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RBG’s Waste Diversion Program

July 27, 2021

By Chris McAnally, Environmental Sustainability Coordinator, Royal Botanical Gardens.

In 2017 we made some big changes to our recycling and composting program at RBG. The goal was to make it easier for visitors to find and use our recycling and compost collection bins, and to reduce the amount of items going to landfill.

The most obvious change to our waste diversion program was our new waste diversion bins and labels. These new bins feature colour coded labels: black for landfill waste, blue for mixed recycling and green for compost/organics.

An image of a trash receptacle with three openings and unique labels and colours for each opening.

Everywhere you go across RBG the colour coding stays the same. You can find bins with this colour-coded approach in our buildings, in our gardens and at most of our trailheads. While RBG’s properties fall in both Burlington and Hamilton, our recycling program is not the same as either municipality. This is because we have to hire our own private service provider and they have their own specific rules and accepted materials (for example, while plastic bags and aluminum foil may be recyclable at home, they aren’t here). This is why it is so important to follow the labels when you’re here.

Photos of typical waste for each stream of waste, being Landfill, Compost, and Mixed Recycling.


  • Plastic bags
  • Food wrappers
  • Diapers
  • Non-RBG coffee cups
  • Aluminum foil
  • Plastic wrap
  • Straws
  • Dog waste


  • Food waste
  • Paper towel
  • Soiled paper products
  • Tea bags
  • Compostable take-out packaging
  • Compostable RBG coffee cups

Mixed Recycling

  • Plastic containers #1-7
  • Glass containers
  • Aluminium containers
  • Milk and juice cartons
  • Paper and newspaper
  • Magazines
  • Cardboard and boxboard
  • Coffee cup lids

How we are doing:

As part of our environmental sustainability efforts we measure how much waste and recycled material we generate at RBG. A standard way to measure this is called a “waste diversion rate”. This is a measure of how much waste material goes to landfill, and how much is re-used. A waste diversion rate of 65% means that 65% of all waste generated is either recycled, composted or re-used in some other way.

At RBG we’ve set 65% as our waste diversion rate target. This matches Halton Region’s goals at the time when we made improvements to our waste and recycling program. Each year since, we’ve estimated our waste diversion rate as we work towards achieving our target:

So far, we’ve seen a gradual improvement of our waste diversion rate over the years. We’ve still got more work to do to achieve our current waste diversion target. One big project related to our waste program was the creation of our Single-use Plastic Policy. This policy has helped us cut down on the amount of plastic waste generated at RBG, but we’ll get more into this in a future blog post. In the meantime, please support our efforts to reduce waste by putting trash in its correct place, or even consider taking it home so you can rinse and wash containers and recycle even more materials.

Sustainability at RBG

At RBG our mission is to connect people, plants and place for the purpose of nurturing and preserving healthy growing life on our planet. Our mission, mandate and future are deeply connected to sustainability – working to meet our needs today in a way that doesn’t compromise the ability of future generations to meet theirs.