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Waste Diversion in High-Rise Residential Buildings: Gaps and Opportunities for Supporting a Circular Economy

Authors: Virginia Maclaren*, UNIVERSITY OF TORONTO
Topics: Environment, Applied Geography, Behavioral Geography
Keywords: circular economy, waste, recycling, infrastructure
Session Type: Paper
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


Material recycling is a key strategy for achieving a Circular Economy. In the residential sector, recycling is wide-spread and most successful for single family homes. However, there is a significant gap in circularity encountered in multi-family buildings where waste diversion rates for recyclables and organics are often less than half of the rates achieved in single family homes. Focusing on high-rise multi-family buildings (5 or more storeys) and drawing on the connection between waste diversion infrastructure and social practices, we examine the main challenges and opportunities that high-rises pose for waste diversion and circularity. The challenges are tied to everyday use of recycling and organics bins. The main opportunities are the presence of in-building locations for collection of clothing, e-waste, batteries, and books – services that are not available to residents of single-family homes. We surveyed the diversion knowledge and practices of 450 high-rise residents in nine buildings in the City of Toronto. Each of the buildings had slightly different infrastructure arrangements, some of which were more convenient than others. We find that along with infrastructure, materiality and diversion knowledge are two of the most important factors allowing some buildings to achieve higher diversion rates.

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