New approach improves Multi-Residential recycling

The City of Guelph expects the high-density, multi-residential (MR) sector to grow to over 30% of its total housing stock by 2031, up from 11% in 2011. In an attempt to improve and expand collection services to MR buildings the City added front-end service in 2018. This involved purchase of a front-end collection vehicle with a Curotto Can attachment to conserve fleet costs for continued collection of 95-gallon carts (MR and single-family bins).

According to the City of Guelph’s Waste Management Master Plan, the MR contamination rate is approximately 26.5%. To address this, the City, with support from CIF, invested in an onboarding process that strengthens residential engagement through promotion and education, the goal of which is to reduce contamination.

New onboarding procedures require commitments from property managers

MR property managers or owners can participate in Guelph’s municipal waste collection services by following these steps:

  • arranging a site visit to make sure the waste collection access point and process is suitable and safe;
  • submit a waste management plan to the City for approval;
  • sign an agreement to allow the City to collect waste on the property;
  • get insurance for collection on private property;
  • distribute a letter, educational materials and promotional supplies to residents to introduce the program; and,
  • sort waste into three-streams (organics, recyclables and garbage)

Additional onboarding resources (e.g., agreement, guidelines, plan and commitments) are available on the City’s website.

Fundamental to the waste management plan and agreement with MR properties is the requirement to “help our residents and tenants to properly use the system in place to source separate”, whereby building managers are obligated to inform residents of the plan and have residents commit to separating waste into organics, recyclables and garbage (shown in the contract above).

In-Unit Kit for residents

In-unit P&E consistent with signage throughout building

To enhance waste management communications, in-unit kits are provided for residents as well as comprehensive and consistent educational signage for inside and outside the building.

The cost of onboarding varies by building

From the initial contact to operational implementation, Guelph estimated that it takes between 84 and 140 FTE hours per building to implement the new onboarding program. Low and high ranges are provided due to the variability of engagement of the buildings; some are easily managed whereas others require additional time and resources.

Impact of new onboarding procedure

To compare the impact of the new onboarding procedures, six buildings were included in the project analysis; three from the “old program” and three from the “new program”. On average, the new program buildings received a higher rating for the recycling visual audit sort as compared to the old program buildings. In other words, the set-outs had less visible contamination. The onsite waste management evaluations with a focus on recycling also showed that new program buildings scored higher with respect to accessibility, cleanliness, lighting, signage, and bin condition.

Property managers and superintendents of old and new programs were asked to rate their recycling and estimated time spent on waste monitoring and maintenance in a survey. Responses showed that the overall recycling rating is perceived as better in the new system, takes less time to manage and monitor, and has fewer identified “issues”. The following is a ranking of processes and materials that effectively improved MR residential recycling knowledge and awareness:

  1. Bin sorting decals and meetings with City staff
  2. In-unit kits
  3. Posters, agreements, and a plan

Lessons learned

As the above suggests, investing in MR to improve recycling performance takes significant time and resources. Developing the process is one step forward for the City, but instituting enforcement of the MR agreements and providing ongoing support for an expanding program requires even more resources. Further, implementing appropriate data collection activities to monitor the success of these new initiatives is essential to demonstrate cost-effectiveness.

For more information, see the final report or contact CIF staff or Heather Connell at the City of Guelph.