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Introduction The City of Toronto Solid Waste Management Services Division is a public service that handles the disposal of refuse for residential and commercial properties. The goal of the City is to reduce the amount of waste that is landfilled each year without dramatically increasing the system’s costs. Waste management is a major issue for all urban centres but it has been particularly in focus in Toronto since Michigan decided to stop accepting the city’s garbage. The city faces the problems related to the volume of waste and limited landfill capacity, the environmental and monetary costs of waste, illegal dumping, and a general sense of entitlement that permeates society and justifies the production of waste. Reframing Techniques Stakeholder Perspectives The first step in developing an achievable solution to the problems currently facing Toronto is to recognize the various stakeholder perspectives and interests. The stakeholders affected by waste management policy include:
– Industry and retailers have an interest in minimizing the costs of production. They perceive the problem as something that should have a long-term market solution. • The Environment – Nature is a right belonging to future generations, not only current ones, therefore, the interest of nature is to be preserved to the fullest extent possible. • Tax Payer – Taxpayers have an interest in seeing their money spent effectively to improve the city and in minimizing their contribution. Their perspective is that the city is rarely efficient. • High Awareness Citizens – Toronto has an increasing number of people who are concerned about the environment. These people believe that the city can continue to improve and should do more. • Low Awareness Citizens – Toronto also has many citizens who are unaware or apathetic towards the harmful environmental effects of unconstrained dumping. They either do not perceive the problem or do not want to act to improve it. • The Chippewa of Thames Nation – They recently contracted with the City to build a new landfill to go into operation in 2011. Their goal is to benefit economically from the City’s waste while preserving the environmental integrity of their community. • City of Toronto – The City wants to be responsive to its citizens but also demonstrate positive leadership. The City is interested in improving their environmental policies without increasing waste management expenditures. Challenging Assumptions Six assumptions about waste have been identified: 1. Waste = garbage (i.e. there is only one way to dispose of waste) 2. Waste is bad for the environment 3. The City will take care of it
4. Individual acts do not matter 5. The consumer is responsible for disposing of product packaging 6. High consumption levels necessitate lots of garbage Benchmarking In Sweden, more than 90% of household waste is recycled, reused, or recovered. By contrast, Toronto sends 50% of its waste to landfills. Sweden has made industry responsible for recovering their product packaging, a move which greatly increased the incentive for firms to reduce packaging. Sweden has also made it illegal to landfill organic waste. In 2004, these measures led to recycling rates of 96% for glass packaging, 95% for metal, and 86% for cardboard. Most of the waste that cannot be recycled is incinerated at high efficiency plants. The power generated is sold to the electricity authority at market rates. The most modern plant cost $286 million to build, incinerates 460,000 tonnes of garbage a year, and generates revenue of $36 to $70 million annually. The plant not only pays for itself, but will also begin generating a profit within six years. By contrast, Toronto has spent $230 million on its most recent landfill. Recommendations 1) Create a voluntary certification system for companies that are properly managing their waste. This system would be loosely based on Toronto’s DineSafe rating system for restaurants. Companies that meet certification requirements would be able to display this fact at their storefront or behind their counter. This will inform consumers about the practices of their merchants and complement the City’s current awareness campaign. It will also create a commercial incentive for companies to join the program as consumers will gradually come to associate the lack of certification with a lack of environmental concern. 2) The City has made good improvements to their practices by adopting Blue bins, Green bins, and Yellow bags, but there is still a long way to go to get to a sustainable solution to the problem of waste. A longer term solution begins with the City making investments into technology that can recycle materials into reusable and profit-making products. This is attainable if the type of waste product used in consumer packaging is standardized. An example of this would be to standardize the material used in coffee cups. The city can use its special taxation powers to penalize firms that do not phase in the chosen materials. The way to better engage consumers in the process is to expand the deposit system currently used for some bottles and cans, into a wider range of products. This will ensure that consumers recycle more waste. If the city can rely on a standard material for coffee cups, and consumers are recycling them in order to receive their refund, then a system can be implemented that converts the cups en masse into a reusable waste product. Conclusion Through the application of these recommendations, the City can make a significant economic gain through diminished use of landfills and increased use of reprocessing. The result will also be a major improvement to environmental harms as less waste will be dumped into nature. Lastly, Toronto will undoubtedly experience major social benefits from living in a cleaner, more environmentally progressive city that has taken active steps to minimize its footprint.
Table of Contents Executive Summary Introduction The Organization – The City of Toronto Waste Management Services Division Benchmarking – The Swedish Example Shareholders’ Perspectives (“The Pig”) Challenging Assumptions and Changing Metaphors Our Fifteen Percent Solutions The Green Toronto Rating – Short Term Solution Sticks and Carrots – Long Term Solution Examining the Impacts of our Recommendations – The Triple Bottom Line Appendix A – Reframing Techniques in Depth Appendix B – Reflections Appendix C – Green Toronto Rating Graphic Bibliography 1 4 4 5 6 7 7 8 9 11 12 16 18 19
Introduction In September 2006, American officials announced that, effective in 2010, Michigan’s Carlton Farms Landfill will no longer accept any of Toronto’s garbage (Greenberg, 2006). The approximately 150 trucks that deliver Toronto’s waste to Michigan every single day would have to find a new destination in three years’ time. The 700,000 tons of garbage Toronto used to send to Michigan every year would have to be disposed of somewhere else (City of Toronto, 2007). The tremors of a powerful corporate earthquake reverberated all the way to Toronto’s City Hall. On the heels of Michigan’s announcement, The City of Toronto decided to purchase the Green Lane landfill near London Ontario and commenced landfilling the city’s waste there in April, 2007 (City of Toronto, 2007). What would this “new normal” mean for Torontonians? Is this a sustainable long-term solution? Our group’s interest was piqued by these questions and so we decided to investigate them more closely and analyze them through the critical lenses offered by the NewMindsets system. Below, we describe the current state of waste management in Toronto and its distinct challenges. After applying reframing techniques to the situation, we arrived at clear, actionable solutions which have the potential to positively influence Toronto’s waste management. Our recommendations aim to have a triple bottom line effect on economic, social and environmental realms. The Organization – The City of Toronto Solid Waste Management Services Division The disposal of refuse for residential and commercial properties in Toronto is overseen by the City of Toronto Solid Waste Management Services Division (“The City”). This is a public service funded entirely by property taxes. The City’s challenges are manifold. Toronto produces an enormous volume of waste is produced, while landfill capacity is inherently limited. In addition, the environmental and
monetary costs of waste are staggering and are compounded by illegal dumping and by a general sense of entitlement that permeates society and rationalizes the unfettered production of waste. Toronto produces a lot of garbage. Almost 1.2 million tons every year to be exact (City of Toronto, 2007). Sixty percent of this substantial quantity was sent to landfills in 2006, a fact which calls into question the long term sustainability of any landfilling operation. No landfill can be truly sustainable if 700,000 tons of waste are being dumped in it annually. Alternatives to landfilling are clearly necessary and the City’s recycling programs are a good example of such initiatives. The Blue/Grey Box programs have been in place for several years and help recycle metal, glass, plastics and paper. More recently, the Green Bin program has been implemented for organic waste. This initiative has been very successful, boasting a participation rate of 90% (City of Toronto, 2007). Overall, the city’s efforts to divert garbage away from landfills have been relatively successful: Toronto’s 2006 residential diversion rate was 42%, up from 30% in 2003 (Weeks, 2004). These statistics suggest that Toronto is indeed doing better. But is there room for further improvement in landfill diversion rates? Benchmarking – The Swedish Example To answer this question, we turned our attention to Sweden, a global leader in garbage management. In Sweden, more than 90% of household waste is recycled, reused, or recovered (Woolliams, 2006). Considering that Toronto sends 58% of its waste to landfills, there is no doubt that there is still room for improvement. Sweden has made industry responsible for recovering their product packaging, a move which greatly increased the incentive for firms to reduce packaging. Sweden has also made it illegal to landfill organic waste. In 2004, these measures led to recycling rates of 96% for glass packaging, 95% for metal, and 86% for cardboard (Woolliams, 2006). Most of the waste that cannot be recycled is incinerated in high
efficiency plants. The power generated is then sold to the electricity authority at market rates. A modern plant costs $286 million to build, incinerates 460,000 tonnes of garbage a year, and generates revenue of $36 to $70 million annually (Woolliams, 2006). The plant not only pays for itself, but will also begin generating a profit within six years. By contrast, Toronto’s principal waste management strategy was to spend $220 million on acquiring the Green Lane landfill (City of Toronto, 2007). The Swedish example convinced us that there is indeed room for improvement and Toronto’s waste management can “stretch” further still. While in this case benchmarking did not lead directly to a 15% solution, the technique did give us the confidence that alternatives to landfilling exist and that a multifaceted approach to waste management is ideal. In light of this, we proceeded to study Toronto’s challenges more closely. In order to arrive at better informed, more feasible solutions, we undertook a careful review of the various stakeholders involved in Toronto’s waste management milieu. Stakeholders’ Perspectives (“The Pig”) Our investigation revealed a large number of stakeholders, each with valid concerns and perspectives. We analysed The City of Toronto (Government), Taxpayers, Low Awareness Torontonians, High Awareness Torontonians, the Chippewa of Thames Nation, Industry and Retailers, and the Environment as a separate entity. (See Appendix A for in-depth analysis.) This multitude of perspectives underscores the complexity of Toronto’s waste management challenge. How might these often opposed stances be reconciled? For example, how might the City enlist the cooperation of both high awareness citizens and industry/retailers at the same time? Addressing the non-complementary concerns of these parties in any sort of meaningful way was a difficult leadership challenge for our group. However, the difficultly only
appeared insurmountable because underlying it were a number of unchallenged assumptions and unproductive metaphors. Are these various stakeholder perspectives above mutually exclusive? Challenging Assumptions and Changing Metaphors In the course of our group discussions we identified six assumptions that constrained our conception of garbage and limited the range of available garbage management solutions. (See Appendix A for in-depth analysis.) Looking back over these assumptions and the stakeholders’ perspectives, a general sense of tension becomes apparent. Stakeholders appear to have irreconcilable concerns. Also, the manner in which we conceptualized garbage leads to more conflict and a shirking away from waste disposal responsibilities. Overall, we got the sense that garbage disposal at the moment is conceptualized by the metaphor of an adversarial “battle” where one party’s win is another loss. Instead of “garbage disposal is conflict”, we changed the metaphor to “garbage disposal is problem-solving”. By adopting this metaphor, some fundamental changes take place: stakeholders are on the same team working together to find solutions that accommodate all parties involved. They no longer need to play a “zero sum game” and can employ the full range of their abilities to resolve the issue. So far, we challenged assumptions and changed metaphors. By combining these insights with those derived from the benchmarking and stakeholder perspective exercises, we proceeded to generate solutions to Toronto’s waste management challenge. Our Fifteen Percent Solutions Waste management in Toronto is very complex and politically charged. Recognizing this, we devised two sets of recommendations. The first focuses on short-term solutions, which can be quickly implemented to produce immediate results and the second focuses on longer-term solutions, which require an investment in new technologies and a comprehensive reconfiguration
of the current waste management system. The hope is that the success of the short-term solutions will produce the requisite goodwill and cooperation for the more ambitious long term solutions. The Green Toronto Rating – Short-Term Solution In the short-term, we recommend that the City create a voluntary certification system for companies that are properly managing their waste. This system would be loosely based on Toronto’s DineSafe rating system for restaurants. Specifically, a company would voluntarily measure their carbon footprint by enlisting the services of a third-party engineering consulting firm. Based on the results of this testing, companies would be assigned a rating by the City. This “Green Toronto Rating” should be easy to interpret (either a number of stars out of five or a mark out of 100) and be provided to the companies on a standardized form. (See Appendix C for an example). Companies would then be able to display this certificate at their storefront or behind their counter. This will inform consumers about the practices of their vendors and complement the City’s current awareness campaign. It will also create a commercial incentive for companies to join the program as consumers will gradually come to associate the lack of certification with a lack of environmental concern. In other words, companies will buy the right to display their environmental achievements and give consumers a choice as to whom they would rather do business with: a company that takes pride in its environmental practices or a company that evades accountability. This solution was informed by several reframing techniques and draws upon the insights derived therefrom. For example, it establishes a clear link between individual environmentally conscious acts and a better city. By choosing to do business with vendors that take their waste disposal and other environmental responsibilities seriously, consumers will directly encourage eco-friendly practices. People will no longer be able to claim that individual acts do not matter.
We readily acknowledge that this solution is itself based on the assumption that consumers will choose the ethically correct alternative. However, we strongly believe that our faith in Torontonians is not misplaced. If the successful Green Bin program has taught us anything it is that, given a clear, objective method of contributing to a greener city, our citizens will choose to do their part. Another strength of the Green Toronto Rating is the voluntary nature of the companies’ cooperation. This aspect of the solution was suggested by the changing metaphor of waste management as problem solving. The adversarial nature of a mandatory system complete with enforcement and rigid standards would only have exacerbated the tension between stakeholders. As part of our research, we contacted several City of Toronto employees responsible for fighting illegal dumping. Our interview with the manager of the Municipal Licensing and Stadards Divisions, Steven Byrd, revealed that enforcement is a highly ineffective and resource-intensive process. For example, in one alleyway in Toronto’s China Town, garbage collection and enforcement of bylaws must be made daily. Whenever any garbage accumulates, illegal dumping immediately follows. This vicious cycle of strict standard enforcement evasion of the standard is clearly not desirable. Our solution breaks this cycle by removing the adversarial aspect of waste management and promoting voluntary openness. We are confident that this 15% solution will be effective for the City of Toronto. It is easy to implement, requires a minimal financial investment on the part of the City, and has the potential to have a major effect on the way Torontonians do business. The Green Toronto Rating should be immediately implemented as part of Toronto’s waste management efforts. Sticks and Carrots – Long Term Solution The City has made good improvements to their practices by adopting Blue bins, Green bins, and
Yellow bags, but there is still a long way to go to get to a sustainable solution to the problem of waste. A longer-term solution begins with the City making investments into technology that can recycle materials into reusable and profit-making products such as insulation from recycled paper. This is attainable if the type of waste product used in consumer packaging is standardized. An example of this would be to standardize the material used in coffee cups. The city can use its special taxation powers to penalize firms that do not phase in the chosen materials by, for example, increasing property taxes. This will ensure that uncooperative companies are strongly incentivized to bring their practices in line with City specifications. The way to better engage consumers in the process is to expand the deposit system currently used for some bottles and cans to a wider range of products. This will ensure that consumers recycle more waste; specifically, the low awareness citizen will have a tangible financial reason to recycle. If the city can rely on a standard material for coffee cups, and consumers are recycling them in order to receive their refund, then a system can be implemented that converts the cups en masse into a reusable waste product. This is a more aggressive and multifaceted solution. It employs a combination of incentives (“carrots”) and penalties (“sticks”) to achieve its goals and necessitates sizeable investments in technology, bureaucracy and enforcement apparatus. We acknowledge that while each individual facet of the program may fall within the realm of the 15% solution, as a whole, this Sticks and Carrots approach may face significant hurdles. Resistance will surely follow any move by the City to increase commercial property taxes both from industry (who does not want increased production and recycling costs) and from the consumers (who are afraid that the costs of the program will be passed on to them by retailers). These are legitimate concerns and reasonable critiques of our long-term solution. However, we feel that the complexity and
magnitude of Toronto’s waste management situation requires both short and long-term solutions. The short-term Green Toronto Rating is a strong 15% solution. The more ambitious long-term Stick and Carrots approach requires an internalization of the new metaphor of waste management as problem solving. As such, the success of the long term solution above is contingent on the manner in which Toronto’s eco-psychology will develop in the next decade. Examining the Impacts of our Recommendations – The Triple Bottom Line Through the application of the above recommendations, the City can make a significant economic gain through diminished use of landfills and increased use of reprocessing. Not only will its current investment in the Green Lane landfill be useful for a longer length of time, but the City will also reap the financial benefits of selling products made from recycled materials. Major environmental improvements will also follow as less waste will be dumped into nature, avoiding air pollution and contamination of potable water sources. Achieving a 70% diversion rate (from the current 42%) reduces greenhouse gases by 25% (equal to the removal of 100,000 vehicles); recycles 240,000 tons of paper annually (saving 4.5 million trees); and saves 900 million kWh of energy (enough to power 170,000 homes) (City of Toronto, 2007). Lastly, Toronto will undoubtedly experience major social benefits from living in a cleaner, more environmentally progressive city that has taken active steps to minimize its ecological footprint. Interestingly, Toronto’s progressive environmental image may also attract more tourism to our city, which will also result in financial benefits. This suggests that the individual effects of the triple bottom line are not isolated categories. Rather, the economic, environmental and social benefits can be cyclical and interrelated, with an improvement in one aspect feeding into further improvements in another. This is precisely why the city of Toronto must plan for the future. Sustainable solutions today, for a greener TOmorrow.
Appendix A – Reframing Techniques in Depth Stakeholder Perspectives a) The City of Toronto wants to be responsive to its citizens but also demonstrate positive leadership. The City is interested in improving their environmental policies without increasing waste management expenditures. Specifically, the goal of the City is to reduce the amount of waste that is landfilled each year without dramatically increasing the system’s costs. b) Taxpayers want their money spent effectively on programs that make Toronto a better city to live in. Equally important, taxpayers strive to minimize their tax contribution. Their perspective is that the city is rarely efficient and that taxes are already high enough. c) Low awareness Torontonians are unaware or apathetic towards the harmful environmental effects of unconstrained dumping. They either do not perceive the problem or do not want to act to improve it. d) High awareness Torontonians are an increasing segment of the population. They are concerned about the environment and believe that the city can do more and should continue to improve. e) The Chippewa of Thames Nation recently contracted to sell the Green Lane landfill to the City. Their goal is to benefit economically from the City’s waste while preserving the environmental and cultural integrity of their community. f) Industry and retailers have an interest in minimizing the costs of production. They perceive the problem as something that should have a long-term market solution. g) The environment should be personified and conceptualized as a stakeholder because
nature is a right belonging to future generations, not only current ones. Therefore, the interest of nature is to be preserved to the fullest extent possible. The “Pig” reframed
“Waste is equal to garbage” or “there is only one way to dispose of waste”.
Waste does not necessarily have to be garbage and landfilling is certainly not the only way to dispose of waste. Recycling is an effective alternative which reduces environmentally harmful landfilling. Also, there are initiatives elsewhere in the world that transform paper waste into insulation. In the United Kingdom alone more than 1 million homes have been successfully insulated with construction materials produced entirely from recycled newsprint (Muren, 2005).
“Waste is necessarily bad for the environment”.
If waste is diverted away from landfills and disposed of in environmentally conscious ways,
there is no reason why this has to be the case.
“It is the City’s responsibility to take care of waste disposal”.
This assumption is at the root of the general sense of entitlement Torontonians feel with regards to waste disposal: “I pay my taxes, so I can produce as much waste as I want and the City is responsible for making it disappear”. If our solutions are to be effective, they will have to tackle this detrimental mentality.
“Individual acts do not matter”.
Oftentimes Torontonians are overwhelmed by a feeling of futility: “why should I keep recycling, reducing and reusing when so many other people litter and dump illegally?” Therefore, the solutions we will generate must make obvious the link between individual eco-conscious acts and their effects on the city as a whole.
“The consumer is responsible for disposing of product packaging”.
Out of habit, we assume that product packaging will be disposed of by the consumer. This currently benefits industry and retailers since they view their discarded used packaging only as an added expense. A new piece of electronic equipment may come wrapped in numerous layers of packaging, the disposal of which is no longer the problem of the manufacturer/retailer the moment the product has left the factory or store. This current state of affairs does not incentivize industry and retailers to reduce the amount of packaging they use or to use more environmentally friendly materials. Our solutions will strive to shift some of the responsibility for waste disposal back onto industry and retailers by tackling their assumptions that garbage disposal is only an expense and cannot be profitable.
“High consumption levels necessitate a lot of garbage”.
Many people are concerned that addressing the waste disposal issue in more environmentally
friendly ways will necessarily constrain their lifestyle. Torontonians and Canadians in general have come to enjoy a high standard of living which they will not easily renounce. However, Sweden is also a modern, high consumption society and, as the benchmarking analysis indicated, sustainable waste management solutions are still feasible.
Appendix B – Reflections Our learning experience with the project started as early as our first brainstorming session on possible research topics. We quickly realized that we would have to strike a delicate balance between picking an ambitious, overly broad topic and a narrow, trivial topic. The first would be too distant with solutions too difficult to realistically implement while the second would not lead to meaningful triple bottom line breakthroughs. Initially, our topic was to be Waste Management in Toronto’s China Town. While a very interesting and potentially rewarding topic, we realized that we were unnecessarily limiting ourselves: the ideas we were generating were equally applicable to Toronto as a whole and so we decided to be ambitious and go broad. After we decided on a topic, we initially found it difficult to generate true 15% solutions. We were tempted to do exactly what Professor Morgan advised against, namely working backwards from existing waste management solutions and trying to justify them in terms of the reframing techniques. The solutions, while innovative in their own right, felt disconnected from the content of the course and “tacked on” to the rest of our project. This period marked the lowest point in our team’s morale. We scheduled a weekend meeting and did the unthinkable: we followed the instructions. By rigorously applying the reframing techniques we were able to better understand the challenge and arrive at true 15% solutions. Overcoming this difficulty remains one of the most satisfying aspects of this project for our group. Following the research and idea generation phase, we started writing this report. Fitting all our content within the 8 page limit was a challenge. Removing a paragraph that represents hours of research and drafting was difficult to say the least. However, looking back, we would agree that the page limit forced us to focus on the essential elements of what we were trying to
communicate. By removing superfluous information, our project gained clarity and unity of vision. Another challenge of the write-up was agreeing on a tone: would we be formal and technical or more colloquial and relaxed? Ultimately, we compromised by choosing a conversational, narrative-style which we felt was ideally suited to the challenge of telling a compelling story. As we drew closer to the end of the project, we realized that our group was working together in a way that brought out each member’s individual strengths. Some people talked more, others listened and took notes; some focused on statistics while others worked on graphics. While it is expected that individual strengths would surface during healthy group work, the interesting and unexpected thing about our group’s role distribution is that it was quite informal. Roles were assumed in a natural, organic manner with people taking on responsibilities without rigid distribution of work. Looking back, our group experience has been nothing short of fantastic. It is our hope that each of our individual flowerpots will take root and turn and blossom into a garden of insight.
Appendix C – Green Toronto Rating Graphic
Bibliography City of Toronto. Facts about Toronto's trash. City of Toronto Website. April 2007. Available Online: http://www.toronto.ca/garbage/facts.htm Greenberg, Lee. Michigan turns up nose at Toronto garbage. CanWest News Service. September 2006. Available Online: http://www.canada.com/topics/news/national/story.html?id=19d938fb-21e4-434b-a2a271aeb4d1db6c&k=8165 Muren, Dominic. Warmcel Recycled Paper Insulation. Treehugger.com Design and Architecture Materials. April 2005. Available online: http://www.treehugger.com/files/2005/04/warmcel_recycle.php Weeks, Carly. Finding Homegrown Garbage Solutions. New Media Journalism - University of Western Ontario Faculty of Information and Media Studies. Accessed November 2007. Available Online: http://www.fims.uwo.ca/newmedia/newmedia2004/garbage/garbage_weeks_d4_p.htm Woolliams, Jessica. As Toronto battles to find a solution to its garbage crisis, Sweden offers a solution. Sustainable Building Centre Website. September 2006 Available online: http://www.sustainablebuildingcentre.com/forumtopic/as_toronto_battles_to_find_a_solution_to_its_garbage_crisis_sweden_offers_a_sol ution
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