Tuesday, February 6, 2018

Tell One Friend: Put Styrofoam in the Garbage

It's one of the most commonly asked questions: "Can I put Styrofoam in my blue bag for recycling?"

Styrofoam is difficult to recycle economically because it is extremely light and bulky. This makes it difficult to collect, sort, and transport to recyclers. Instead, the City of Edmonton intends to use Styrofoam as feedstock for the Waste to Biofuels Facility, where it will be turned into ethanol.

Let's be clear with friends, neighbours, and co-workers. Recycling works well, when we recycle right. Put Styrofoam in the garbage.

Tell your friends, family, neighbours, and co-workers.

One Small Ask
"Will you put Styrofoam in the garbage?
Not in your blue bag.”

Prompt Them
Label at your recycling. "Thank you for NOT wish-cycling"

Give Feedback
"Hey, I noticed that you put Styrofoam in the recycling, months ago, but now you are putting it in the garbage. That's great. It helps our recycling system a lot.”

The Reuse Centre also takes some types of Styrofoam. Save your Styrofoam balls, cubes, and sheets and bring them to the Reuse Centre.

Visit edmonton.ca/waste to learn What Goes Where.


Monday, February 5, 2018

Edmonton Waste Management Centre Welcomes Their First Artist-in-Residence, Leanne Olson

imageThe Edmonton Waste Management Centre (EWMC) is a unique collection of advanced waste processing and research facilities where municipal waste is transformed into useful resources. The Centre is 233 hectares in size; the Composting Facility alone occupies space equivalent to almost five football fields. On average, 4,500 trucks bearing 9,800 tonnes of material cross the scale every week. Over 15,000 students, teachers and adults tour the Centre each year.

“We’re excited for this opportunity to host an artist-in-residence at the Edmonton Waste Management Centre,” said Michael Robertson, contract manager with the City of Edmonton’s Materials Recovery Facility. “Leanne’s passion for capturing change in the natural world connects to our goals of waste reduction and environmental stewardship. I think that her work here will provide a fresh perspective on waste and a new way to engage with Edmonton residents and our staff.”

imageIn September, the Edmonton Arts Council and the City of Edmonton put out the call for an artist to take residency at this massive municipal waste facility. More than 25 local artists applied for the opportunity, and due to her artistic focus and environmental interests, local artist Leanne Olson was ultimately selected for the position.

Olson is a photo-based artist born in Toronto and raised in Edmonton. In 2002, she received a Bachelor of Arts with a major in Film & Media Studies from the University of Alberta. Olson also has a history of working and engaging with the community, with experience as a lead artist in the print studio at the Nina Haggerty Centre for the Arts and as an ongoing community art project facilitator with the Bissell Centre in Edmonton.

Click Here to see more of Leanne's work & read her interview


Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Edmonton’s Anaerobic Digestion Facility by MCR Tim M.

It Will Take Your Breath Away

A collaboration between the City of Edmonton and the University of Alberta, the Anaerobic Digestion Facility (ADF) will process up to 48,000 tonnes of organic waste when in operation, producing electricity, heat and compost. In anaerobic digestion, material is broken down in the absence of oxygen. This results in the production of biogas (largely methane), which can be used to power electrical generators. Although more common in Europe, this type of facility is only the second if its kind in Canada (the other one is in Richmond, B.C.).

When operating, organic material is placed into one of eight long, 5m x 35m cells and inoculated with water that contains the necessary microbes for the digestion process. Over 28 days, the material breaks down and produces biogas, which is then sent to two 800 kW generators.

A view from inside one of the cells. It takes about eight hours to fill a single cell with organic waste.

The generators produce heat and electricity. The heat, about 90⁰C, will be used to dry the garbage fluff in the Integrated Processing and Transfer Facility(IPTF), which is then used as feedstock for Enerkem’s Waste-to-BiofuelsFacility. After losing some of its heat to the drying process, the air returns to the ADF at around 60⁰C -- the temperature ideal for anaerobic digestion -- and helps to heat the digestor cells.

Once the anaerobic digestion process is complete, the remaining material is moved into an aeration bay and mixed with carbon-rich green wood and further composted in an oxygen-rich environment over a period of 10 to 12 days.

Set to open in 2018, the Anaerobic Digester was built primarily to compost unmixed, organic material such as household food and yard waste. The electricity will be used to power the Edmonton Composting Facility (ECF). Waste Services will consider how to use this electricity when the ECF is not operating, depending on need.

Learn about the Edmonton Waste Management Centre.
Visit edmonton.ca/ewmc
Visit EWMC Interactive Site Map

Tim is an employee with Waste Services who completed the MCR Training in 2017. As a member of the Education Team, he leads tours of the Edmonton Waste Management Cenre and involves Grade Four students in managing their own waste.

Friday, January 19, 2018

You Are What You Don't Eat by MCR Eve C.

A Book Review: Two Perspectives on Food Waste

Statistics on food waste are sobering. In the US, it is estimated that 40% of food produced is not eaten.[1] In Canada, only 71% of the calories purchased are actually consumed.[2] However, despite growing awareness of this issue, food waste numbers have not budged. Although the problem can be clearly articulated, it is much less clear why we are so wasteful and what we can do about it.

  Two books, David Evans’ Food Waste: Home Consumption, Material Culture and Everyday Life and Dana Gunders’ Waste Free Kitchen Handbook: A Guide to Eating Well and Saving Money By Wasting Less Food provide a much needed practical look at food waste on the individual level. Rather than simply bemoaning our culture of disposability, these books provide evidence-based insights into why people actually waste food.

  Evans’ book is a sociological study of individual food waste habits in a neighbourhood in the U.K. He approaches the issue from a refreshing perspective. He emphasizes that he is not aiming to write a polemic on the issue or to judge individuals for their waste, but instead tries to understand why people cannot seem to stop wasting large quantities of the food they buy. Evans’ focused look on a dozen or so people shows that individuals’ reasons for waste are very different, and hence any change must focus on these individual motivations. 

  The modern tension between the desire to eat as healthily as possible and a lack of time seems to be at the root of much food waste. Busy lives lead to routine, including buying the same items each week whether or not last week’s groceries have been used up. The people described in Evans’ book also sometimes abandoned plans for healthy meals and snacks in favour of convenience food, which is cheap and readily available. Several of the individuals wrongfully believed fresh produce is always better than frozen vegetables and fruit. This misconception often leads to greater food waste, especially when only a small part of a vegetable is used to produce a healthy meal, and the rest discarded.

   In Waste Free Kitchen, Dana Gunders provides realistic solutions to the food waste problem. Her credentials make her an expert on this issue; she works as Senior Scientist at the US Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC). Similar to Evans, she identifies a number of typical reasons for excessive food waste:

      • Wishful thinking: for example, buying ingredients to make a healthy smoothie, even though you do not like smoothies.
      • Too-large portion sizes: many of us buy and cook meals with portion sizes that are often beyond what we can, or should, eat. For example, recipes in the classic cookbook, The Joy of Cooking, have increased by 33.2 percent since 1996.
      • Lack of kitchen know-how: we either buy food we do not know how to prepare, or lack the skills to incorporate leftovers into future meals.
The overall framework of Gunders’ book is based on simple suggestions that we have all heard before:

      • Meal plan and shop with a list.
      •  Use an online portion calculator to ensure you are not cooking too much.
      • Plan ahead. Do not assume you will cook everything from scratch or even home cook every meal. How often do you end up meeting and eating with friends and family? Be realistic.
Gunders also provides a number of scientifically-sound tips regarding food storage and safety. A major reason why people dispose of food is because they are not sure if it is still safe to eat. Erring on the side of caution, they toss items that are still perfectly safe.

   Food poisoning can be very serious, even fatal, and people are not willing to risk their families’ health unless they are given sufficient information about when food becomes unsafe to consume. Gunders does an excellent job providing consumers with useful information meant to help them confidently make decisions about food safety in their own kitchens. She prefaces this information with a disclaimer that special groups need to be more careful: individuals who are pregnant, babies and toddlers, the elderly (75+), and those who are immune deficient.

   Gunders explains that food poisoning is usually either due to infections by living microorganisms or toxins they produce or other toxins in food, not by the decomposing process per se. This means that anything that will make you sick is usually in the food before you even get it, and does not just develop as perishables age.  

   Furthermore, and despite their ubiquity on packaged food, expiration dates are not regulated, and are not reliable indicators that a food is, or is not, safe to eat.[3] It is entirley up to manufacturers to decide how to date their food. The date could be based on lab or consumer tests, and often indicates when the food is no longer at peak freshness, rather than having anything to do with food safety.

   Surprisingly, eggs are OK to eat 3-5 weeks after sell-buy date. Given that many stores only sell eggs by the dozen, it is very helpful to know that an egg does not go bad as rapidly as the sell-by date would suggest.

Gunders’ tips about properly organizing your fridge were also very interesting and easy to implement:
      •  For maximum longevity, stand up some produce in the fridge, in a glass or container of water, resembling flowers in a vase: cilantro, basil, asparagus, kale, etc. (From my own experience, I would recommend dedicating a container as an herb vase to avoid scents from absorbing into your glasses.)
      • It is key to keep your fridge at 4°Celsius. It is might be helpful to buy a thermometer if you don’t have one in your fridge already.
      •  The bottom shelf is coldest, so keep meat there. This is also good in case meat drips.
      •  Keep an 'Eat Me first box' to make items that need to be consumed visible.
      •  Keep nuts in the fridge if they will not be used up in a week or two.
   The book concludes with a directory listing common foods and includes valuable information for each - how long it lasts, how to store it, freeze it, keep it in a root cellar, use it up, or even revive it. Gunders also included recipes for foods that are more difficult to use up: including “anything-goes -soup”, sautéed lettuce, and frozen banana purée.

   Although food waste may not simply be conquered by exposing people to alarming statistics-if we become attuned to the reasons why we are wasting food-we may be able to make small changes in our habits to ensure that more of the food that we buy is actually eaten.  


Food Waste: Home Consumption, Material Culture and Everyday Life: by David Evans. Bloomsbury Academic: London, 2014.

Waste Free Kitchen Handbook: A Guide to Eating Well and Saving Money By Wasting Less Food: by Dana Gunders. Chronicle Books: San Francisco, 2015.

[1] Waste Free Kitchen.
[2] https://www.statcan.gc.ca/pub/16-201-x/2009000/part-partie1-eng.htm
[3] With the exception of baby formula. 


Friday, January 5, 2018

Christmas Tree Collection Starts January 9

The City will start collecting natural Christmas trees on Tuesday, January 9, 2018. Trees will be picked up for recycling within three weeks of this date, but not necessarily on residents' scheduled waste collection days.

Residents are asked to:
  • Set natural Christmas trees out for collection by 7 a.m. on Tuesday, January 9, 2018.
  • Place their un-bagged tree on its side next to garbage bags.
  • Cut extra-large trees into two-metre (approximately six-foot) lengths.
  • Remove all ornaments, tinsel, garlands, nails, screws, and tree stands, so that the trees are acceptable for composting.
Apartment and condominium residents can take their natural Christmas trees, free of charge until January 31, 2018 to:

  • One of the City's Community Recycling Depots (place the tree next to the entrance or exit of the depot and make sure it does not block access).
  • One of the City's four Eco Stations (staff will guide you to where you can place your tree).
Christmas trees should not be placed in or near apartment garbage or recycling bins.

In 2017, the City collected 10,779 trees, weighing over 115 tonnes, for recycling. Trees are chipped and composted at the Edmonton Waste Management Centre. The City uses the wood chips to make various types of compost for horticulture, agriculture, and land reclamation.

The Reuse Centre accepts articial tree donations, as long as the tree is in a box and includes all parts. The donated trees are made available for purchase by organizations and individuals for reuse.

Visit edmonton.ca/WastelessHolidays for more information.