Toronto resident catches private garbage collector mixing trash, recyclables

A resident of a Toronto apartment building wants answers after he spotted the private collection service that picks up the garbage mixing trash with the recycling.

Uptown building uses private garbage collection service unregulated by the city

A resident of an uptown Toronto apartment videotaped his building's private collection service mixing trash and recycling. (CBC News)

A resident of a Toronto apartment building wants answers after he spotted the private collection service that serves his building mixing trash and recycling.

Kevin Nugent, who lives at 111 Lawton Avenue, in the Yonge and Davisville area, said he carefully separates his trash from his recycling and is careful to put each in the right bin.

"It seems like a small contribution to make," he told CBC News on Wednesday.

But on Oct. 5, he happened to notice a garbage truck that arrived at his building pick up both the garbage and the recycling and mix it all together.

Kevin Nugent said he's seen the trash collector mixing garbage and recycling three times, but only recorded the incident the third time.
Nugent says he saw it happen twice, and the third time he decided to film it. 

According to the City of Toronto, not all apartment buildings use city-contracted waste collection companies. This means there is no oversight of the service and nobody ensures the trash and recycling are adequately separated.

"I think what made me even more angry is that it's not regulated," Nugent said.

Tor Can Waste Management Inc. is the company responsible for waste collection at Nugent's building. Late Wednesday, president Liborio Gurreri said the company takes its "responsibility to our customers and the environment very seriously."

Staff are permitted to use their judgment when they find recycling bins that contain non-recyclable materials, Gurreri said in a statement issued to CBC News.

"If that occurs, the driver exercises discretion to dump the contents of the recycling bin into the collection truck," Gurreri said. The driver then notifies staff at the transfer station that the load contains recyclable materials, which are then separated out from the waste, he said.

Buildings 'should be auditing' service

The city's solid waste management department collects garbage and recycling from homes and businesses.

"We have on-road staff every day going out, monitoring the work of the contractor to ensure that they follow the conditions that are set out in the contract," said Robert Orpin, deputy general manager of the city's Solid Waste Services.

However, building owners can opt out of that service and hire their own collector. Of the 6,100 multi-unit residential buildings in Toronto, about 70 per cent use city services while the rest use private companies. It's up to those building owners to monitor the work.

A representative at Akelius, which own's Nugent's building, said the company is investigating the incident, noting that the terms of its waste removal contract stipulate that recycling be recycled and garbage be treated as garbage.

"In order for a load of recycling to be accepted as recycling, it must contain 95 per cent recyclable material," said Ben Scott in a statement emailed to CBC. 

"If, in Torcan's opinion, a load will not meet this requirement they can, at their discretion, empty the components of a recycling bin into a garbage truck to be sorted later at their own facility. This appears to be what is happening in this video."

A letter will go to tenants to remind them to keep garbage and recyclables separate, Scott said.

Environmental advocates say the buildings that choose private collection must do a better job of monitoring their work.

"You should be auditing the service, you should be auditing the building where the materials are going," Joanne St. Godard, executive director of the Recycling Council of Ontario, told CBC.


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