Monday, March 19, 2018

My Experience as an MCR by MCR Sarah F.

I first heard of the Master Composter Recycler Program in May 2011. I had only just become interested in being green and was doing what I knew I could: recycling items that were recyclable, bringing a reusable to-go cup with me when I bought coffee, and taking fabric bags to the grocery store.

I wanted to find out how I could do more, and everywhere I looked it seemed the two best ways to be environmentally conscious were to have a garden and to compost. When I searched for courses in Edmonton, I came across an ad for the Master Composter Recycler Program and it seemed like exactly what I was searching for. I marked when the next training would start (almost a full year away) and eagerly awaited my chance to be a part of the program.

I applied for the MCR program with a friend of mine from work. Other people we worked with immediately dubbed the program “Garbage Club” and for the remainder of the training remained convinced that we were playing with garbage whenever we had class (which I assure you, we did not). Despite the teasing, they always wanted to know exactly what we had learned - there would be a group eagerly awaiting us the morning after each class. People at work started recycling their bottles, taking to-go mugs for coffee runs in the day, and a couple even starting asking questions on how they could start their own compost bin. Clearly, our excitement was contagious! 

From the moment I walked into the first class, I knew I was going to love it. The training was made up of a very varied group- women and men from their 20’s-60’s. Despite the difference in age and occupation, we had a lot in common - our love for the environment, our desire to expand our knowledge, and the passion to teach others what we were learning. 

The classes themselves were packed full of information- teaching us what could or could not be recycled, how garbage was collected within Edmonton, different styles of composting that were available, as well as lessons on how to be a better public speaker and different ways we could volunteer around the city. Each class I would arrive, tired from my day at work and instantly feel a sense of rejuvenation as I walked into the class, other people’s excitement increasing my own. 

Recycling collected in a SINGLE day!
On each Saturday, we went on a different field trip. The first week we toured the Edmonton Waste Management Facility, and it was amazing- we watched employees sort the recycling by hand, after some items had been machine sorted. We also saw the full garbage sorting process from the first stage, where the garbage is dropped off,  to the last where several machines  to separate the organic compostable goods from non-organics. Those end up in the landfill. Finally, we actually got to see the large piles of compost that Edmonton has as a result of the sorting done. This is the waste of every Edmontonian, which without any effort on the residents part,  is separated and processed in a large building, where later the compost is sold to those who would like to purchase it. I've never seen or heard of another city that puts this effort into reducing the waste that goes into the landfill.

It sounds impossible, but the second week’s field trip topped the first. It was what I had been excited about since I had first learned I was accepted for the training - we learned how to compost! Before this training, I thought there was one type of compost. I thought you put your food scraps into a pile and a few months later, the food had magically become soil. This is not the case AT ALL! There are so many different types of composting- vermicomposting, bokashi composting, lasagna composting, hot composting, lazy composting- the list just kept going! It truly showed that no matter where you live, the space you have, or how much free time is available, there is always a way to compost!

Making worm bins of our own!
The final Saturday was the last MCR class, and it was met with both excitement and sadness. The end of our training signalled the the phase as a Master Composter Recycler; it was time to give back to the program and to the community. The entire Master Composter Recycler Program is provided to the attendees free of charge, and in response, each member volunteers 35 hours in the next year. Chances to volunteer are provided by the City, but we could also create our own opportunities - such as having a movie night with friends to watch an environmental movie, or even talking with people about how to compost. This is our way to thank the City for having such a wonderful program, and taking the initiative to be green. It is also our opportunity to get more people interested in being green and making the world a better place.

To quote Dr. Seuss, “Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It’s not.” The graduates of MCRP do care, and by giving back through volunteering, we’re hoping to continue to get more and more people to care too.

Looking back at that training, I am so thankful to have been a part of the program. It truly makes me proud to live in Edmonton and tell other people the how the City is working to ensure we leave as small of a footprint as possible. I look forward to continuing to volunteer in our city for years to come, helping to teach others how easy it is to reduce our waste!


Sarah completed her MCR training in 2012.


Wednesday, March 7, 2018

Time to Save Your Eggshells by MCR Maria K.

As an avid gardener and Master Composter Recycler (class of 2007), I’ve learned a lot of wonderful garden tips that have helped to reduce the work of our City’s waste collectors. Here’s a small and simple trick, one of my favourites, that I employ every year, all year long, and it’s really easy!

There’s an ice cream pail under my kitchen sink, all year, for eggshells. Why? Because they are an excellent mineral resource and slug discourager. I don’t even bother to wash them because I find they dry out in the pail. When my pail gets full, I take a potato masher and mash them down so that I can add more. By spring planting, I usually have a pail or two that are at least three-quarters full. (My family likes eggs, what can I say?)

Eggshells have nice sharp edges, so I use them pretty liberally wherever I plant lettuce and other veggies that slugs consider tender vittles. Basically, I plant the seeds in the soil, and cover the seed bed with eggshells, and the plants find their way through, no problem. In a few weeks, it looks quite pretty, eggshells with greens.

Tomato plants, in particular, really appreciate the calcium from mashed eggshells. I try to keep some on hand at all times and use a few hand-fulls wherever I see slug trails in my yard. You could say my slug population has really decreased over the last ten years!

And here’s a little bonus tip: When you get your hair cut, ask for the trimmings. Turns out hair is a nice source of slow-release nitrogen – another favourite snack of most plants.

Why give away eggshells and hair clippings (pet fur, too) when they are great resources for growing things?

Even if you’re not a gardener, chances are that you know someone who is. Offering them your eggshells is a great conversation starter about waste reduction. Why not try it?

Visit K. is an MCR who is all about living simply, reducing consumption and waste, gardening, and feeding the soil we depend on for good food. She has more Simple Suggestions at


Monday, March 5, 2018

Friends & Colleagues at the MCR Townhall

Thanks to all the MCRs, MCRs-in-Training, and 2018 Candidates at the MCR Townhall Meeting.
It was great to see friends, new and old.

Front: Sunil & Julie
Row 2: Chidi., Elaine, Bana, Majida, Melissa, Coleen & Helene
Row 3: Erika, Katie, Yohie, Pam, Maria & Sarah
Row 3: Tammy, Hetal, Jocelyn, Mildred, Pat, Marx, Kayla & Cayley
Back: Hetal, Kory, Rodney, Suzy, Neil, Christine, Gordon, Liz, Bronwen, Terry, Nicole, Gaby, & Mark

We covered a lot of ground in a couple hours.

Waste Strategy Update
We discussed the Strategy Update presented to Utility Committee on February 23rd. Click here to read the strategy, the minutes, and documents. You can also watch the discussion.

Utility Committee approved the Strategy Update, in principle. The proposals go to City Council for more discussion on March 20th.

Improving the MCR Program
MCRs gave feedback about improving the program and helping MCRs be even more effective.
Some specific topics were:
  • easy ways to record volunteering, 
  • how to stay active as MCRs, and
  • how to show friends & colleagues that we are waste experts

Thursday, March 1, 2018

Tell One Friend: Refuse the Refuse

Let's face it: It's hard to say no to stuff. It's especially hard when the item is a gift, offered as a well-meaning gesture.

Say you visit your dentist. You are thrilled to get a new tooth brush but you don't need the floss (and the packaging with it). How to refuse the floss, politely?

Saying NO is hard in the first place, but it's one of the best ways to reduce waste.

Saying NO to swag, "finisher" t-shirts, and samples at the grocery store can be tricky. Balance courtesy to others along with your own goal to reduce waste.

Just like anything, saying NO takes practice. As an MCR, you can show others how to do this well.

What's Your Secret?
Well-Meaning Swag

  • Does refusing the refuse work for you?
  • How to you decline politely, without hurting someone's feelings?
  • Do you have a success story to share?

Visit to learn What Goes Where.


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 to learn What Goes Where.