Cutting Down on Waste: A Look at Ottawa Community Housing’s Composting Pilot
OCHC is one of the first housing providers in Ottawa to pilot an exciting new waste diversion program in one of its apartment buildings.
By: Ottawa Community Housing Corporation (OCHC)
Ottawa Community Housing Corporation is Ontario’s second largest social housing provider and provides approximately 15,000 homes to about 32,000 tenants.
A pilot project introducing composting and encouraging recycling at OCHC’s 215 Nepean St. apartment building has yielded amazing initial results.
The pilot acts as a blueprint for future waste diversion programs at other properties in OCHC’s portfolio.
The Why of Waste Diversion
The City of Ottawa estimates that 58% of the waste going to a landfill can be recycled. Of that material, 45% by weight is compostable. This means that the green bin program can divert a large amount of waste from landfills.
Ottawa Community Housing is committed to sustainable communities, reducing the corporations’ carbon footprint and encouraging tenants to keep waste out of landfills.
As part of that commitment, in 2019, OCHC began working on encouraging the use of compost bins and recycling in multiple townhome communities. In 2021, the focus turned to high-rise communities.
The goal is to align with the City of Ottawa’s waste diversion targets and provincial targets of eliminating organic waste from landfills. OCHC’s Waste Management Strategy prioritizes key areas to harmonize existing practices, increase staff and tenant knowledge of waste diversion as well as meet legislative waste requirements and property standards. We benchmark our waste management practices and current infrastructure with commercial and peer social housing providers as a corporation.
Promoting and Educating
OCHC invested in retrofits to the garbage area at 215 Nepean Street and worked with partner EnviroCentre to engage with tenants before the pilot’s launch. They worked together with tenants over several months by going door to door, holding 14 in-person outreach events, and providing tenants with “kitchen catchers” to place their organic waste and recycling bags.
EnviroCentre’s “Waste Ambassadors” also conducted tenant surveys before the changes to the building, to determine what the barriers were and what questions residents had. Over the course of the pilot project, Waste Ambassadors tracked nearly 200 in-person engagements to encourage waste diversion.
The tenant engagement portion of the diversion project took place over several months to provide tenants with the information and resources needed to help the project succeed.
Next, the Property Manager and maintenance team worked on retrofitting the community garbage room and making the space more inviting. They identified clear sections for each recycling area, garbage, and compost. In concert with the changes, staff reached out to the City of Ottawa to work out more frequent pickup of organic waste as well as continue to engage with tenants and monitor the garbage room to ensure materials were being properly sorted.
In the first two months of the pilot, reports from the City of Ottawa have shown the changes have reduced the building’s garbage output by 40%. Recycling of glass, metal and plastic materials increased by four times and fibre recycling increased by three times.
“These results are very encouraging,” said Dan Dicaire, Manager of Conservation and Sustainability at Ottawa Community Housing. “This investment in reducing waste is working well because so many moving parts came together to improve the lives of tenants and reduce OCHC’s ecological footprint.”
The high-rise on Nepean Street is OCHC’s first building where waste diversion upgrades and tenant engagement strategies have been put in place.
EnviroCentre and OCHC’s Community Development staff are currently in the tenant engagement phase of the program rollout in one of our seniors’ communities.
It is important to note that OCHC has more than 150 communities, so diversion projects will continue to be rolled out over several years. More buildings will receive retrofits to their community waste areas to facilitate and promote compost and recycling diversion. OCHC is committed to waste diversion and has allocated $2M throughout the life of the project to support on-going efforts across the portfolio.
OCHC recognizes that this type of change starts by laying the groundwork with tenants and getting the buy-in from the community before setting up the common garbage area to better facilitate composting. Once completed, the process can be replicated in other high-rises across your portfolio.
All photos courtesy of OCHC.