Over the next few months, Council will be carefully reviewing, reassessing, and restructuring the City of Edmonton’s solid waste management. This evaluation will reassess the collection services, disposal infrastructure, and waste diversion programs to address the shortcomings demonstrated in the Waste Services Audit, released in February 2018.
This process has already begun, with City administration and Council working to better align the existing waste management system with our goals of sustainability. The Utility Committee took the first of many steps in this overhaul with the report and recommendations passed on February 23. These 5 recommendations touched on:
- The review of the metrics by which residential waste diversion is measured, and the proposal of a more accurate method of waste diversion calculations.
- The separation of grass, leaves, and yard waste from the waste stream as of September 4, 2018; and the creation and implementation of alternative options for the disposal of grass clippings and yard waste
- The implementation of a source-separated organics program, whereby compostable materials will be sourced into a separate waste stream for curbside collection.
- Public engagement and feedback from Edmonontians on the implementation of additional waste diversion programs, to be reported to Utility Committee and factored into the implementation of amended waste diversion programs.
- Waste Services to report to Utility Committee with additional recommendations on the Waste Strategy and supplementary amendments to the Waste Management Policy.
Short Term Impact
The change that Edmontonians will see the quickest is the diversion of grass, leaf, and yard waste into an alternative waste stream. Since the separation of waste streams decreases contamination, this segregation will allow for organic waste to be better diverted from the landfills. The Utility Committees recommendation seeks to implement this change on September 4, 2018.
What does this change mean? Yard waste and leaves will no longer be included in regular waste collection. Instead, the City of Edmonton will create an alternative collection process and schedule, whereby residents will be able to dispose of their leaf and yard waste.
As per the Utility Committees recommendation, curbside collection of leaf and yard waste will continue during peak gardening season. This means that residential collection of leaf and yard waste will be scheduled for a few weeks in the spring and fall season. Beyond the scheduled collection dates, residents can drop off yard waste at Eco Stations.
Additional details on the leaf and yard waste disposal and collection, including the specific schedule and the process through which the collection will occur, will be bought forward in June of 2018.
Long Term Impact
The recommendation for the implementation of a source-separated organics program (SSO) consolidates the City of Edmonton’s move toward what is commonly known as the “3-bin waste system.” With the introduction of the SSO program, Edmontonians will be required to segregate compostable material into separate waste bins from their regular waste for separate collection.
The implementation of the SSO program is an important step in the efforts to reach our goal of diverting 90% of residential waste from landfills. Right now, the City of Edmonton has a mixed single stream system. Residents dispose of all their waste into a single bag or bin for collection, and the waste is separated into different streams at the Waste Management facility. However, since this existing method has proven ineffective and inefficient, the separation of wastes at its source is a better method through which we can limit contamination and better successfully divert biodegradable waste from landfills.
By separating the disposal and collection of organic waste material, there is a greater opportunity for creating uncontaminated biodegradable product. In addition to diverting a higher volume of waste from landfills, it will result in higher quality of compost and biofuels processes.
The Utility Committee has recommended that the SSO program be implemented in 2020, allowing Council the opportunity to refine the details and practices of the program before it is launched. In addition, the 2020 implementation will give Edmontonians the opportunity to familiarize themselves with the program.
As this transition will signal a major shift in how Edmontonians approach the disposal of waste, citizen outreach and education will be conducted before the SSO program is formally implemented. These public engagement and education programs will explain and inform Edmontonians of the expected changes to ensure that the transition occurs as smoothly as possible.
What Comes Next?
The recommendations and changes proposed by the Utility Committee are the first of many steps in reforming and restructuring our waste management system and services. The recommendations passed by the Utility Committee will come before Council on March 20.
The recommendations proposed thus far effect residential waste disposal and collection. With the City of Edmonton setting the goal for 90% of waste diversion for residential waste, Council will be moving forward with proposals to help reach that goal.
The diversion of biodegradable waste from landfills through the source-separation of organic waste is a practice that has been implemented in many cities, the world over. In Alberta alone, Calgary, Red Deer, St. Albert, Lloydminster and Sherwood Park have all implemented a system whereby citizens separate organic waste disposal and collection into different streams. Beyond our province, other major cities in Canada and the United States have implemented similar processes.
Edmonton is an innovative and forward-thinking City, with a strong commitment to development and ingenuity. The Waste Services Audit has served as a wake-up call to Council, and forced us to open our eyes and take a step back to re-evaluate our approach to providing safe and efficient services to Edmontonians.
The City of Edmonton is known for our commitment to sustainability and how we manage our waste will be a strong indicator by which we are measured. More needs to be done to maximize the quantity of waste that can be diverted and recycled. The steps outlined in the Utility Committee recommendations are an important step in accomplishing just that.