the City’s Single-Use and Takeaway Times Reduction Strategy and Bylaw.

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.

Learn more about the issue of food waste and quick and easy tips to help you reduce food waste in your home.