City trying to get Torontonians to stop filling recycling bins with garbage

The city of Toronto has launched a six-month pilot project to reduce the amount of trash getting thrown out with the recycling.

New pilot project aims to educate residents about properly sorting recycling, garbage

Under the pilot project, if contaminants are found in recycling bins, workers will tag the bins and pull them from the curb so residents can remove the contaminated material. (Nicole Martin/CBC News)

Many Torontonians are confused about what goes in the recycling bin and what goes in the garbage can, and that confusion costs the city millions of dollars each year. So the city has launched a six-month pilot project that has inspectors going through residential recycling bins to catch unwanted material.

According to the city's waste management department, 25 per cent of what's collected from recycling bins doesn't belong there. So Robert Orpin, the city's director of waste collection and litter operations, says they've hired a team of temporary staff to visually inspect what's inside your blue bin.

"They'll go and lift the lid and look inside and look for contaminants. If we find contaminants, we pull the bin back. We leave a sticker on it, we let the homeowners know that there's something in there, and we would ask them to remove it and put it in the garbage."

Robert Orpin, the city of Toronto's director of collection and litter operations. says people try to recycle things like coffee cups, frying pans, and old car parts. (Nicole Martin/CBC News)

Orpin says the city picks up about 200,000 tons of recycling a year, and currently about 50,000 tons turns out to be garbage.The cost to mechanically or manually pull garbage and contaminants out of recycling is not cheap. Orpin says it's costing the city an extra $5 million to $6 million a year.

"Every percentage point we reduce the contamination rate, we save money. But conversely, the higher the contamination rate goes, the more money it costs us ....Ideally we would like it between 10 and 15 per cent."

It appears that people are still very confused about what items belong where.

"Probably the number one thing we find in the recycling are coffee cups," Orpin said.

But coffee cups are not the only trash Torontonians fail to separate from their recycling. "Old frying pans, auto parts, black garbage bags ... this is the huge one right now, so we find lots of these in there and the challenge is we don't know what's inside there."

Raafeh Kaleem, a resident of Toronto's east end whose recycling bin was in the clear, says it's important for everyone to know how to recycle properly.

Toronto resident Raafeh Kaleem says finding information on how to properly recycle is as easy as using Google or Youtube. (Nicole Martin/CBC News)

"We were taught a lot through our curriculum in elementary and high school and now in university as well," said Kaleem, who is in his 20s and lives wih his parents. "It helps the environment quite a bit and it could save us money in the future, which could be used toward other things."

Right now, there are no penalties if they find the wrong items in your recycling. But that could change. Orpin says in the future it's likely tickets will be issued. 

"Down the road we will come back with some sort of fee to collect this material and pass that back on to the property owners."