Edmonton Master Composter Recycler Program Lesson Seven: Waste Collection

Over the past month I have been 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.

John Borden, a Waste Inspector and former Waste Collector visited our class this week to speak about waste collection in Edmonton.image

If I were to sum up his talk in a short phrase I’d say, “Please be courteous and mindful of how dangerous your waste collector’s job is”.

There is a voluminous document that outlines the bylaws with respect to waste collection in the City of Edmonton. The goal of the Waste Management Bylaw 13777 is to keep collectors and the public safe from injury, exposure to contaminants and hazards. Their job is at best difficult and at worst downright dangerous. There are things that we can do to make it easier for the collectors to move quickly, safely and efficiently through their route each day.

imageKeep it Light

Waste containers should be no more than 100 litres, have solid handles and have a 20 kg max weight (44 lbs). Less is better, but the minimum size for a waste container is 60 litres. If you have an oversized container, don’t expect the collector to reach inside to remove recyclables or garbage.

Pack Sharp Objects
Broken glass, needles, shards of pottery, anything that can cause injury to collectors should not go in the garbage unless it is safely enclosed. Pack them and label the box so that the collector is aware of what’s inside. Don’t put broken glass or needles in a garbage bag where they may shift and injure the worker.

Don’t Overfill
Refuse should not be above the top of a garbage container. Not only can this create a mess, it makes it difficult for your collector to lift and empty the bin.

Bag the Loose Stuff
To keep the mess to a minimum, bag everything before placing it in your waste container. Double bag things like pet feces, cat litter or vacuum cleaner dust. Liquids should be labeled.

Let it Flow
Garbage should come out easily from your can; you can accomplish this by using bags. Better yet, forget the container and leave the bags in your collection area; they are easy to grab and toss into the trucks.

Keep it Clean
It’s surprising how many people leave their garbage in a manner that makes it difficult to reach or access. Keep the area around your garbage containers clean and safe for the workers. Garbage should be readily accessible (shoveled out, clear and safe path).

Containers cannot be lifted more than 15 cm over a lip or edge. This means that if you build an enclosure it should not require the collector to lift the bags or container a significant amount to pull it out. To see the ideal garbage stand, have a look here.

A good design

A good design

Collection for households is now weekly, with both recycling and garbage collected on the same day.

The city also has assisted waste collection for those who have disabilities or difficulties getting their waste to the curb.

Edmonton Master Composter Recycler Program Lesson Six: Eco Stations and Household Hazardous Waste

Over the past month I have been 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.

Eco Station

Eco Station

Edmonton began holding city household toxic roundups in 1987. People could drop off their hazardous household waste at select locations around the city. They were three day events, once yearly, and continued until 1994.

Out of a demand for more regular service, the City began planning for a permanent solution. In August 1995 the first Eco Station was opened in Strathcona; 26,350 vehicles visited in 1996 alone. In December 1999 the City opened its second station at Coronation.

By 2006 more than 130,000 vehicles were visiting the Eco Stations and it was time to open a third at Ambleside. Ambleside features a reuse area where staff can place items that they feel others might use, like furniture or electronics in good condition. In 2014 our fourth Eco Station will open near the elvedere transit station (Kennedale).

Eco Stations provide a safe means of disposing of hazardous materials that may cause fire, injury or health concerns. It also keeps these materials out of landfill and therefore the environment.

Inside the Eco Station

Inside the Eco Station

Hazardous waste includes chemicals, metals, electronics, appliances, batteries, fluorescent tubes, tires, and paint. Recyclables are also accepted at Eco Stations as well as large bulky items, small appliances, lawn clippings and many other items. If you’re not sure about what goes where, check out this link.

Paint comes in large volumes into the station. They have a paint exchange program where people can drop off or pick up partial cans of paints. Some paints are mixed and now are available for sale in shops as “ecopaint”.

Chemicals are packed in drums and sent to contractors who further recycle or incinerate them. Oils can be mixed and used as a burner fuel or in asphalt. Tires are used in rubber paving stones and to make livestock mattresses. Metals in computer components get extracted and reused.

Eco Stations don’t accept explosives, radioactive waste, pressurized gases or anything dangerous to handle.

Now over 220,000 vehicles visit Eco Stations each year. They are successful because they are convenient, comprehensive and affordable.

Thank you: This week we were visited by Jenna from the Coronation Eco Station

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.
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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.