Withrow Market: Beyond the 3Rs

By Katrina McGuire

This season, we are rethinking the ways in which we can reach our zero waste goals and help our community members do the same. Every Saturday, we have the unique opportunity to invite organizations, groups, and businesses to the Market who are promoting greener goals. They will share resources and tools, getting us to think beyond the 3Rs, in relation to the stuff we own. Individually, we can commit to making smaller changes in our lives. Collectively, these actions will have a significant impact on our environment.


We’ve got some pretty exciting programming to bring the Withrow community this year! Announcements will be made soon on our social media accounts and via our newsletter (have you signed up yet?). We have invited some fantastic groups focused on waste reduction: Free Geek, will collect your e-waste in July at our Zero Waste Picnic (big announcement to come!); our friends at Repairathon will be back to repair buttons and patch holes; and the Toronto Tool Library will be hosting another Kids’ Stuff Swap! Plus we’ll be hosting another clothing donation drive in the fall, collecting dead batteries for recycling, and inviting eco-friendly vendors to our Makers’ Market.

Tip: The City of Toronto has an excellent online search tool called Waste Wizard

For instance, did you know:

  • compostable and biodegradable plastics do not belong in the recycling or compost, this includes poly- or bio-based (i.e. PLA, corn) food and beverage containers; they go in the garbage
  • items such as popsicle sticks and cutlery, made from wood or bamboo, are garbage too and do not belong in the green bin


In the past two years the Market has already saved thousands of disposable coffee cups from going into the garbage by offering real mugs. And last year our reusable dishware and cutlery program averted 1900 items from the landfill! Building on this momentum and the positive response from the community, we have initiated a three-year phase-out of excessive, single-use packaging. Our amazing new and returning vendors will all be participating and encouraging BYOC(ontainer) at their booths (more on this below). It will be easy to identify who the zero waste leaders are on our website since we introduced a new tagging feature on our vendors’ page. Go check it out!


BYOC is in full effect at the Market beginning this year! All vendors will accept your (clean) containers and bags when purchasing their goods. Examples of accepted vessels: plastic containers, glass jars, resealable bags, mesh bags, and reusable shopping bags. We encourage you to minimize your take-home waste by participating in the BYOC program. If your trip to the Market was unexpected or you buy more than what you planned for, we’ll have extra bags available at our coffee tent (your bag donations are welcomed!) and Withrow branded produce bags will be for sale (all proceeds go back to supporting our zero waste initiatives).

Tip: Use what you have and give the planet a break! Salsa and spaghetti sauce jars are a great size for a half pint of blueberries – and bonus, they don’t get squished on the way home! Extra large resealable bags are excellent for transporting leafy greens. Potatoes, turnips, and apples can happily live together in a single bag until you get back to your place.

About the author: Katrina joined Withrow Market by way of initiating the zero waste station in 2018. She is now a CLFI Director and volunteer at the Market. She is a devotee of reusable programs as a solution to food-packaging waste. She reads a lot about climate change, sustainability, and the circular economy, and she really enjoys engaging others in conversations about these subjects. She suggests becoming a member of the Facebook group  Zero Waste Toronto, and checking out the awesome work done by Toronto Environmental Alliance. You can find Katrina on Instagram @learningtolivewastefree

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