It was just another day, another SustainSU Blog meeting. Freya, Julia, and I happily shared our exciting stories of the day. All was fun and games until Julia shared the latest updates about what was really happening with Edmonton’s recycling. (image)
Back in 2009, Edmonton was proud to share the facts on waste diversion and our upstanding recycling program. It was even named the most sustainable large city in Canada by the Corporate Knights in the same year (source).
There was a lot of promise for Edmonton and our many planned projects. It began with the 1986 curb-side recycling program, followed by hazardous waste collection and blue box recycling in consecutive years. From there, the city continued to develop its Waste Management program, and build a rich timeline of projects (which you can see here)
Up until 2015, Edmonton had been piloting and successfully implementing new sustainability projects.
The article that changed it all…
An article called “That’s the dumps: Edmonton failing at diverting waste from landfill, audit finds” written by Elise Stolte completely turned our world around. What had happened to all the development and pride behind Edmonton’s Waste Management program?
- Claims that 52% of residential waste is diverted from landfills cannot be verified reliably due to ever-changing data.
- Downward trend in residential waste diversion rate, with 2013 having the highest calculated rate of 49.5% and 2016 having the lowest rate of 35.7%
- Edmonton Waste Management Centre rated C overall by auditor Doug Jones.
- 25% of recyclables brought to the facility go back to landfills due to improper sorting by facility recycling team.
- Edmonton’s projects (Composting and Enerkem Alberta Biofuels) were delayed.
The most important point:
- Homeowners need to take responsibility and sort waste properly to reduce improper sorting and landfill dumps.
What we can do…
First, recycling education is necessary. Not all components of the same waste item belong in the same bin. For example, Minute Maid juice cans have metal tops and bottoms that need to be separated from the cardboard cylinder.
There are plenty of ways we can support our city and community. I’ve listed a few fun ways of reaching our targets:
1. Make your own garden!
A quick search on Google for how to build your own garden from waste brings up infinite amounts of Pinterest posts with Do-It-Yourself tutorials. My personal favourites are reusing containers, such as plastic bottles or broken pots/jars to grow plants.
You can also re-grow certain vegetables using scraps. Potatoes, ginger and garlic even begin to sprout if you’ve had them for too long.
A post by Reddit user KainX outlines their own actions to be environmentally-conscious, in the form of gardening.
You can view their online photo album on how they transformed their yard into a beautiful, edible garden using scrap materials and re-purposed waste here: https://imgur.com/a/zZHD1
You can even make your own compost to nurture your plants. Our university has great list of items you can compost here: http://www.sustainability.ualberta.ca/GetInvolved/Recycling/ZeroWaste.aspx
Don’t have room for a garden, or don’t garden in general? You can still share your compostable materials with neighbours who do. In 2011, Statistics Canada reported that over half (about 61%) of Canadian households participated in some form of household composting (source). That number doesn’t even include those who sent their waste to community composting facilities
2. Live minimally
I don’t have many guidelines for you guys on this topic (YET!), as I’m still on my own journey to minimalism. If anyone has any tips, feel free to leave a comment or shoot us an e-mail!
Although, if I can say one thing: The first step to de-cluttering your life is to de-clutter your mind. This can involve anything from freeing your thoughts of your next shopping spree, or even just scheduling your day and making mental to-do lists for daily efficiency.
3. Have fun at Zero-Waste Stations on Campus
These bins can be found all over campus, from HUB mall to SUB and beyond! My friends already know, but I love sorting my waste into the proper bins. It only takes a few seconds to get it right. Most of the time, I rely on the lists they provide about each bin to see where each item belongs. To make the learning process even more fun, the Office of Sustainability also hosts a table during Clubs Fair to see if you can sort waste item correctly for prizes!
The most important fact from the previous article remains:
Individuals must be responsible for their waste. From creating it, to sorting and disposal, and even making sure it goes to the right waste management facility.
We have more power than ever to enable Edmonton to reach its sustainability goals. As Edmontonians we can take action!
Blog Team Leader, BCom Operations Management