The City of Toronto is cracking down on residents who put trash in their recycling bins, as part of an effort to curb what has become a multi-million dollar problem.

The general manager of Toronto’s Solid Waste Management Services Division tells CP24 that a small crew of city workers have begun a “time consuming” effort to lift up the lid on blue bins across the city and pick through the contents.

The initial wave of bin inspections have been taking place for a number of weeks and are expected to continue for at least the next few months.

A second wave of inspections will then begin once every residence and building in the city has been visited once.

“What we are trying to do is go basically door-to-door and help residents understand what is acceptable and what isn’t,” Jim McKay told CP24. “If we stuff that shouldn’t be in there we will tag the bin and leave some educational materials informing the resident of what they did wrong. And then when we come back the next time around and if we find that it is still bad we will push that bin back and we won’t collect it.”

Fines may eventually be issued

McKay said that the city is simply issuing warnings for now but may start handing out $20 tickets to offending households down the line, a number that represents the cost incurred by the city when it has to sort out garbage from blue bins.

He said that about 26 per cent of all materials in blue bins are actually garbage, something that is costing taxpayers millions of dollars each year.

“We are actually paying a lot of money to sort garbage out, so for every percentage point that we can reduce on the amount of garbage in there we will save the city between $600,000 and $1 million,” he said.

McKay said that crews inspecting blue bins have discovered wide range of materials that should be in the garbage so far, including dirty diapers, clothes and food waste.

He conceded that “the definition of recyclables is different from municipality to municipality” and that most residents are at least “trying to do the right thing” but said that there are nonetheless egregious examples of trash making its way into blue bins.

“I don’t know why someone would think you could throw a dirty diaper into a recycling bin. It doesn’t make sense to me,” he said.