As part of the Long Term Waste Management Strategy, the City of Toronto is working towards an aspirational goal of zero waste and a Circular Economy. A Circular Economy aims to reduce waste and maximize resources by moving away from the linear take-make-and-dispose approach to an innovative system that focuses on product longevity, renewability, reuse and repair.

To drive innovation and the growth of a Circular Economy in Toronto, the City has established a Unit for Research, Innovation & a Circular Economy within the Solid Waste Management Services Division. The Unit is involved in research and planning as well as incorporating Circular Economy principles into new programs, policies, procurement and processes.

The overarching goal of the unit is to make Toronto the first municipality in Ontario with a Circular Economy.

The creation of the Unit for Research, Innovation & a Circular Economy was a recommendation within the Long Term Waste Management Strategy, which was approved by City Council in 2016 and will act as a roadmap for how waste will be managed in Toronto over the next 30-50 years.

The Unit is involved with research and planning as well as incorporating Circular Economy principles into new programs, policies, procurement and processes. It is working towards:

  • increasing diversion of residual waste by studying mixed waste processing and its ability to recover additional materials with stable end markets
  • potential creation of green jobs
  • delivering public education and developing community partnerships and collaboration
  • supporting innovation of local green companies and organizations through applied research and proof-of-concept pilots.

Activities to date

  • Creation of a Circular Economy Procurement Framework outlining how Circular Economy principles and goals can be applied within the City’s purchasing process to drive waste reduction, economic growth and social prosperity.
  • Formalizing an Extended Producer Responsibility policy for the Addition of New Materials to the City’s Waste Diversion Programs that integrates Circular Economy principles.
  • Planning for a Public Circular Economy Advisory Group. As part of the planning, the City hosted a workshop for local agencies, municipalities and small-to-medium businesses from Toronto’s key economic sectors to identify priorities for a City-wide Circular Economy Roadmap Strategy.
  • Active participation in the National Zero Waste Council (NZWC) Circular Economy Working Group.

Transition to a Circular Economy provides opportunities to:

  • enhance social and environmental outcomes
  • improve economic performance and profitability
  • decrease the risk associated with relying on external sources of raw materials and labour
  • increase the resiliency of City services and infrastructure.

A Circular Economy approach to service delivery challenges the City to rethink how it can provide services to residents based on three core principles:

  1. We can find new ways to deliver our services, purchase materials that we need to do our work, and enter into contracts with service providers in a way that reduces our reliance on non-renewable resources and minimizes our carbon footprint.
  2. Once any resource is in use, we can find ways to collaborate with others or ask the marketplace and industry to work on opportunities to extend resource lifecycles to ensure maximum useful potential (think reduce, share, repair, reuse, recycle and energy recovery from organics).
  3. We can continue looking for ways to redesign our systems and service delivery in order to reduce any waste or inefficiency through a combination of research, collaboration, innovation, prototyping and pilot projects.