RECYCLING: Taking Recycling to Toronto's Streets

In a citywide effort to make recycling accessible on the streets of Toronto, this year the city will install 3,500 combination recycling and garbage containers on public sidewalks. The special silver boxes, a three-container bin that offers separate compartments for recyclable beverage containers, paper recyclables and residue garbage, are designed to help the city recover thousands of tons of recyclables annually, according to Mayor Mel Lastman.

The year-long pilot, which was conducted by the Toronto-based company, OMG Media, with support from Corporations Supporting Recycling (CSR), the Canadian Soft Drink Association and Amcor Twinpak, proved effective in encouraging street recycling because more than two-thirds of the recyclables that previously went into street garbage receptacles now will be recycled.

Contamination occurs when non-recyclable waste, such as food scraps and candy wrappers, are put into recycling bins where only metal, glass or plastic beverage containers and/or paper products are acceptable. Prior to the pilot, contamination left many Canadian municipalities with little choice but to discard the recyclable materials, largely because the cost to separate them for recycling was too high. Some municipalities, including Toronto, removed recycling bins from the streets.

The silver box solves the problem by offering separate but adjacent places to put recyclables and residue waste. The choice of compartments - beverage containers, paper recyclables and residue garbage - reflects the options available at home and work, Lambert says.

"[A] low level of contamination ensures that the recyclables can be easily processed for sale to markets," says CSR President Damian Bassett.

According to city research, a single-family household recycles about 397 pounds of resource material annually. A preliminary study in which bin contents at 15 west-end Toronto locations were measured showed that Info-Boxes each recover about 361 pounds annually. With 3,500 Info-Boxes being installed, the total should reach 1.2 million pounds annually .

"That's like adding 3,500 additional households to the city's recycling program," Bassett says.

The bins also will add to city revenue, through advertising placed on the front and back of each bin. The maker of Info-Boxes, Toronto-based OMG Media, sells the advertising space and shares the revenue with participating municipalities. According to Toronto's Lastman, the city stands to earn approximately $10 million during the next 10 years as its share of advertising revenues.

Currently, CSR is working with other municipalities throughout Ontario to develop more public space recycling programs.