Wednesday, March 15, 2017

MCRs Tour Kennedale Eco Station

Almost forty MCRs (and MCRs-to-be!) and their friends braved an early-March snow storm to come for a tour of Kennedale Eco Station.

We were met by Andy, Hal and Chris, who showed us around, answered all of our questions and helped teach us what Edmontonians should know about coming to an Eco Station!

After a brief overview in the Kennedale lunch room, we bundled up against the cold and put on our safety gear. We then split up into three groups and got started!

Kathleen and Faical S. are two of our new 2017 volunteers! They're excited to start the MCR training.
Outside, we visited the entry kiosk and looked at some of the large bins, where things like scrap metal and lumber are collected. We also made a stop in the Reuse Area, where we chatted about what happens to still-usable items when they are dropped off at an Eco Station. With permission from the resident, those items are made available to others for reuse. We also chatted about the partnership between Eco Stations and the Reuse Centre, and the difference between the two different reuse opportunities.

Inside the main drop-off building, we learned a lot more about what Edmontonians can bring to an Eco Station, and how staff process those items.

Andy, Supervisor of Ambleside Eco Station, chats with his tour group about what happens when customers drive in with their items.
Eco Station staff are trained to accept and handle a wide variety of waste, including household chemicals. Cleaners, pest control products, motor oil, antifreeze and other potentially hazardous chemicals should never be thrown in the garbage or poured down the drain.

Motor oil can be dropped off at any Eco Station for free, and should never be placed in your regular garbage.
Staff place chemicals on labelled tables as customers drop them off, to avoid contamination and dangerous reactions. For this reason, Eco Stations ask that all chemicals be left in their original containers. This way, staff always know what they are dealing with.

Andy describes how chemicals are sorted by type.
For our safety, we were cautioned not to touch the tables or containers, as they might contain traces of corrosive or poisonous chemicals. Staff wear gloves, safety goggles, and protective Tyvex suits to keep safe while handling these items.

A drum full of household chemicals.
Chemicals of the same type are packaged together in large drums. When full, the drums will be sealed and shipped for processing elsewhere. Some chemicals can be recycled, while others are incinerated as hazardous waste at a facility in Swan Hills.

Hal, Supervisor of Kennedale Eco Station, opens up a drum of batteries.
Like other items, batteries are collected in drums and separated by type to avoid dangerous chemical interactions. This includes small household batteries, as well as the specialized batteries for laptops, cell phones and power tools. They will all be shipped to private companies for recycling. Different companies provide services for different types of batteries.

Cell phone batteries get removed, and the remaining hardware is collected in large, pallet-sized boxes. This one is about four feet tall, and about 3/4 full.
Some electronics like computers are kept in secure areas to protect personal information that might remain stored on the device. Televisions are put on pallets and wrapped for safe transport, while other small household electronics are stored in bins outside.

"White goods" like fridges, freezers and air conditioners can emit CFCs, or chlorofluorocarbons, into the atmosphere. This can be damaging to the ozone layer so these items are processed separately. Other large appliances are also collected.

All electronics collected at Eco Stations will be packaged and sent to Global Electric Electronic Processing (GEEP), a facility that is housed at the Edmonton Waste Management Centre. Employees working at GEEP dismantle all of the electronics and separate the various materials for recycling. They recover metals like gold, aluminum and copper, as well as other materials like plastic and glass.

Fluorescent bulbs are collected in large cardboard tubes to await processing.
Fluorescent bulbs are collected and run through a bulb crusher, which grinds up the glass and captures the mercury inside so it can be recycled or disposed of safely. All light bulbs, even those that don't contain mercury, should be taken to an Eco Station.
Chris, Lead Hand at Kennedale Eco Station, describes how the bulb crusher (pictured in the background) works.
Flourescent light ballasts are examined carefully before sorting. Old ballasts require special processing because they may contain polychlorinated biphynyls (PCBs), which are considered hazardous. Modern light ballasts are handled like other electronics.

This bag contains fluorescent light ballasts for special disposal.
After the tour, our three groups met back in the lunch room, where we were able to ask a few more questions, and chat with each other about what we had seen. Andy finished off our tour with his top tips to share for your next Eco Station visit:
  1. Do your research. Eco Stations accept a wide variety of items! Many customers arrive and are surprised by what they could have brought in.
  2. Handle your waste safely. Always keep chemicals in their original containers and never mix them. Transport chemicals in a sturdy box, rather than plastic bags, to reduce the chances of spills.
  3. Sort your material. Put chemicals together in one box, electronics in another and so on. This will make your visit quick and easy! 
  4. Be patient. Eco stations are popular so please allow for extra time during busy periods. Staff are working hard to serve residents as efficiently as possible!
  5. Start with the 3Rs at home! Many usable items are dropped off at Eco Stations. Save time, save money, and save the planet by limiting what you purchase, reusing the things you have, and donating items to others.
Thank you to everyone who joined us, and special thanks go out to Andy, Hal, and Chris for organizing and hosting our tour!

-Photographs provided by MCR program staff

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Winter Composting with MCR Terry K.

Winter composting can be tricky in our climate, so we asked MCRs to share their experiences with year-round compost bins. MCR Terry K. details how he composts his organics when the weather turns cold!
My winter compost consists of 2 phases. I keep a worm compost indoors, and a traditional bin outdoors.

Worm Compost

The vermicompost bin consists of 2 five-gallon containers, one inserted into the other. The inner container has holes drilled into the bottom as well as into the lid for air. This is home to the worms and where the material gets added. I have placed a spacer in between the buckets, approximately 8 inches high, to keep them separated. This allows compost juice/tea to drain from the inner container to the outer. My house plants love a dose of this juice about once a month!

My worm bin, closed on the left, open in the middle, and on the right, the "compost juice" that drips down into the outer bucket.
The actual composting takes place in the inner container, where my worms turn kitchen scraps into castings. I keep this indoors during winter, and it is doing well! I have a sizable worm population now and plan to transfer some to an open-tub container soon.

I have one batch of completed compost ready for use on my lawn as top dressing in spring. I started to add it but waited too long in the fall. The ground had frozen and I didn’t want it to get washed away at spring thaw. I did add some as seen in the photo, and saved the rest. Part of this compost is in a garbage container and some in a hole I dug into the ground. I hope it is still good/active when I go to use it in the spring! I am still learning, so I will see what happens.

On the left, the initial application of compost as topdressing. On the right, the finished compost being saved for spring.

Outdoor Compost

My outdoor project is in a wooden container, consisting of garden and household organic scraps that was progressing well until I added too much liquid and froze it—it is pretty much dormant now due to the cold weather. There is a layer of tissue paper and coffee filters on top now thanks to the flu that I had last week.
My outdoor bin. On the left, covered up and hibernating! On the right, you can see the top layer of paper and tissue that I added after the freeze. 
Hopefully, when it warms up, I can get this working again and the paper will absorb some of the excess moisture. I may have to use some sort of starting process to get it going again. I will check with Mark, the City's Compost Programs Coordinator, on this.

During the winter, if I have more household scraps than the worms consume, I save them in a large container outdoors for use in spring. I was also saving my pasta water indoors, however that started getting pretty rank so I dumped it on the outdoor pile rather than waste it! That’s when the freeze problem occurred. The worms also seem to enjoy the pasta water.

I made some mistakes preparing for winter. I understand that although the process will slow down in winter it should still be somewhat active with microbes working in the middle of the pile. I hope to gain more information and be better prepared for next winter!

I am semi retired from the civil engineering field but continue to work on projects that interest me, especially if travel is involved to a warm climate during our winter.

I enjoy volunteering for worthy causes, most competitive sports, cycling, fishing, and gardening. I am most proud of my tomatoes, which I start from seed in April, then transplant to my garden in late May. I grow most of my own vegetables that I preserve for winter by freezing and more recently fermenting, although I have much to learn about the latter.

That’s me!

Friday, February 3, 2017

MCRs Share More Stories - 2016

Last week, we shared favourite quotes from MCRs, about how they've reached out to friends and family in the past year. Here are some more fantastic stories that have left us feeling inspired to get out there and share our knowledge!

  • “I spoke with two co-workers regarding our field trip to the EWMC. They had no idea how big the facility is and the magnitude of all the waste the facility processes during the day.” - Susy S.
  • "I revisited the vermicompost I helped a family set up [and] helped [them] set up a larger bin for their worms." - Charlene M.
  • "Talked to my boss about helping her set up a backyard composting system!" - Sarah L.
  • "Friend has requested help setting up a compost system. They were impressed with how little trash I put out and how I manage that." - Nikki T.
  • "10 women out for an evening and the topic comes around to our garbage. It was a noisy and excited room! I love it when people get excited about our garbage!!" - Dianne H.
  • "Outreach to 3 different Colombian families interested in composting and recycling. Made compost box with one the the families, got one family vermicomposting and I have plans to start grass cycling for next spring." - Gerardo R.
  • "Helped neighbour diagnose issues for poor compost." - Mildred T.
  • “After watching my sister throw her coffee grounds into the garbage (gasp!) I helped her set up a compost bin in her backyard.” - Margaret H.
  • "Held a mini worm composting workshop with a couple of friends to help them set up worm composting bins." - Sarah E.
  • "Presented on sheet composting to my coworkers. Responded to questions throughout the week." - Andreanna M-C.
  • "Chatting with a colleague about 90% diversion. I think I convinced him to take his class on a tour of the EWMC!" - Alena M.
  • "Advised staff of what some of their co-workers do to reduce waste." - Melissa B.
  • Organized a stuff swap for waste reduction week at work. Collected items, posted, shared, and swapped.” - Trena M.
  • “Block party event - Tried to encourage people to bring plates/cup, had the Go Bagless display and some composting stuff.” - Amanda R.
  • “I hosted an upcycling party for my friends. I taught them all how to make laptop cases out of old sweaters.” - Sarah T.
We love hearing from MCRs. Did you have a great experience at an event, or a really rewarding conversation with a colleague? We want to know! Email us, share in the comments below, or be sure to make a note when you record your hours.

Read MCRs Share Their Stories - 2016 (Part I)

Friday, January 27, 2017

MCRs Share Their Stories - 2016

MCRs share all kinds of awesome details about their volunteering when they record hours or provide feedback. Here are some quotes from MCRs in 2016 reaching their friends, neighbours and colleagues:
  • "I spoke to my landlord [and] she was hesitant, but also let me go ahead and grasscycle. I spoke to her about the benefits of it." - Zoila G.
  • “This was a good venue to be at. The people [we] talked with were quite open to hearing about what we were there for and it wasn’t very difficult to figure out what topic(s) they needed they needed information on.” - Joanne M.
  • "Helped set a friend up with a new backyard composter, introduced them to vermicomposting. Hopefully will set them up with a worm bin soon." - Natasha C.
  • “Had dinner with a coworker and her boyfriend and we talked about backyard composting (mainly) and about different myths and truths behind it.” - Amanda R.
  • "Talked with a neighbour in my crescent about needing leaves for my compost. Later that week he dropped off three bags of dry leaves!" - Angela F.
  • "Explained about having worms living in my closet and what they will be doing for me and my plants in the future." - Carolyn H.
  • "I presented to three kindergarten classes with my worm bin. The kids were very attentive and asked many questions." - Barb N.
  • "Did a presentation at the staff meeting at the school that I work at about good practices in recycling and ways to reduce waste within the school building." - Reinette E.
  • "We had my 7 year old son's birthday party at the Reuse Centre and were able to introduce that facility to several of our family and friends at that celebration. Many plan to come back to craft and shop there in the future." - Tammy F.
  • “Helped build a plan for an acquaintance moving to a new country so that she wouldn’t have to throw anything into the garbage unnecessarily.” - Leah A.
  • "Chatted with a lady at Costco who was looking at their double-tumbler composter and discussed the pros and cons of different types." - Rob B.
  • "Demonstrated the use of kitchen waste to set up a worm compost." - Andrew W.
  • “I am training bit-by-bit the MSW subcommittee at work to help steer the committee away from mis-informing the business regarding recycling.” - Kenneth R.
  • “I did an environmental moment at all 9 of my safety meetings about how our company uses City of Edmonton services to pick up our waste and how it gets processed.” - Lee W.

There were far too many great stories to display all of them in one post. Check back next week for more!

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Looking Ahead to 2017!

2016 was a great year for our team at the City. The dedication and enthusiasm of MCRs played an important role in this success. We're excited for things to come in 2017!

For the MCR Program in 2017

  • Introducing a Waste Video of the Week, every Wednesday
  • New volunteer roles at Compost ‘S cool
  • Sharing the online version of MCR Training with all existing MCRs
  • Hosting “Refresher Training sessions” every three months.
  • Receiving new toys at Compost ‘S cool

Edmonton’s waste services has many impressive employees. From engineers at the EWMC, operators at the plants, collectors on trucks, attendants at Eco Stations, presenters in schools, to canvassers at doorsteps. The men and women who keep the system running are smart, passionate, and innovative folks.
But Sarah and Rodney are lucky because we get to see the amazing things that volunteers do for Edmonton’s waste system. MCRs are universally smart, passionate, and innovative.

From Rodney

I am still learning to be a dad, but I deeply appreciate that “it takes a village to raise a child.” One of the many gifts that my son and daughter have already received in life is the gift of community and volunteerism here in Edmonton.

I am ever grateful to MCRs (people like you) for what you do to reduce waste and help Edmonton’s waste system. You give your skills, your time, your passion, and your creativity by speaking up and by telling friends and family that waste matters.
At a personal level, I am sincerely grateful to MCRs (and you) for making Edmonton a better place for my children, and for future generations. Thank you.
“A some point, everything will be discarded, and yet none of it is garbage.”

From Sarah

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again -- I really do consider myself lucky to work with such an amazing, passionate group of volunteers. Master Composter Recyclers are giving, thoughtful Edmontonians who truly want a better, greener future for our city and our planet.

Part of my job is to teach MCRs about Edmonton’s waste system, but I have learned so much from my fellow MCRs. This community has been invaluable in helping me to shift my behaviours, thoughts, and actions to sustainable alternatives. We challenge and inspire each other to be better every day.

Thank you for a great year, and here’s to less waste in 2017!