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Recycling & Waste

Four stream waste receptacles.

Toronto Metropolitan University is committed to sustainable waste management practices. Reducing our consumption, reusing more, recycling, and composting, means the university sends less waste to landfill. It also helps to preserve precious natural resources and contributes to efforts to save energy, conserve water and reduce greenhouse gas emissions and other pollution.

The Sustainability Office provides programming, education and outreach on ways to reduce waste generated on campus and  proper recycling and composting practices to help divert waste from landfills.

Improving waste diversion

The university's most recent waste audit showed that over 60% of all waste sent to landfill could be composted or recycled through existing streams. The Sustainability Office took tangible actions to improve our waste diversion rate. Between 2018 and 2021, we transitioned the campus from a three-stream system (waste to landfill, bottles and cans, and paper) to include a fourth stream - organics. We upgraded infrastructure to ensure consistency of waste bin type and signage across campus and actively engaged and trained our students, faculty and staff on how they can take part in reducing waste and maximizing recycling.

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 Reuse and Repurposing programs at TMU.

Engagement and educational events

The Sustainability Office hosts a number of engagement events throughout the year to help TMU students, faculty and staff learn about how to properly dispose of waste on campus. This includes an interactive sorting game to strengthen community understanding of What Waste Goes Where.

We also started a waste monitoring program in 2016, where trained student volunteers are stationed beside ServiceHub bins in the Podium (POD) to help educate the community on what waste goes where. We participate annually in Waste Reduction Week, a national campaign that aims to raise awareness of waste reduction and a circular economy.

Annual waste audits

Toronto Metropolitan University conducts annual waste audits in order to understand our waste streams and improve our waste management. This information also helps us identify ways to improve our diversion rate by developing and implementing plans to reduce, reuse and recycle. Learn more by reading the university's  (PDF file) most recent audit report and waste reduction plan.

TMU’s waste diversion rate has hovered around 40% over the past 7 years and dropped to 20% in 2021, well  below the Province's target of 60%. While this marked a dramatic decrease from previous years, the amount of waste produced on campus dropped by approximately 75%. The variability in our waste audit results can be attributed to the impact of COVID-19, with fewer people on campus throughout the academic year.

Annual waste diversion rate

A column graph showing the percentage of waste diversion at TMU from 2013-2021. Long description below.

This bar graph shows TMU's annual waste diversion rates from 2013 to 2021 calculated in percentages.

Year Diversion Rate (%)
2013 34
2014 39
2015 33
2016 36
2017 40
2019 41
2021 19

Annual waste amounts by stream

A stacked bar graph showing the annual waste amounts by stream. Long description below.

This bar graph shows TMU's annual waste amounts in tonnes by stream from 2013 to 2021.

Year Landfill Compost Recycled or Reuse
2013 1024.29 37.15 499.28
2014 1008.9 61.39 580.39
2015 1465.08 111.62 622.04
2016 1572.07 86.57 782.31
2017 960.92 89.1 549.24
2019 1066.04
118.95 606.68
2021 443.06 27.8 75.93

We continue to research and design effective ways to reduce waste at TMU, such as improved performance monitoring and developing toolkits to support zero waste programming.

Waste diversion and recycling at TMU

All streams of waste on campus are collected and removed by Waste Reduction Group, who began their contract with Toronto Metropolitan University in March 2018. This contractor handles and disposes of all TMU’s waste within Ontario, helping to reduce any additional waste in transporting materials.

After recycling, landfill and organics receptacles are emptied by Facilities staff, each stream is brought to a central location on campus, where it is collected by haulers from the Waste Reduction Group, and sorted at the end-site. Clean, recyclable items are sent to facilities that turn those materials into new products.

Organics are sent to anaerobic digester facilities in southwest Ontario, where bacteria/microorganisms break the organics down and turn it into a high-quality compost that is used for farming. As organics break down they produce methane gas, which is gathered in the enclosed facilities and used to power an electrical generator that feeds electricity back into the grid. At least one of these facilities also uses the heat produced by the generator (also enclosed), pumping it into onsite greenhouses to grow vegetables.

In Ontario, solid waste produced by the Industrial, Commercial and Institutional ICI) sector must be disposed of by the businesses and organisations that produce it. The municipality is not responsible for collecting the ICI sectors’ waste. This means that Toronto Metropolitan University, along with all other ICI actors, often independently contract out a company to collect and dispose of their waste. This independent management structure is why recycling rules at home may not be exactly the same as those on campus. Some key differences include:

  • Plastic grocery bags are accepted in the City of Toronto blue bins but must go in Waste to Landfill bins at TMU.
  • Styrofoam food containers and other styrofoam items are accepted in the City of Toronto blue bins but must go in Waste to Landfill bins at TMU.
  • City of Toronto blue bins combine metal and paper recyclables, but TMU splits these into separate streams.

For more information on municipal waste separation, visit the City of Toronto website for details on how to deal with waste when you’re off-campus (external link) .

Additional TMU initiatives

TMU Eats waste reduction efforts

TMU Eats encourages the reduction of single-use items through its reusable OZZI container program, offering a bring your own mug discount, and eliminating single-use plastics such as straws from its retail locations.

Bottled–water-free campus

TMU is bottled-water-free and encourages students, faculty, staff and visitors to carry a reusable bottle. This is supported by providing free, public drinking water and an increased investment in water fountains and water bottle refill stations throughout our campus. The sale of bottled water on campus was successfully phased-out in 2013 as an initiative launched by the students’ union.

Improve your waste footprint!

Facilities Services and Sustainability offers waste audits and waste training upon request. If you would like us to conduct a personalized waste audit of your space or provide a waste training session to your team, please complete the request form. Thank you for your commitment to sustainable waste practices on campus!

Waste Audit and Training Request Form (external link)