2018 Excellence in Environmental Engineering and Science™ Awards Competition Winner

E3S Honor Award

Honor Award - Planning

Toronto Long Term Waste Management Strategy

Entrant: HDR
Person in Charge: Christine Roarke
Location: Toronto, Ontario, Canada
Media Contact: Christine Roarke

Entrant Profile

HDR's Role in the Project: For two years, a team of HDR waste experts - as the primary strategy team - worked hand-in-hand with the City of Toronto to develop a Long Term Waste Management Strategy aligned with the City's goal of a zero waste future. For this project, the HDR team developed a "Made-in-Toronto" solution. The team partnered with Dillon Consulting Limited, Kelleher Environmental, KPMG LLP, and Betty Muise Adult Education and Facilitation, each contributing their own unique project-related expertise and attributes. Together, the team conducted the technical analysis to develop the recommendations for the Waste Strategy, and the financial analysis to develop a rate model and to develop and execute a comprehensive public/stakeholder outreach program. Toronto City Council unanimously approved the strategy in 2016, laying the City's waste management framework for the next 30-50 years.

Building on the City's existing waste management system, the Strategy identifies a path of forward thinking and continuous improvement, further establishing Toronto as an international city of innovation and leadership. Focusing on the 5Rs (reduction, reuse, recycling, recovery and residual disposal), the strategy seeks to minimize waste disposal and to move the City towards a circular economy that views waste as a resource. The next step for Toronto will be to take its already world class program and make it even better through enhancements to the current system, new programs and initiatives, further active engagement and advocacy with key producer/waste industry sector stakeholders and continued focus on public education, promotion and resident involvement.

Project Description

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As the largest and most diverse urban municipality in Canada, the City of Toronto has the unique and sometimes challenging responsibility of providing efficient and effective waste-management services, while constantly searching for ways to improve. Being a global leader provides the City of Toronto with the opportunity to explore new technologies, programs, and services; while developing and applying creative solutions to meet the City's needs. In 2014, the City embarked on a two-year process to develop a roadmap for the future of their Integrated Solid Waste Management System. A Long Term Solid Waste Management Strategy (Waste Strategy) was developed to increase diversion to 70 percent and move towards a circular economy. This collaborative plan focused on the 5Rs (reduction, reuse, recycling, recovery and residual disposal), builds on the City's existing waste management system and sets the stage for success over the next 30 to 50 years. A result of extensive planning and research, stakeholder and community engagement, and unique tools and processes, the City's Waste Strategy provides an innovative approach to the future of solid waste management and will secure Toronto's position as an industry leader for years to come.

Comprehensive, Integrated Approach

The Waste Strategy focuses on the first 3Rs (reduce, reuse, recycle) with policies and programs that are environmentally sustainable, socially acceptable and cost effective for the long term. It was developed with consideration to five guiding principles that included options to avoid waste disposal (and thus emissions to air, water and land) and all other environmentally approved disposal options to extend the life of the City's landfill as well as policy development and collaboration opportunities.

Over the course of the Waste Strategy's development, more than 60 options were considered and evaluated using a triple bottom line sustainability framework which included criteria relating to environmental (impacts to land, air, water, energy generation/consumption, GHG emissions, public health), social (land use conflicts, traffic, litter, noise, odor, convenience, safety, equity, behavior change) and financial (cost, health care cost implications, risk, economic growth, and job creation).

The City of Toronto has already developed and implemented the major components of a fully integrated waste management system that ranks it among the best waste management systems in North America and is recognized as a leader by major metropolitan communities. The Waste Strategy will take the City's already world class program and make it even better through enhancements to the current system, new programs and initiatives, further active engagement and advocacy with key producer/waste industry sector stakeholders and continued focus on public education, promotion and resident involvement.


While the Waste Strategy recommendations were intended to be phased in over several years, the City has already implemented several options, including establishing the Unit for Research, Innovation and a Circular Economy and a waste reduction community grant program, and are exploring mixed waste processing with organics recovery and other waste reduction initiatives.

Even with a large proportion of residents living in multi-residential buildings, the City achieved an overall waste diversion rate of 52% (2016). It is anticipated that the Waste Strategy will contribute to enhanced efficiencies and continued improvements to the diversion rate. Many municipalities, including the City of Toronto, are moving away from a weight-based performance metric and it is expected that other key performance measurements will be utilized in the future (e.g. divertible material recovery rate, landfill volume, per household waste generation, customer satisfaction rating) to monitor the progress of the Waste Strategy.

Originality and Innovation

Getting input from the public on waste plans is never easy. In addition to using traditional outreach tactics such as open houses, surveys, social media, etc., original and innovative tactics were used to promote the Waste Strategy including printing information on weigh scale tickets, and promotion through a Wast(ED) speaker series, free waste-related film screenings and university design competitions.

Three unique models were developed as part of the Waste Strategy: the HDR team developed a model to predict waste volumes based on economic indicators and KPMG developed a cost model to assess operating costs and revenue and a financial model to assess costs, customer base and rates to allow the City to fully understand costs of providing waste management services.

The options evaluation process included an expert workshop with staff from public health and academia to undertake a health impact assessment of public health impact/benefit and estimated health care costs. The results of this workshop were used for the indicators relating to public health in the overall evaluation of options.


Although the City owns a landfill, a Waste Strategy was needed to preserve disposal capacity, while providing waste management services to single-family residences, apartments and condos and small businesses in an environmentally and fiscally responsible manner. The Waste Strategy makes use of innovative and creative approaches to deal with the challenges faced by a large, diverse, multi-cultural and urban community; the kinds of challenges many communities may not contemplate. The recommendations in the Waste Strategy also focused on a collaborative approach to minimizing waste through outreach and education, particularly for the multi-residential sector where waste management is always a challenge.

Social and Economic Advancement

The Waste Strategy also focuses on using and reusing all resources to maximize the reintegration of recovered materials back into the economy. More jobs are created through collection, processing and manufacturing of products with recycled materials compared to waste collection and disposal. Recommendations in the Waste Strategy promote economic development through increased opportunities for waste diversion, research and a circular economy, which have not only a local benefit, but also a regional and global benefit.

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The City of Toronto collects waste from 461,000 single family customers, 408,000 mult-residential customers and 13,500 non-residential customers (2016).

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The City of Toronto collects waste from over 1.6 million bins every week.

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The City of Toronto maintains about 8,500 street litter/recycling bins and over 10,000 park bins.

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In 2016, the City of Toronto collected 209,000 tonnes of recyclables, 144,000 tonnes of organics, 84,000 tonnes of yard waste, 12,000 tonnes of oversized/metal items, 3,200 tonnes of HHW/E-waste and 491,000 tonnes of garbage.

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The City of Toronto collects mattresses and other bulky items from the curb.

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Organics (including food scraps, diapers and pet waste) are collected from single family residences, mult-family residences and small businesses.

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Recyclables are collected in carts, front-end load bins and in clear bags placed at the curb.

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Household hazardous waste is collected at special events, at the curb by appointment and can be dropped off at six depots located across the City of Toronto.

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The public can drop off household hazardous waste, electronic waste, certain types of renovation waste, yard waste, scrap metal, tires, recycling and garbage at depots located across the City of Toronto.

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The City of Toronto owns two organics processing facilities that digest collected organic material through anaerobic digestion.

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The City of Toronto provides perpetual care of over 160 closed landfills and owns one active landfill.

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To encourage diversion, City of Toronto residents pay for the size of garbage bins that best suits their needs. Organics are collected weekly, while garbage and recyclables are collected on alternating weeks.

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