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Multi-family waste diversion program tips


As of Nov. 1, 2017 multi-family complexes like apartments and condos are required to separate food and yard waste from garbage for composting or diversion. For details see our food and yard waste requirements.

Similar to our multi-family recycling requirements, building owners and managers have the flexibility to choose a food and yard waste service provider and decide the best way to manage the service.

Below you will find suggestions to help promote waste diversion in your building, encourage the proper use of bins and prevent contamination issues.

Make your collection area easy to use for residents

Place bins in convenient areas for your residents

Food and yard waste bins, and recycling bins, should be as convenient as garbage bins. Work with your collection company to find an area that is close to common areas where residents frequently travel.

Make the collection area prominent and visible

Make sure residents can recognize the diversion area at a distance. Ensure the area is well lit and tidy. Use similar types of bins for storing food and yard waste and for recycling materials. Consistency between the bins reduces confusion about what goes where.

If the garbage and food and yard waste bins are not in the same area, place a garbage container next to the food and yard waste bins. This helps reduce contamination as residents have an opportunity to properly dispose of materials.

Tell your residents about the diversion programs

As of Nov. 1, 2017, you are required to inform your residents of the list of recycling and food and yard waste materials that can be collected, and the proper method for preparing and sorting material for collection. This information needs to be shared at least annually, and when a new resident moves in. A letter template for residents is available on multi-family tools and resources.

You can provide each unit with an information package that explains the following:

  • What can and cannot be put in food and yard waste and recycling containers.
  • Why it is important to use the food and yard waste service provided.
  • How the items should be prepared and sorted.
  • Where the food and yard waste and recycling bins are located.
  • How to get rid of common items (e.g. furniture, electronics, motor oil, household chemicals) not accepted in your regular collection.

We recommend that you continue providing this information periodically throughout the year to residents to remind them of the requirements.

Use signs, labels and posters

As of Nov. 1, 2017, you must ensure that there is clear signage on recycling and food and yard waste containers that indicates the materials that can be disposed in each container. This helps residents quickly understand what goes where.

Here are some tips when creating signage for your waste containers:

  • Post labels about what goes in each bin at eye level or on the front of each bin. Put signs in common areas (e.g. lobby, mailbox room, elevators, laundry and recycling rooms).
  • Create posters using pictures to explain what can and cannot be diverted. Pictures are easier to recognize and help residents who may speak different languages.
  • Consider laminating or covering signs and posters with plexi-glass to keep them clean.
  • Check out our free templates and sample posters.

Your collection company may also have information or signage to assist you.

Encourage new residents to properly dispose of materials

  • Provide new residents with an information package and offer a move-in tour to walk them through your collection areas. Show them how your collection system works.
  • Consider giving residents a small kitchen pail to make food and yard waste collection convenient and easy to do. Similarly, consider giving residents a reusable tote bag or a small recycling container to make recycling easy.

Train your on-site staff about the ins and outs of your program

If you have on-site staff such as maintenance staff or a property manager, ensure they are aware of the diversion programs so they can help answer questions from residents and point out problems. Key information to pass along may include:

  • Where the collection bins are located.
  • What can and cannot be put in the bins.
  • How residents should prepare materials for food and yard waste and recycling.
  • How to resolve common problems.
  • Contact details for your collection company.
  • Where to get more information.

Monitor your program and continue to educate

Regularly visit the collection area in your building

  • Look for contamination inside the bins and identify common items that are unacceptable. Educate tenants with signage in the recycling area.
  • Check that the signs and bin labels are easy to read. Replace signage/labels that are faded or ripped.
  • Check that the collection area is clean and tidy. Clear out any obstacles that make it difficult to access the food and yard waste or recycling bins.

Provide regular reminders to residents

Well informed residents will reduce issues and lead to better use of the food and yard waste and recycling opportunities in your building.

Keep residents up to speed by providing them with regular updates. In condominiums, consider adding food and yard waste, as well as recycling, as a standing agenda item.

Ask for feedback from your collection company

Your collection company may be able to give you feedback on how your food and yard waste, or recycling program is going.

Feedback might include comments on contamination, damage to bins and reasons for missed collection. Pass along feedback to residents to further support waste diversion in your building.

Ask your collection company to offer guidance and support. They may also offer additional resource materials that can be given to residents.​​​