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Waste Disposal and Shredding

Waste Disposal and Shredding

Custodial staff service the central waste and recycling stations in all Toronto Metropolitan University-owned campus buildings. This includes making sure the stations are emptied, clean and free from odours. An external contractor removes all waste and recycled materials from campus.

How you can help: Centralized waste and recycling 

As a part of a campus-wide effort to improve our waste diversion rate, TMU established a centralized waste program across campus. TMU students, faculty and staff are asked to make use of the central waste and recycling stations to dispose of their materials appropriately. The four-stream bins — for landfill, paper and paper products, recycling and compostables — are located in designated common areas such as hallways, informal study spaces, office areas and break rooms. 

Frequently asked questions about the centralized waste program

For the start of the 2024 Winter Term, deskside waste bins in offices and open office areas of TMU-managed buildings were removed to reduce waste-removal costs and support TMU’s zero-waste goal. The decision was carefully considered, is supported by case-study research and brings TMU in line with best practices and similar centralized-waste programs at other Canadian institutions.

Removing deskside bins is a key component for the successful implementation of a centralized waste-disposal program. It will also result in savings necessary to address budget challenges related to office waste collection and disposal.  

Rogers Communications successfully transitioned 21,066 employees across Canada to use centralized waste stations in lieu of personal deskside bins and their recycling rates increased by 70-90%, earning them a spot among Canada’s Greenest Employers 2022.

The lack of a personal bin requires people to consciously acknowledge and engage with the materials they acquire and accumulate for disposal. It encourages them to consider alternate routines and better habits — not only for how they manage waste, but also for how it’s created at the start.

Improper waste sorting

What happens when other bins are still available

In 2019 all classroom waste bins were withdrawn for the initial implementation of the centralized-waste program.

During COVID-19, small waste bins to collect disinfectant wipes only were reintroduced to classrooms, but they were filled with other waste, including organics and recyclables. When this happens viable recyclable and compostable materials get sent to landfill instead!

Although people are ready and willing to recycle, they will use whichever disposal option that is presented to them first, even if it’s not the better option.

Institutions such as hospitals, large corporations and municipal offices have implemented similar programs when their waste-audit data showed poor waste sorting when deskside bins remained available. Organizations that have implemented similar programs include:

  • McGill University
  • Queen’s University
  • University of Guelph
  • Ontario Tech University
  • Mount Royal University
  • Harvard University
  • University Health Network
  • Rogers Communications
  • City of Winnipeg
  • Google (London, UK)

Programs that discourage the use of deskside bins have been shown to be more successful because they require people to consciously engage with the materials they accumulate for disposal rather than discard them with minimal consideration.

While the change is a marked departure from previous practices, we are hopeful that our community will embrace the change and support the university in meeting our waste-diversion goals — both individually and institutionally.

In collaboration with a selection of user groups, in 2021 the Sustainability Office piloted a centralized waste program roll-out in 10 buildings across campus — including in the Centre for Urban Innovation, Eric Palin Hall and The Chang School of Continuing Education — and removed deskside bins from participating offices. 

After a short adjustment period, community members in participating offices became accustomed to the new system and Facilities Management and Development received very few reports of issues from participants after they developed new routines. 

A quick stop at the nearest central receptacle on campus is not much different than trips to the home kitchen organics bin when working from home or watching TV with snacks. Getting up for a two-minute walk and a screen break every 30 to 60 minutes is also recommended by ergonomics experts for improving focus and wellbeing. So although centralized waste programs may be met with initial resistance, people become accustomed to the change and its benefits.

Resistance to centralized-waste programs is often centered around concerns about disruptions to workflow or wasting time. Here, we’ve highlighted quick tips to help manage desktop waste between trips to the bin: 

  • Reduce waste at the source: Avoid single-use items like post-it notes when there are reusable options available like digital reminders or whiteboards; prioritize paperless documents where possible; take advantage of reusable insulated mugs to keep your beverage warm and avoid disposable cups and water bottles.
  • Survey your desktop for materials destined for waste before you make trips to the washroom, kitchen or meeting rooms to develop a habit of stopping by the sorting stations on your workplace travels.
  • Set aside papers intended for shredding or disposal until your lunch break or the end of the day rather than thinking of them as one-at-a-time items. 
  • Eat away from your desk: Eating away from your desk provides a healthy mental break from work and avoids the accumulation of waste like food containers, utensils and napkins in your workspace.

Waste receptacles were removed from all classrooms in 2019 as part of the initial transition to a centralized waste system. During COVID-19, small bins for the disposal of disinfectant wipes only were re-introduced into classrooms and will be withdrawn when the disinfectant-wipes program concludes. 

The 2024 Winter Term change does not affect the cleaning or waste-disposal protocols for laboratories, shops, washrooms, kitchens, meeting rooms, events spaces or lounge areas and bins will not be removed from those spaces.

The original number and configuration of waste sorting stations on campus was based on waste-audit data from pre-Covid occupancy levels and activities. Facilities Services will be monitoring the centralized bins and community feedback on usage and collection rates. Some of the waste sorting stations may be relocated or new ones added when data and service requests identify areas where bins are underutilized and others are in higher demand.

Good campus stewardship is a shared responsibility. Your feedback is important to help us identify areas that need attention and optimize sorting-station distribution. If you see a bin that is too full or requires collection, contact the Facilities Help Desk to request Waste Disposal services and let us know if you feel a bin should be in a better spot.

Case studies of centralized-waste programs have shown that by leaving deskside waste bins in place, people are more likely to abstain from sorting, contaminate recyclables with food waste and forget to empty them or clean residues from inner bin surfaces. This can lead to issues related to odors from spoiling organics and the potential of attracting pests.

Even conscientious people who support recycling and composting programs tend to forgo sorting if it means they must separate soiled items from one bin — where landfill and organics have been commingling — to another by hand.

When Etsy removed individual waste bins (external link)  in their Brooklyn headquarters, their recycling increased by 20% and their compost rate jumped 300%, which highlights how much more effective the sorting stations are when personal bins are removed.

Contamination compromises waste diversion because too much cross-stream mixing may mean that entire loads of recyclables could be rejected by waste processors and viable materials get sent to landfill instead.

Waste reduction, resource recovery and reuse

Toronto Metropolitan University is focused on operating an efficient campus that prioritizes reuse and minimizes the amount of waste we produce. At TMU, we have a number of initiatives that individuals can take part in to reduce waste and support a reuse culture on campus. Learn more about  (google doc) Reuse and Repurposing programs (external link)  at TMU.

To learn about different recycling programs available at TMU and how you can help divert waste from landfill, visit What Waste Goes Where or take advantage of the TMU Waste Wizard.

The recycling programs in buildings not owned by TMU vary. For employees working in these spaces, please contact the Facilities Help Desk at or 416-979-5091 for more information.

Paper shredding

Paper shredding services are available upon request. Complete the Waste Disposal Request form at the Facilities Help Desk (Fixit) website.

Facilities staff will deliver a locked shredding bin to your area within five business days of your request. Once the confidential paper materials have been loaded into the bin, contact us to let us know it is ready for pickup. A member of the Facilities custodial staff will move the bin to a secure area for shredding.

Packaging materials and oversize items for disposal

If you have oversize items, large amounts of packaging materials or are preparing for a large-scale cleanout of your space, please complete a Waste Disposal Request form at the Facilities Help Desk (Fixit) website to have a rolling tilt-truck bin delivered to your space. Request our support at least five business days in advance of your preferred removal date to ensure we have the resources available to assist you.

Please do not put any garbage, old equipment, furniture or boxes in the hallways or stairwells, as they may block emergency exit routes and create hazards.

Specialized recycling streams

TMU is pleased to participate in a number of specialized recycling programs to help reduce unnecessary landfill waste. Learn more at our What Waste Goes Where page.

If something needs attention contact Fixit.

Is something a mess? Is something amiss? Contact Fixit!

We share the responsibility of good campus stewardship with the greater TMU community — your service requests and reports help us continuously maintain a clean, hygienic and good-working environment and infrastructure. If you see something that needs our attention, please contact the Facilities Help Desk. — We can fix it!