Multi-Residential Recycling

Multi-Res Promotion and Education

Contamination and low participation are key challenges faced by the multi-residential (MR) sector. On-going promotion and education (P&E) directed at residents, superintendents and property owners is necessary towards overcoming them. Sorting guides alone may not be enough to encourage a resident to act. Public education best practices go beyond basic material distribution as they strive to change or maintain positive recycling behavior through a combination of informed strategies.

Removing barriers

Multi-residential (MR) recycling and curbside recycling are different. Though both aim to achieve 70% diversion, the barriers to reaching this goal are distinct. In the MR sector, program uptake challenges can be due to (in no particular order):

  • greater resident change over
  • lack of ownership and dispersed responsibility
  • language barriers
  • inconvenience
  • personal safety and accessibility
  • lack of familiarity (in the case of those new to the province)
  • reduced public accountability, and
  • lack of support from management

Public education programs must be developed and distributed with these barriers in mind. Do you need to print materials in more than one language? Should you work with a group representing those with accessibility needs to identify obstacles to participation? How can you support MR champions to foster a community of recyclers? Think outside the box. Public education initiatives don’t have to replicate the activities of other municipalities. In consultation with residents, consider developing a new idea that addresses a barrier specific to that site while at the same time ignites resident and media curiosity.

Demographic targeting

Any marketer will tell you that understanding your audience is key to engagement. This is true for public education, too. Best practice public education strategies address the unique needs, values and experiences of the targeted demographic group.

Multi-residential buildings and complexes house a diversity of demographic groups. Due to the nature of the sector, it is common for residents with similar demographic characteristics to live in the same complex (student housing or a retirement residence, for example). This provides public educators with an opportunity to develop strategies for a more specific audience.

Relationship building

Get to know your superintendents, residents, and multi-residential (MR) recycling collectors. As frontline stakeholders, they may have insight and ideas that could further your success. A good MR program will include built-in opportunities to speak regularly with these valuable resources.

Distributing educational materials to residents in-person (at a lobby display or door-to-door, for example) enables municipalities to:

  • feel confident residents have received materials
  • clarify expectations and answer questions
  • build trust and listen to challenges with a sympathetic ear
  • seek personal commitments to recycle, and
  • provide additional P&E material while visiting the building, including posters and container labels

In-person distribution requires a lot of resources and may not be feasible for all buildings. However, occasional in-person distribution to prudently selected buildings can reap valuable information: bring questions that solicit program feedback and document exchanges. This is your chance to truly understand what residents experience and need.

Strategies to engage individuals include: listening to their concerns, relating to their values, connecting to their community, and delivering information through a meaningful, personal anecdote (“story-telling”).

If you can’t reach everyone in a MR building, there is someone who can: the superintendent or property manager. Through this one key stakeholder, your municipality can access and support multiple others. This relationship is important; ensure superintendents understand your program, have the materials and containers they need, and know how to reach you when they have questions, concerns or observations. Speak with them on a regular basis (during an annual site visit, for example). Most importantly, teach them how to engage residents.

Finally, check in with recycling collectors to help identify problem areas. With their unique experience, they may observe situations, recognize opportunities or develop solutions to challenges that may not have been considered by others.

Measuring & Monitoring

Multi-residential recycling is a complex activity that requires a diversity of approaches to improve participation and decrease contamination. To ensure resources are spent on activities (including public education initiatives) that are effective, consultation and evaluation are critical.

Do you have an idea for a new project? Before finalizing your P&E material design, consult with representatives from your multi-residential demographic to make certain its message is both meaningful and understood. Collect benchmark data before distribution for future comparison. Throughout the campaign, track costs associated with the initiative, and observe and reflect on the process. Following your campaign – and if useful, during – conduct audits (and/or other forms of monitoring and measuring) to determine if the cost of the initiative is worth the impact. Analyze all data with the goal of informing future projects.

Project Summaries

Is your promotion and education (P&E) working? What was your goal and how do you know if you reached it? Most importantly, was the improvement worth the true cost? You’ll never know unless you build consultation and evaluation steps into your P&E program.

The P&E project summaries below each feature a different municipal multi-residential campaign or material. The outline used highlights program goals, methods of distribution, costs, measuring and monitoring activities, and lessons learned through project delivery. To assist in your P&E planning and evaluation, consider starting with similar template.

Municipality Goal Material Description
City of Guelph Program Change Resident Package To facilitate a program change to cart use, multi-residential residents were provided with a new user guide, a magnet, an in-unit recycling container and a kitchen catcher; property managers were provided new communal recycling, organics and garbage carts. Program adoption was successful. See summary
Halton Region Sorting/Contamination Recycling Guide A resident waste diversion guide, distributed by Region staff. The guide consists of acceptable recycling items, sorting charts, and helpful information on Halton Region’s programs. See summary
City of Hamilton Sorting/Contamination Building Package Multi-residential buildings were provided with a new user guide, waste sorting poster and 3 versions of container labels. Two user guides were developed; one for superintendents and property owners/managers and the other for residents. Materials were distributed by staff. See summary
City of Kingston Sorting/Contamination Resident Package Distributed reusable blue recycling bag and 12-page colour sorting guide through property managers to multi-residential residents. Contamination decreased by 5-10%, there was a 50% decrease in film contamination, and 5-10% increase in number of carts set out. See summary
City of London Sorting/Contamination Waste Reduction Week Contest This project encouraged residents to correctly sort cups and cartons through a contest campaign promoted via postering and local newspaper ads. It was targeted at both multi-residential and curbside recyclers and ran during Waste Reduction Week 2015. Tim Hortons and the Carton Council provided $1,500 each in prizes. Contamination decreased to less than 5%. See summary
Niagara Region Participation Resident Guide This item was mailed to each multi-residential unit. It contains general program updates and a sorting guide. See summary
City of Orillia Program Change Building Package Property manager handbook, posters and flyers for residents distributed to multi-residential buildings. There was a 1% reduction in garbage collected (over a one-year period). See summary
City of Ottawa Sorting/Contamination Operational Material – Label Two new, vibrant labels were created to distinguish what goes in the GMP cart/FEL container and what goes in the Fibre cart/FEL container. Printed in two sizes: 11 inches x 8.5 inches and 24 inches x 18 inches. See summary
Region of Peel Sorting/Contamination Resident Package Multi-residential residents were provided with a package of materials that included: a door hanger/magnet, bag and follow-up door hanger reminder. Posters were provided for elevators and chute rooms. At some buildings, lobby displays were set up. Overall contamination decreased by 6% with a 21% decrease in bagged recyclables. See summary
Simcoe County Sorting/Contamination Resident Package Working in partnership with Simcoe County Social Housing, two different P&E strategies were delivered at 3 multi-residential buildings. At two buildings, a sorting guide was provided to residents and collection containers were relabelled.  At the third building, residents were invited to an Open House (with food) and provided with murphy bins (one per unit)and a magnet. The contamination rate for the building that received the full package lowered to 7% (from as high as 24%). At the control buildings contamination rates increased. See summary
City of Toronto Capture Flyer with Sorting Guide A 2-page flyer and sorting guide that was distributed as part of a multi-faceted outreach campaign that encouraged residents in multi-residential buildings to think before they throw recycling into the garbage. See summary
York Region Capture Building Package Property managers were provided with Recycling, Organics, and Garbage posters. Students delivered the materials posting the signs with the property managers permission. Posters are available in 4 languages. Totes were stickered and recycling bags distributed to each unit. See summary
Richmond Hill Participation Building Package A waste diversion outreach campaign targeting primarily new multi-residential buildings. The buildings were provided posters highlighting the municipal recycling and organics program, while each resident was provided with a newsletter sorting guide, a fridge magnet, an in-unit recycling container and a kitchen catcher. The municipality translated materials into 3 different languages (Russian, Persian and Mandarin). See summary
P&E Gallery

A gallery of shared multi-residential P&E materials from across the province, including sorting guides, bags, magnets, property owner materials, and posters. Read more

Stewardship Ontario Multi-Residential Campaign

Stewardship Ontario has developed a multi-residential print campaign adaptable for local use. Goals of the campaign are to:

  • Capture aluminum cans and PET bottles (containers found in lower amounts in the multi-residential sector)
  • Focus on easily identifiable recyclables
  • Incorporate a “back-to-basics” message

Download a zip file with pdf samples as well as adaptable design, image and font files (InDesign and Photoshop).

What may be obvious to you may not be obvious to others. Before you print and distribute a new MR promotion and education (P&E) material, make sure you have tested its message on a diversity of readers. Take it to the street, ask a property manager if you can solicit feedback from a building lobby, or gather a focus group to review it. Omitting this step can be costly.

Recycling Workshop for Superintendents and Property Managers

It’s all about the boss! If a superintendent (or property manager) is committed to recycling, chances are residents will be, too. After all, these key stakeholders supply and maintain facilities, and set expectations. With their engagement, residents know where to place recycling for collection, and importantly, are provided with a system and/or facilities that are easy and comfortable to use.

And while orderliness and cleanliness are important, knowledge is too; superintendents and property managers who understand the benefits of recycling, along with operations and public education basics, can become true allies in achieving your municipality’s multi-residential (MR) recycling potential. Their education is identified as a best practice activity in KMPG’s report Blue Box Program Enhancement and Best Practices Assessment Project.

To assist municipalities in meeting the learning needs of superintendents and property managers, a CIF-funded Multi-Residential Recycling Workshop Kit is available. In its entirety, the 5-part workshop is 4-hours long; designed to be delivered in a morning or afternoon. Its length and content are adaptable to the needs of attendees or your municipality.


In CIF Report # 872, the City of Toronto details its experience delivering workshops to superintendents and property owners/managers. The workshops were successful, as identified in the attendee survey results, however, to improve attendee recruitment, Toronto recommends:

  • mobile workshops (provided at annual property manager meetings, for example)
  • marketing to property management groups
  • reducing the length of the workshop, and
  • offering food!

While the Multi-Residential Recycling Workshop Kit contains tools to educate property managers and superintendents, the insight and information it contains can inform the development of educational materials and outreach for residents. It is a recommended read.

Municipal Multi-Residential Recycling Webpages

For various reasons, multi-residential (MR) residents may think that municipal recycling expectations do not apply to their living situation. Addressing this demographic directly on your municipality’s website – a key digital communications tool – can help to encourage and/or reinforce recycling participation.

Webpage Development Tips

  • Test content for common language and clarity with a diversity of readers that represent your MR demographic groups
  • Ask for access to your municipality’s website statistics to determine the topics and key word searches currently used to find information on your waste management site. This information can give insight into how to title and organize content
  • Ensure your web address is a simple one: easy to print on a poster, guide or bag (e.g. If shortening the name isn’t possible, consider creating a Bitly link for promotional use
  • Ensure the link to your MR section is prominent on your main waste management page­­­­­­
  • Populate your MR webpages with downloadable and adaptable materials (e.g. provide an “our recycling bins are located here: ______.” poster) See P&E Gallery for poster samples
  • Use photo images to identify recyclables and sorting activities
  • If applicable to your municipality, post translated P&E materials to your site
  • All relevant recycling information and P&E materials should be available in your MR web section; don’t assume residents will go to other areas of your municipality’s site to seek out more information
  • Don’t forget to review and up-date your pages regularly; relative to print materials, in-house web content is inexpensive to produce and easy to change

Unlike an email or e-newsletter, a website is a passive form of communication; requiring the reader to go to it, rather than it reaching out to the reader as a flyer, e-newsletter or app reminder does. Therefore, recycling educators must find ways to introduce or remind residents, superintendents, and property managers of its existence.

Sample Pages

City of London

City of Toronto