Multi-Residential Recycling

Site Design and Management

Successful multi-residential (MR) sector management starts at the recycling site. That is, through the establishment and enforcement of effective design, logistical, and contractual requirements. It continues with administering the tools necessary to ensure informed decision-making and program planning: a meaningful and current database, and a suitable program model. And finally, successful MR management seeks to learn from and incorporate the experience of peers and the latest research.


Among the primary obstacles faced by the multi-residential sector towards achieving optimal diversion, is site design. In this section, find design guidelines, including LEED and Ontario Building Code recommendations, and samples of municipal site development guides.

Municipal Design Standards

Municipalities are responsible for enacting by-laws and generating design standards that govern the collection and storage of waste at multi-residential (MR) buildings. Though provincial design guidelines are desirable to support municipal efforts, at this time, there is no Ontario standard.

To further province-wide consistency, Part A – Best Practices for the Storage and Collection of Recyclables in Multi-Residential Buildings of the CIF 3-part Report #219 Building Code & Design Standards makes four key recommendations:

  • Site Plan Approval Process – Add a waste management section to the municipal site development approval process; require property developers to meet specific collection and storage requirements; have waste departments and planners work together to review and approve developer proposals.
  • Recycling Room Design – Provide: a separate accessible recycling room (size requirements related to cart need) with cart quantity and size recommendations relative to unit numbers; ensure appropriate front-end bin floor space, and door size; and, A/C and pest control requirements.
  • Internal Collection Systems – Provide internal chute systems and/or rooms that accommodate resident recycling needs. For example, dual and triple chute systems, a chute room area able to accommodate collections bins, tri-sorters on single chutes, or the removal of the garbage chute altogether to be replaced by a recycling and garbage room.
  • Loading and Access Facilities – Facilitate access to recyclables by collectors (turnaround area, asphalt construction, loading pad information, etc.)

Canadian Green Building Standards

Regardless of whether a multi-residential (MR) property developer wants its building to be certified by LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design – an internationally-lauded sustainable building standard) certified or not, recommending the installation of LEED Green Building Standards will have a positive impact on resident recycling participation rates. This will benefit both the property manager, by reducing a building’s waste disposal fees and improving its profile; and the municipality, through reduced contamination costs and greater materials revenue.

Part B of CIF Report #219 Building Code & Design Standards builds upon the conclusions of Part A to recommend optimal MR recycling infrastructure that can subsequently be applied as credits to the Canadian LEED Green Buildings Rating System.

These include:

  • strategies for reducing the environmental impact of buildings, and
  • new and/or improved blue box recycling measures.

Of note, LEED standards propose a solid waste management policy, regular audits, and an internal re-use program for exchanging durable goods, for each multi-residential building.

Within the LEED certification document, requirements for new builds are separated from existing buildings. CIF Report #219- B details these and outlines the process for making a Green Building Design and Construction submission to LEED administrators.

Ontario Building Code Proposal

In an effort to address the lack of recycling infrastructure in multi-residential (MR) buildings, CIF Report #219 Part C identifies provisions within the Ontario Building Code that could be updated to accommodate recycling storage and collection. Though not legislated, consider including these guidelines when proposing MR waste management building standards for your municipality:

  • Wherever a chute room is available, provide a separate recycling chute(s) or a room large enough to effectively accommodate recycling activities (and associated safety measures)
  • Ensure chute room doors swing safely outward for ease of access and storage
  • When multiple or enlarged chute rooms are not possible, a recycling room, appropriate in size, should be made available in or attached to, the main building
  • Disposing of recycling must be made as convenient as disposing garbage

Like the Canadian Green Building Standards, the implementation of these best practices can benefit both the municipality and property manager through the reduction of costs associated with contamination and poor participation, a common challenge in the MR sector.

On-Site Collection Contract

Establishing on-site multi-residential recycling collection requires a municipality to undertake a number of administrative and contractual steps.

Don’t make the mistake of assuming superintendents, property managers, and local property developers understand your waste diversion services. They are key to a successful program; take the time to teach them not only how recycling works in your municipality, but the importance of recycling well, including reduced costs, increased sustainability (landsite longevity, for example) and community pride. Don’t use jargon, and increase their awareness, by explaining the common problems found in multi-residential recycling – contamination and participation – and how to solve them.

When setting up on-site recycling collection services to multi-residential (MR) buildings, the steps to follow include:

  1. Making initial contact and establishing the service relationship and rapport.
  2. Setting up a site file in your multi-residential database in which to insert: communication activities (e.g. site visits, phone calls); site plan, container information and waste services requirements; observations, and evaluation (e.g. audits, visual inspections) outcomes.
  3. Providing site design requirements, if in the development or reconstruction stage.
  4. Completing an initial site visit.
  5. Making recommendations for site set-up (this may include municipal site development compliance and coordination with your planning department).
  6. Outlining roles and responsibilities through an application and agreement (see Shared Experience below).
  7. Benchmarking performance to enable future comparison.
  8. Providing P&E materials and required containers, as identified in the site visit.

Are you working with keen multi-residential superintendents and property owners who wish to set up recycling in shared common areas (party rooms, laundry rooms, parking facilities or shared greenspace, for example)? Encourage them to review the Public Space and Signage guidelines for tips to ensure their success.

Site Data Collection and Management

Managing a high performing, cost-effective waste management program requires a comprehensive understanding of your local multi-residential sector. Track your multi-residential buildings to ensure informed planning, financial, operational and outreach decisions.

Multi-Residential Database

If you are at the beginning stages of database development, you can gather lists of properties from various municipal departments including, planning, property taxation, and technology services. You can also obtain multi-residential information from local property management companies and rental associations. Follow up this initial information gathering with in-person site visits (see tab above) subsequently scheduled regularly as an on-going component of program maintenance.

Developing and maintaining a multi-residential (MR) database is a fundamental component to running a successful MR program. To be effective, the information must be regularly gathered, updated and reviewed. To ensure prioritization, allocate appropriate staff time and resources during the annual planning process. Ultimately, use site plan data to inform blue box planning, financial, operational and outreach decisions.

The information you track on your MR database should include:

  • Contact information (e.g. property manager and superintendent)
  • Building details (e.g. units and floors; condominium or rental)
  • Waste management program information (e.g. types of containers, collection days)
  • Site plan details (e.g. collection points, loading areas)
  • Outreach activities (e.g. workshops, P&E activities, superintendent check-ins)
  • Site inspection results (e.g. contamination reports, visual inspections)
  • Evaluation details (e.g. audits, surveys, interviews)

Download the CIF Multi-Residential Database

This tool can be customized and adapted to your community. (PC only)

I have Microsoft Access

I do not have Microsoft Access

For a comprehensive understanding of the properties you serve, include photos and maps.

In combination with other methods of waste sector analysis, stakeholder and peer consultation, and cost analysis, a complete understanding of your multi-residential sector will emerge. With it, your decisions will be informed, appropriate and ultimately, more effective.

Contact CIF Staff for database support.

Site Visits

Initial and routine site visits – and the resources associated with them – should be built into multi-residential program planning. When visiting buildings in your community, use the Site Visit Form to collect:

  • owner and contact information
  • basic building characteristics and demographic details (e.g. retirement residents)
  • recycling and garbage station infrastructure and container requirements, and
  • recycling performance history.

Follow instructions in the Guide to Completing the Site Visit Form to ensure data recording consistency over the long-term.

When conducting a site visit, take the time to speak with superintendents and property managers:

  • ensure they have the P&E materials and containers they need
  • identify problems and knowledge gaps
  • promote new programming
  • teach them how to educate their residents, and importantly,
  • listen to their concerns and develop a rapport.

The data collected from a site visit will allow you to identify barriers to participation specific to the building you visited. Information gleaned from one site visit alone however, is not enough. On-going monitoring is necessary for sustaining and improving participation.

Make sure all interested parties attend your site visits, whether it’s a new site visit, collection set-up, or dealing with pests. This includes the contractor, inspector, and property manager. – City of Ottawa

Feeding site visit data into a multi-residential database is essential. This will enable a comprehensive assessment to identify the systemic barriers, needs and successes of your multi-residential program.

Program Models & Financing

Overview and analysis of the various program and funding models used in the multi-residential sector.

Currently, across the province, multi-residential (MR) waste management services are delivered using a variety of models; some municipalities provide all services, some provide none.

Within the context of the new Waste-Free Ontario Act, the Resource Productivity and Recovery Authority will provide oversight of waste diversion plans and compliance, and stewards will be 100% financially responsible for services. As municipalities will no longer be obligated partners, they will be faced with decisions regarding their continued involvement in providing recycling services to residents including, their role in collection, and promotion and education.

For an historic understanding of the models used to provide and fund MR services, read Sustainable Financing Approaches for Multi-Family Buildings (2009) and Implementation of a Sustainable Financing System for Solid Waste Management in Ontario (2009)

Since the writing of these documents, circumstances – both legislative and local – may have changed for the municipalities featured. We recommend that you contact the municipality whose model is of interest for an up-to-date report on its successes and challenges.

Containers, Bins, and Bags

Research shows that having enough storage space for recyclables is critical to a successful diversion program. Find out more about capacity requirements and take advantage of the CIF group tender for recycling containers.

Ensure you get the best price for your container needs. CIF’s Cooperative Container Procurement Program provides an opportunity to purchase recycling containersbins and reusable bags at competitive prices.


To recycle, you need containers; enough to address the convenience and capacity needs of recyclers. Without them, viable materials end up in the garbage. Best practices indicate that containers should be the first and foremost consideration of a multi-residential program.

With a diversion target of 70% as the goal, municipalities are recommended to provide a container minimum of 50 litres per residential unit (equivalent to 1 fourteen-gallon blue box).

In terms of building storage, this is one 360 litre cart for every seven units or one four-yard bin for every 60 units.

This is a guideline only. Demographic characteristics and other influencers like density of recyclables, recovery target (the recommendation above is based on 70%), and quantity of recyclables in the waste stream will have an impact on your buildings’ container needs. Site visits and regular check-ins with property managers and/or superintendents may indicate different needs; to ensure optimal recovery, make these a priority.

Signage on carts is important for those in wheelchairs as the carts are too tall to see inside. Signage needs to be on the outside of the cart, facing the wheelchair user at eye-level.”– City of Hamilton.

Looking for labelling ideas for bins or bags? Visit the multi-residential P&E Gallery

Bins and Bags

Here are some tips gleaned through municipalities collective experience on the use of bags versus bins in the multi-residential sector:

Pros Cons
  • Can be stacked and placed under a sink (Toronto)
  • Are easier to clean than bags (Toronto)
  • Easier to carry (when small) for those using wheelchairs as they can place the bins on their laps (City of Hamilton)
  • Can be more difficult to carry to recycling stations (heavy fire doors, for example, can be more challenging to open when carrying a bin)
  • More costly for municipalities to provide
  • Municipalities can more easily place recycling requirements – as a graphic, for example – on the outside of a bag
  • Less expensive and easier for municipalities to store in the short term but may need to be replaced more often
  • Easier for residents with space issues; they can be hung on a closet doorknob, for example. (Toronto)
  • Can be taken down to the recycling area, folded and taken to go; that is, you don’t have to return the container to your unit. (Toronto)
  • Can end up being co-opted for other activities (shopping, carrying laundry, etc.)
  • Can get smelly as liquid residue can get between seams
  • Can wear out quickly

If your municipality prefers to purchase bags, ensure there are small bins on hand for those who need them (wheelchair users, for example).  To keep costs low, consider purchasing them through the CIF Cooperative Container Procurement Program or through a partnership of municipalities.