Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Designs for a Modular Compost System

This modular compost system was designed by MCR Will S. in 2006/2007. He used almost entirely reused materials to build this bin, and has gotten many years of use out of it!

Thanks for sharing the photos and design, Will.

Will S. with his finished compost bin.


  • 32" or 36" wide
  • 64" or 96" long
  • 36" high

For 2 sections

  • 22: 1"x6"x6' used fence or siding boards to use as side-slats
  • 16' length of 2x4 wood OR 10: 3' length of 2x2 wood to use as posts
  • 1 sheet: corrugated fiberglass OR old window screen OR similar top
  • nails
  • several Robertson screws (square screws)
  • several Phillips screws (+ shaped screws)
  • 2: 2" hinges
  • 4: 2 1/2" hook eyes
   Optional: If you ever want to disassemble and move these bins.
  • 6 backboards
  • fixed bottom front

Instructions for Assembly

Plans for Will's compost bin. Build your own and share your pics with us!
  • A & B: Hook left side and left front gate together.
  • C: Hook left gate to centre.
  • D: Hook right gate to centre.
  • E: Hook right gate to right side.
  • F: Screw back top board #1 with one Robertson screw, to left side post, to right side post, and to centre post.
    Straighten so sides are vertical and add two more Robertson screws to each post.
    This leaves each post with three square screws.
  • G: Screw back bottom board #6 with one Robertson screw to left side post, to right side post, and to centre post.
    Add two more Robertson screws to each post.
  • H: Unhook gates. Now screw narrow front bottom board with one Robertson screw to bottom of left post, to right post, and to centre post.
  • I, J, K, L: Screw #5, #4, #3, and #2 backboards with one Phillips screw to left, to right, and to centre post.
  • M: Add two more screws to each post.
  • N: Place lid on top, with wood rail down. Screw hinges on with small Phillips screws.
  • O: Place one of short wood boards (the pads) under each of the six posts.
    Add or remove soil to stabilize the box under the posts.
  • P: Rehook each of the gates.
  • Q: Optional: Stain, paint, or preserve inside and outside. It will last longer and the bugs don't mind.
  • Start composting.
Do you have another design to share? Comment below OR email us.

- All photos and images provided by Will S.

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!