Reducing Litter at its Source

GNN’s Summer Survey Project for 2023

Project Overview

In the summer of 2023, Green Neighbours Network of Toronto (GNN) received funding from the Government of Canada for three 8-week Canada Summer Jobs (CSJ) interns to work in Parkdale-High Park, Toronto Centre, and Scarborough Centre. A fourth intern, supported by fundraising and Small Change Fund’s Greener Toronto Fund, enabled the youth to work in pairs to survey restaurant managers about their use of single-use takeaway items. Our goal was to help restaurants reduce takeaway litter at its source.

GNN’s four interns joined interns from the U of T Trash Team and Toronto Environmental Alliance in a week-long training schedule. The interns received motivational interview training from Enviromentum before heading out to survey food service businesses in multiple locations in Toronto. Data from 604 establishments, including 184 interviews, was obtained and analyzed.

Key Findings

Key findings from the full report “Informing the reduction of single-use foodware: one neighbourhood at a time” include:

  • While most businesses accept “bring-your-own” (BYO) (72%), the majority of businesses reported that very few customers (less than 2%) actually bring their own reusable cups and containers.
  • Most restaurant managers are thinking about a change to reusable dishware (57%), and 18% are taking action to transition to reusable options.

GNN was particularly excited to learn that restaurants in neighbourhoods with active Canada Reduces groups showed greater participation in BYO and returnable takeout programs – which suggests that community zero-waste groups are making a difference!

Curious to know more? Watch a 1 hour webinar showcasing our research here:

Project Partners

Toronto Environmental Alliance

For over 30 years, the Toronto Environmental Alliance (TEA) has campaigned locally to find solutions to Toronto’s urban environmental problems. As a not-for-profit organization, TEA advocates on behalf of all Torontonians for a green, healthy and equitable city. TEA works with concerned individuals, community groups, professionals and workers, encouraging the participation of local people on local issues.

U of T Trash Team

The U of T Trash Team is a science-based community outreach organization made up of undergraduate and graduate students, postdocs, researchers, local volunteers and staff all working together with a common goal to increase waste literacy in our community while reducing plastic pollution in our ecosystems. The U of T Trash team was founded in 2017 in collaboration with the Rochman Lab, part of the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at the University of Toronto. Visit the UofT Trash Team website for useful restaurant resources, informative flyers, and tips to help Food Service Businesses make the switch from single-use disposable foodware to reusables.


The Enviromentum empowers environmental and social justice change leaders with evidence-based communications practices for cultivating transformation in their communities and growing the capacity for individual self-determination from micro to macro scale.  Discover their approach, where science and empathy intersect to inspire eco-friendly choices. Learn about Motivational Interviewing at

Walking and rolling can be wonderful ways to get around the city – if streets and sidewalks are safe and accessible. is a crowdsourcing tool for mapping micro barriers to accessible walking and rolling. What is a micro barrier? Anything that makes it harder (or maybe even impossible!) to walk or roll safely or comfortably in your community. It might be a missing crosswalk, uneven payment, or unplowed snow. You can also report if you’ve been hit while walking or rolling, had a near miss, or a fall. Created with funding from the Public Health Agency of Canada.

If you are a cyclist, there’s a mapping tool for you too – visit

Small Change Fund

The mission of the Small Change Fund is to help people and communities improve the environment, reduce poverty and support reconciliation with Indigenous peoples. They do it by providing expert advice and an award-winning crowdfunding platform, as well as through their own community and communications projects. 

Meet our Summer 2023 Interns

Map of Survey Locations

This map shows the project locations where GNN interns surveyed restaurant managers about their use of single-use foodware and other takeaway items.

Orange shading highlights the ridings of Parkdale-High ParkToronto Centre, and Scarborough Centre. GNN received Canada Summer Jobs project funding in these three ridings. The survey locations in each riding are highlighted with blue shading.

Interns were locally supervised by volunteers from GNN member groups in the three ridings shaded in orange. Surveys were conducted in the following BIA locations (marked by blue outlines):

  • Bloor Street West Village BIA in Parkdale-High Park: Supervised by Green 13 and Parkdale-High Park for Climate Action
  • St. Lawrence Market Neighbourhood BIA in Toronto Centre: Supervised by SLNA Waste Reduction Group and St. Lawrence Reduces
  • Wexford Heights BIA in Scarborough Centre: Supervised by Scarborough Environmental Association and Scarborough Zero Waste

Program partner, the UofT Trash Team designed the survey and their research assistants surveyed restaurants in the Harbourfront area shown by pink shading

Program partner, the Toronto Environmental Alliance provided advice and assistance to everyone city-wide. 

In addition, our program advanced the work of our project partners, and the Greener Toronto Fund of the Small Change Fund.

Participating Neighbourhood Groups

Scroll in the window below to meet the seven GNN member organizations that hosted interns in GNN’s “Reducing Litter at its Source” Canada Summer Jobs program. Click each one to read the full descriptions. Close pop-ups using the “x” in the top right corner.

We thank the following businesses for sharing their knowledge with our trainees:

Project Sponsor

Support for this project was gratefully received from the following sponsor.