City earns innovation award for single-use plastic reduction project

The Peter J. Marshall Innovation Award Jury presented its highest award to the City of Markham for its Taking the Lead project – a multi-year plan to reduce the amount of Single-Use Plastics that end up in landfill. Phase one of the plan targets increased diversion of Styrofoam packaging.

The Plaque Award was presented at the 2021 Association of Municipalities of Ontario (AMO) Conference, held entirely online.

Working with The Recycle People Corporation – a Markham-based waste management company – the city banned Styrofoam packaging from garbage pick-up amidst the COVID-19 pandemic as the community saw a large rise in online purchases delivered using Styrofoam packaging. Residents must use clear plastic bags for their garbage, and those with visible Styrofoam packaging are not collected and the Styrofoam must be dropped off at a Markham Recycling Depot.

The initiative has been extremely successful and well received by residents. As a result of the ban and the city’s multi-lingual community engagement and education strategy, there has been a 150 per cent increase in the volume of Styrofoam recycled with 30 tonnes recycled in the first six months of the ban.

“Markham’s success in keeping more Single-Use Plastics out of landfill is a clear example of the positive impact of municipal innovation in our communities,” said Brian Rosborough, AMO Executive Director. “The city’s public engagement program helped to get residents on board with the plan, and it’s their participation that is ultimately helping the initiative succeed.”

“The City of Markham is honoured to be recognized by AMO for our Single-Use Plastics initiative that has greatly reduced the amount of plastics sent to landfill,” Markham Mayor Frank Scarpitti said. “Taking the Lead – Markham Targets Single-Use Plastics has further advanced and strengthened the City of Markham’s accelerated and robust sustainability goals and objectives.”

Single-Use Plastics are just that – items that are typically used once before being thrown away.

These items are often lightweight, low cost and durable, making them convenient, but also challenging to dispose of.

One of the most common Single-Use Plastics is expanded polystyrene form, better known as Styrofoam.

Styrofoam can exist in its solid form for thousands of years – taking up valuable space in landfills or ending up as litter.

Through this innovative recycling program, the City of Markham recycles Styrofoam in to new products such as crown moulding, picture frames and benches – giving this Single-Use Plastic a useful second life.

Markham’s Taking the Lead project demonstrated many of the P.J. Marshall Award’s criteria: innovation, tangible benefits to the community, improved efficiency, and the ability for other municipal governments to use the project’s concept.

The P.J. Marshall Award is an annual competitive process to acknowledge municipalities who have had creativity and success in implementing new, innovative ways of serving the public. It is sponsored by AMO, the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing, the Association of Municipal Managers, Clerks & Treasurers of Ontario, the Canadian Council for Public Private Partnerships, the Municipal Finance Officers’ Association, and the Ontario Municipal Administrators’ Association.

Photo: Markham Mayor Frank Scarpitti and Claudia Marsales from the City of Markham Environmental Services Department accept AMO’s P.J. Marshall Innovation Award for the municipality’s industry-leading Single-Use Plastics reduction project

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