To boost Toronto’s sustainability efforts, city government needs to spend more money educating residents and businesses about recycling, according to an advocacy group.

A recently released report from The Toronto Environmental Alliance (TEA) called for Canada’s largest city to take multiple steps to enhance recycling and reuse. The report is titled “Zero Waste Toronto.”

The document notes more than 85 percent of the residential waste stream can be reused, recycled or composted in existing programs, but also states the city’s diversion rate has plateaued at 53 percent.

“The City needs to invest in research and tools to understand the best way to reach all Torontonians and then provide better communications and education,” according to the report. “The City also needs to invest in front-line workers who are dealing with waste and recycling everyday to empower them to observe, evaluate and contribute to constant learning.”

The group drafted the analysis with funding from the Toronto Civic Employees Union Local 416.

The February report comes as the city’s province, Ontario, moves toward implementing full extended-producer responsibility for paper and packaging. That effort aims to reduce government waste-management costs and boost province-wide recycling rates.

Noting that, over the next six months, City Councillors and Torontonians will debate and decide the city’s long-term waste management strategy, TEA suggested implementing its six “pillars of zero waste,” rejecting incineration as a diversion strategy:

  • Commit to “zero waste” targets and timelines.
  • Provide universal access to recycling and composting services. TEA noted a lack of organics recycling opportunities for apartment-dwellers and in workplaces.
  • Spend more money on outreach and communication. Currently, those cost centers make up about 1 percent of the city’s total solid waste management operating budget.
  • Take a leadership role and tap into community excitement and innovation.
  • Use rewards, fines and regulations to push for increases in diversion and reductions in waste. As examples, the city can increase garbage fees and impose disposal bans.
  • Build opportunities to evaluate progress. For example, the city could form a committee to share best practices and identify new opportunities.