Diana Vela considers herself an environmentally friendly person.
She recycles, and even though her apartment near Bathurst Street and Eglinton Avenue West doesn’t collect compost — something she’s actively trying to change — she’ll store it in her freezer and take it to a proper bin later.
So earlier this month, when Vela says she saw waste collectors from GFL International Inc. throwing both garbage and recycling into the same compartment of a truck, she said she was disappointed.
“I just try to do everything I can to help, but it’s really discouraging … if it just goes into the same bin at the end of the day,” she said.
But according to GFL, they didn’t do anything wrong.
GFL’s director of commercial operations for the GTA, Mauro Rossi, said about two years ago, they started to collect both garbage and recycling in the same truck at about 20 to 30 apartments and condos where they’re privately contracted in the city.
Owners of apartments and condos have the option to contract out their own services or use the city’s.
Rossi said bins at high rises typically aren’t that well sorted to begin with, so they send the garbage and recycling to a mixed-waste processing facility to ensure everything that can be diverted is separated.
“What we’re trying to do is maximize our recycling program,” Rossi said.
But some in the industry say they aren’t sure the method is helpful, since garbage can contaminate recyclables, and on top of that, there’s no oversight to check if they’re doing a good job.
The case for separation
Jo-Anne St. Godard, the director of the Recycling Council of Ontario, said she’s never heard of mixed garbage and recycling pick-ups in the GTA.
“I can’t imagine it’s more effective and efficient to mix garbage and recyclables,” she said.
“It’s not common for sure, because global markets are asking for cleaner material, so it seems odd.”
Companies contracted by the city still collect separately.
Matt Keliher, the general manager for the City of Toronto’s Solid Waste Management Services, said mixing recycling with garbage can lower the quality of recyclables and possibly cause them to be sent to a landfill.
“The markets that buy paper and cardboard, in particular, are looking for a very clean product,” he said. “Separating recycling from the other streams allows the city to maximize the amount of material that is being recycled into something new.”