City of Guelph’s Gold Star program recognizes community members for properly sorting waste

The program is supported by the City’s Smart Cities Office

Guelph, Ont., October 31 2023 – This summer, City staff selected different neighborhoods in Guelph to participate in a trial run of the Gold Star program, to proactively recognize people for properly sorting their waste.

People in these neighborhoods who sorted their waste properly received a gold star sticker on their waste carts and were entered into a draw to win prizes. The prizes included:

  • Family memberships to Guelph Museums
  • Guelph On Your Way Transit Cards loaded with 10 rides
  • Recreation passes for 10 adult visits
  • Downtown Dollars gift certificates

More than 500 gold stars were distributed, and 16 prizes were awarded over the course of the two-month trial.

The Gold Star program was developed through the Our Food Future initiative of the Smart Cities office as part of the City’s regular curbside inspection program. As staff inspected waste carts, they provided customized messages to help people:

  • improve their sorting practices
  • reduce unnecessary waste going to landfill
  • and reduce the cost of waste management

“Our Food Future aims to make our food system more sustainable. One important way for people to participate is to make sure food waste gets in the green cart. The Gold Star program was our way of recognizing and rewarding our community members for doing a great job of sorting their waste,” explains Ashlee Cooper, manager of Food Equity and Community Resiliency, in the City’s Smart Cities Office. “We thought it would be a good way to make waste sorting fun and help the City achieve its waste diversion goals.”

Research has shown that public programs that recognize and reward positive behaviour can be motivating for people to take environmental action.

“We wanted to see if adding these extra features would motivate people to improve household waste sorting,” adds Samantha Halloran, the City’s environmental program specialist. “Other municipalities, including the City of Hamilton and Strathcona County in Alberta have observed increased diversion and community engagement using similar programs, so we were keen to try this in Guelph.”

How can you participate?

The City will continue to implement elements of the program into the fall of 2023 to gather more data about its effectiveness and uptake. If your neighborhood is selected, make sure you’re properly sorting your waste, so when the City inspects your carts, they’ll be ready to hand out a Gold Star! Households will be selected for the program based on collection data and routes. To learn more about the Gold Star program, please visit: Garbage and recycling on the City of Guelph’s website.

About Our Food Future

Inspired by the planet’s natural cycles, a circular food economy reimagines and regenerates the systems that feed us, eliminating waste, sharing economic prosperity, and nourishing our communities. In Guelph-Wellington, we are working to build a regional tech-enabled circular food economy that will achieve a 50% increase in access to affordable nutritious food, 50 new circular economy businesses and collaborations, and a 50% increase in circular economic benefit by unlocking the value of waste.

Our Food Future is one of the ways the City of Guelph and County of Wellington are contributing to a sustainable, creative and smart local economy that is connected to regional and global markets and supports shared prosperity for everyone.


Media contacts

Ashlee Cooper, Manager of Food Equity and Community Resiliency
Smart Cities Office, Office of the Chief Administrative Officer
City of Guelph
519-822-1260 extension 3544
[email protected]

Samantha Halloran, Environmental Program Specialist
Compliance, Programs, and Performance, Environmental Services
City of Guelph
519-822-1260 extension 2255
[email protected]