Edmonton Master Composter Recycler Program Lesson One: History of Waste Management

Over the next two months I will be sharing my experience with the Edmonton Master Composter-Recycler Program. Maybe it will inspire somebody to learn more about composting. Maybe a few people will discover more about recycling. Perhaps more than one reader will find something here that they can take away and use in their own community.

The history of waste management in the City of Edmonton is pretty interesting. Garbage has been picked up since the early part of the 20th century, but it was in the 1980s that the city realized that it had a problem with the amount of material going into landfill. The primary landfill at the time (Cloverbar) was filling up fast, and a new site had to be found and developed. A new way of managing the waste was necessary.
Over the next 30 years significant changes were made to how we manage our waste: today 40% of household waste is composted, 15-20% is recycled and only 40% makes it to landfill. Biocomposting will reduce that figure to a mere 10% by 2015.

Our refuse is made up of a combination of residential and commercial materials (2/3) as well as construction and demolition waste (1/3).

Waste is collected is numerous ways: household garbage collection, household hazardous waste collection (Eco stations), recycling collection, assisted waste collection, big bin events, recycling depots, commercial waste collection and construction & demolition waste.

Materials brought to the Edmonton Waste Management Centre are separated at the Integrated Processing and Transfer Station in which both mechanical and manual sorting of garbage takes place. Residential and commercial waste is separated into four categories: organics for composting, waste for recycling, waste for landfill and waste for conversion to ethanol at the Waste-to-Biofuels Facility.

Anything deemed compostable is transferred to the Composting Facility, the largest of its kind in North America. More about that in a future blog.

Recyclables are handled at the Material Recovery Facility (MRF). Much of the sorting of recyclables is automated, but hands on sorting occurs here as well.

In addition, the Edmonton Waste Management Centre handles e-waste at the 45,000 square foot Global Electric and Electronic Processing (GEEP) Facility. They treat “garbage juice”, the liquid at the bottom of the landfill, at the Leachate Treatment Plant and gases at the Landfill Gas Recovery Facility.

The Biofuels Facility, which should be online by 2015, creates “refuse derived fuel” from inorganic materials such as fibres (clothing) and styrofoam, carpet, and plastics. Methanol and ethanol are produced from refuse which would otherwise be sent to landfill. This new facility adds a fourth R to waste management: Recovery.

13,000 people tour the Edmonton Waste Management Facility annually. Groups of 10 or more can arrange a tour by calling 780-496-6879.


6 thoughts on “Edmonton Master Composter Recycler Program Lesson One: History of Waste Management

  1. Joy says:

    Nicely done Jane! Looks like Edmonton does an awesome job with waste management. What other cities in Canada are at this level that you know of?

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