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Hugh Garner Housing Co‑operative

Good Practices in Waste Management

Who We Are

Hugh Garner Housing Co‑operative is a 181-unit co‑op in downtown Toronto. We are ideally located by a small park, just steps away from shopping, amenities, streetcars and subway stations.

How and Why We Started our Waste-Management System

We developed a waste-management system to reduce operating costs by diverting garbage from the landfill. Our building has a garbage chute with garbage picked up twice a week by the city. Members are encouraged to divert waste into recycling and organics (food scraps), which are also picked up by the city. In order to ensure members are not only willing, but comfortable participating in the program, we make sure that our waste-management strategy includes education, information and contests.

Keeping members informed and providing them with the tools they need are key ways that we encourage recycling. We start new members off on the right foot by taking them on a tour of the recycling and waste-management areas of the co‑op and giving them a City of Toronto recycling bin and a kitchen bin for their organic waste.

Existing members also get the information they need about our waste-management practices and results. We let members know how much garbage, recycling and organics the co‑op produces each year, as well as how much we pay for garbage pick-up. In each recycling area, posters help members divide their waste appropriately, reminding them that they are not only reducing operating costs, but also helping the environment.

We make recycling easier by setting up recycling bins by the lobby, in the party room, on the roof deck and in the laundry room, as well as in the parking areas. To encourage members to recycle hazardous waste and small electronics, a bin is set up in the office where these items can be dropped off. Our Green Committee maintains a tool-lending library for common household equipment like a drill, a ladder and even a crock-pot. This encourages members to share items they use infrequently, which reduces the material destined for landfill.

Getting Creative

Educating our members is not the only way to encourage recycling and composting. We encourage our co‑op to recycle by coming up with creative and fun initiatives. To promote organic waste drop-off, we held a “Win with Organics” contest. Sixteen members who were randomly “caught” using the organics drop-off bin received a $5.00 gift card to one of several different stores.

We also had a “Safely Dispose of Hazardous Waste” contest. An information table was set up where members could get information about hazardous household waste, as well as drop off any they needed to dispose of. Those who used this service were entered into a draw to win gift certificates.

We also got the children in our co‑op interested in recycling by inviting some of them to create their own recycling posters. These posters were laminated and displayed on bulletin boards around the co‑op.

Finally, in order to reduce the number of disposable plates at member events, we hold a draw at each event for those who remember to bring their own non-disposable dishes and silverware. This not only helps keep down operating costs, but provides an incentive for members to avoid adding disposable items to the landfill.


We faced some challenges in creating the recycling program and ensuring that everyone was using it to the fullest. First, we saw that many members were throwing away usable items such as plates and toys. To remedy this, we include a reminder in our education materials to donate usable goods to second-hand stores or charities.

Contaminants in the recycling bins were another challenge. While the co‑op doesn’t penalize anyone for this, the City of Toronto is now intensifying its inspection of recycling bins and will fine buildings that have too much garbage in their recycling. We plan to avoid these fines by reminding members as often as necessary about what can and can’t be recycled.

Tips for Other Co‑ops

How does a co‑op develop and build a waste-management system? We recommend that you start by asking your city if it has a volunteer program or resources for promoting recycling. The City of Toronto has a 3Rs Ambassador Program that provides training in apartments, condos, and co‑ops to help promote the 3Rs (reduce, reuse, and recycle).

Even if your region has no training program, most provide public education materials, including posters and pamphlets for display throughout your co‑op. These will make your members more aware of recycling and how it works. You could start by checking your local government’s website under “recycling” or “waste management.”

Finally, we urge you to work closely with your staff, who are often on the front line managing garbage and recycling. They are likely more aware of what is working, what could be improved and what is not working. Your staff can also help you figure out what types of reminders need to go out to members about recycling and waste management.


Co‑op name: Hugh Garner
Location: Toronto, ON
Program: Section 95
Number of Units: 181
Unit Type: Townhouses and Apartments
Date of Occupancy: 1985
Management Model: Staff

*Art by Simba and Nicole Raynars