Edmonton Master Composter Recycler Program Lesson Two: Recycling

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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.

Know Before You Throw.

Edmonton started a blue box curbside recycling program back in 1988. In the early days people were asked to separate their recycling within the box, keeping paper at the bottom, glass to one side, tins to the other. Participation was voluntary but widely encouraged.

Collectors would fill bins in their truck with each of the various materials, but since paper was by far the most common item recycled the truck had to return to the waste management site each time it’s paper bin was full.

In 1999 the city changed to blue bag recycling. This allowed people to place any recyclable item in their designated blue bag and the sorting was done by waste management. Because it was simpler for the user, participation rates improved.20130311-132532.jpg

Edmontonians could also take their recyclables to community recycling depots where they would place their paper in one bin, their glass in another. Blue bins for multi-family dwellings appeared in 2002. Today 60% of apartment and condo buildings have blue bins for the use of their residents.

Of those items collected in bins, 70-75% is newsprint. Plastic, metal and glass containers only make up about 10% of recycling materials.

Whether picked up curbside or collected in bins, recyclables are transported to the Materials Recovery Facility (MRF) at the Edmonton Waste Management Centre. Here the items are mechanically and manually sorted as follows:

Newsprint: Newspaper.
Cardboard: Corrugated cardboard boxes.
Paper: Anything that will “pulp”. This includes magazines, cereal boxes, egg cartons, office appears, envelopes, milk and juice cartons.
Plastics: All household plastic containers including
bags, bottles, containers, and milk jugs. Plastic food wrappers, cellophane, baggies, and other food packaging is generally not recyclable.
Juice boxes: Tetrapacks.
Glass: Jars and bottles only.
Pop and water bottles and cans: These are taken to a recycling depot for their refund value.
Metals: Aluminum pans/plates, metal cans (lids are ok if trapped inside).
Clothing and fabric: Denim and white cotton

One of the biggest problem they have at the MRF is that people put materials in their blue bags and bins that cannot be recycled. Items also need to be clean, dry and loosely packed.

There is much confusion about plastics. Basically plastics need to be larger than the palm of your hand and smaller than a basketball in order to be recycled. Anything made up of mixed materials (such as children’s toys) cannot be recycled.

Eco stations deal with our household hazardous waste including e-waste, TVs, paint, motor oil, tires, aerosol cans, appliances, car batteries, rugs and plastics toys.

Construction and demolition waste has its own special treatment. Wood is separated from asphalt shingles and drywall gypsum and each is recycled separately.

Don’t know what can and cannot be recycled? Go to http://www.edmonton.ca/reusedirectory where you can simply type in the item and it will tell you where to take it.

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3 thoughts on “Edmonton Master Composter Recycler Program Lesson Two: Recycling

  1. gwoz says:

    all these years I’ve been tossing the plastic lids from bottles into the recycle. I didn’t know if an item is smaller than your hand that it couldn’t be recycled.

    • Those lids are “unknown material” so they can’t be classified for the purposes of recycling anyways. And if you leave a plastic lid on a plastic bottle, the whole thing will get landfilled. The bottle may be recyclable, but the lid isn’t the same material so leaving it on there nullifies the bottle’s value as a recyclable material. There is no time for sorters to stop and remove a lid…the stuff flys by them at an amazing pace.

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