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By Amy Greenwood

Many fast-food restaurants around Ryerson say they do not recycle because the city doesn’t provide either incentives or deterrents to do so.

“Nobody ever came from the city to tell us we had to recycle,” said Jessie Sodhi, manager of Popeye’s Chicken & Biscuits at 273 Yonge St.

In a recent survey of 10 fast-food restaurants around the Ryerson campus, only four have implemented a recycling program. The remaining six toss most recyclables in the dumpster, and Sodhi says that city is to blame.

The accusations coincide with a report that says toronto recycled less than 50 per cent of its waste in 2006. “The city didn’t come and give us any bins,” Sodhi said, adding that he does seperates garbage and carboard with the two bins he has.

The Popeye’s manager is not alone in noticing a lack of regulation: of five nearby restaurants surveyed, none recalled having ever been inspected or fined by the ministry.

Ministry of the environment spokesperson Kate Jordan said that all Ontario fast-food restaurants are subject to two waste regulations (102 and 103), which stipulate that owners must have a recycling plan in place and must also source-separate their waste (Toronto has a similar by-law in place under municipal code 844).

If owners fail to implement the programs, they may be subject to what Jordan called “compliance tools” — steps the ministry takes to encourage ownerblue box cohabitation.

Jordan said that the ministry prefers educating owners with tip sheets, reminders and inspections, but they can be taken to court and fined if no programs are put in place.

Tell that to Bahram, the manager of 2-4-1 Pizza on 122 Dundas St. E., and he’ll laugh in your face. “I have to give them a hard time,” he exclaimed behind the counter. “Why should they be giving me a hard time?”

The pizzeria owner, who didn’t want his last name published, said the city is notorious for ignoring his recyclables.

“I put it in a clear plastic bag and they don’t pick it up,” he said with a shrug. “I got tired of it so I don’t do it anymore.”

A recent report from Waste Division Ontario says that, indeed, the whole city could use a boost.

The report states that Toronto is recycling only 38 per cent of its waste, based on 2006 data. Although this is up from 32 per cent in 2005, it’s a long way off from the original 60 per cent target proposed by the provincial Liberals a few years ago.

However, the Liberals never penned a plan, nor did they inject funding into municipalities to encourage participation. Jordan said that the ministry is currently trying to increase restaurant recycling by upping the number of environment officers in the fast-food sector.

Last spring, the ministry hired 10 new officers to inspect restaurants and inform owners of their recycling responsibilities. She could not say how much influence the officers have had.

But restaurant managers and city officials aren’t the only ones to blame. The customer also greatly impacts the success of a recycling program.

Around Ryerson, those customers are students, who sometimes have a hard time following simple labels. Soheila Arzini is the manager of Subway at 106 Mutual St., one of the few surveyed restaurants that has a recycling bin.

But that doesn’t mean bottles and cans are finding their way into it. “They just put their garbage in it,” Arzini said of her customers. She said she often sees students tossing recyclables in the trash.

Andy Green, a fourth-year civil engineering student, said restaurant owners and customers alike must care about recycling, simply due to the immensity of the industry.

“There’s a lot of waste that goes into (the food business),” said Green, who used to work in a banquet hall where he saw the waste first hand.

“A lot of people go to these places. If they recycle, they can do a lot for the environment.”

Green said that one way restaurant owners can help customers make more environmentally-friendly food choices is advertising that they recycle. “If there was a sign on the door saying they recycle, then I’d go there.”

While educating consumers is an important step, equally important is educating business owners and making it easy for them to comply with the bylaws.

“It’s entirely up to us if we want to recycle. We could do more, but we need a little help,” Sodhi said.

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