Aerial Shot - Edmonton Waste Facility by Darren Jacknisky

The Edmonton Waste Facility is a highly regarded waste facility of North America; however, it is at a breaking point. Our team went to the facility to partake in a free facility tour last week, and it was an impressive visit where we learnt a lot about how the waste system in Edmonton is operated and the impacts that we as citizens and company play in its functionality. At the end of the blog, there is exciting information about changes coming to The Organic Box.

How Does Our Waste System Work?

The Edmonton Waste Facility covers over 230 hectares of land, which is equivalent to almost five West Edmonton Malls. Over the 20 years since the facilities creation, the land has been used in many different ways to accommodate the ever-growing population in the capital city. The process starts at the Integrated Processing & Transfer Facility (IPTF) which is where the garbage arrives and is divided into three waste streams: composting, biofuels production and landfill.

From the IPTF, compostable waste used to go to the compost building, however, it shut down in 2017 severely impacting the ability of the facility to defer food waste from the landfill. The Anaerobic Digestion Facility was an answer to help achieve the goal of diverting 90% of waste from the landfill. This facility processes up to 48,000 tonnes of organic waste per year and generates renewable energy in the form of electricity and heat that can power roughly 1,200 homes.

Material that is not organic in its composition is then sent to either the Enerkem Biofuels and Chemicals Facility or transported to the Rylee Landfill outside of Edmonton. The Enerkem plant cannot run at capacity to be able to convert the waste to biofuel due to contamination in the garbage due to materials not being sorted out properly at the residential level. Items like grass, glass and metal cause the system to shut down as the plant cannot heat up enough due to the moisture and clogs that prevent the temperature from reaching the required threshold for the process to begin. We are therefore sending even more waste to the landfill. We as a community need to be able to task ourselves with the job of ensuring that we are separating out our waste to ensure that the tools in place are able to efficiently process the waste that we are creating.

Materials that were separated in the IPTF as recoverable are sent to the Materials Recovery Facility. This facility can process 50,000 tonnes per year of blue bag, blue bin, IPTF materials and recycling depot material programs. Material is fed from the tipping floor through many conveyor belts that are lined with staff on both sides who sort through the material. The material once sorted is then bundled and sold to the market. The materials that are sorted out are all household materials that include High-density polyethylene (Natural and coloured), drinking containers, paper, cardboard, plastics, and metal cans. When recycling you have to keep in mind that the material you recycle has to be clean, dry, uncontaminated. So if you put a food container with food in it and it opens in transport and the food gets on everything that entire bag is now un-recyclable. 

The last step in the process is the Global Electric & Electronic Processing Inc. (GEEP) Facility. This facility processed reclaiming reusable materials out of electrical items. The items that go to facility would be anything that has wires in it like: crockpots, televisions, computers, and appliances. The goal of GEEP is to recover as much valuable material like aluminum and gold primarily.

The Future of Recycling?

The City of Edmonton is on a mission to make the waste process cleaner, less burdening on their current system and put more responsibility on the citizen. They are currently undergoing a pilot campaign where residences will have 3 waste streams at home: Recycling, Waste, and Compost. Through this pilot project in select communities, they hope to launch city-wide by 2023. This program will enable a cleaner supply stream of materials to all parts of the Waste Facility which would allow them to reach their 90% landfill diversion goal shortly after that.

To better understand how waste should be separated the City of Edmonton created this infographic that will help your household better determine what items can be sent to an eco-station, reused, recycled or put in the garbage.What Goes Where Edmonton Waste

In the Meantime?

Although it is great to have goals in place there needs to be some action now that will initiate change sooner than the current projected timeline as change needs to occur sooner due to an expected growth of 2 million habitants in Edmonton by 2040. Residents in Edmonton should be expecting a new awareness campaign towards the end of 2019/early 2020 about how to properly reduce, re-use, and recycle as well as how to properly separate their household waste. The City of Edmonton has an application (WasteWise) for your devices that you are able to search an item you are getting rid of it will tell you how to properly dispose of it.

Waste Wise Icon

What is The Organic Box going to do?

We are a part of this city and we are just as much responsible for ensuring that we are doing our part to ensuring we are not just "wish-cycling".  We have made it easier to look for plastic-free items on our produce catalogue thanks to a new label - Plastic Free. All you have to do is look for the Icon below produce items, or do a search for it. We are in the implementation phase and will be rolling this out across our entire catalogue over the upcoming weeks!

We are committed to continuing to lessening our impact on the planet and offering more products that are not packaged with single-use plastics. We are going to be working to sourcing alternative materials for our Food Family Producers for packaging materials to use instead of current materials. We are looking forward to the changes in the next year as we work alongside you to lessen our impact. This week, we are trying new plastic-free strawberries, transitioning to green Fibrepaks where possible instead of plastic bags and even more changes throughout the summer.