Edmonton

Bye-bye plastic, hello new composter: Big and little strategies shape city's waste plan

The City of Edmonton proposes banning single-use plastics and starting an organics program in a 25-year strategy to deal with the beleaguered waste management system, a report released Tuesday says. 

Edmonton's new 25-year strategy aims to divert 90 per cent of waste from the landfill

By 2025, the city plans to have new organics processing facilities that will remove organic material and recyclables from the rest of the waste that ends up in landfill. (Supplied by City of Edmonton )

Edmontonians will be asked to be more mindful before they throw something away. 

The city is looking at a new 25-year strategy to deal with the beleaguered waste management system.

It could include banning single-use plastic products, like bags and straws, as early as January 2021, according to a report released Tuesday. 

City administration should choose how and when to restrict certain single-use plastics or disposable materials by that date, the report says. 

With some companies already banning plastic straws and bags, Coun. Michael Walters said Tuesday municipal governments will look to industry leaders.

"I think the marketplace is already way ahead of government," Walters said.

He expects to get an inventory from city administration on what the market has already banned and what it intends to ban.

Four streams

Under the proposed plan, single households would be asked to separate their waste into four streams: garbage, organics, recycling, and leaf and yard waste.

The separation, using a cart collection system, would start in fall 2020 and be city-wide by 2021.

It would be based on the pilot project that started this spring, with 8,000 households using green and black bins.

Mike Labrecque, branch manager for Edmonton's waste services, said about 75 per cent of the participants are separating the waste properly.

"People are very committed to it, there are people that are very enthusiastic, at the same time there are some other residents who will need a little bit of time to adjust to it," Labreque said.
Mike Labrecque, branch manager of Edmonton's waste services, said when the new collection starts, residents will be able to choose a 120 L or 240 L black bin. (Scott Neufeld/CBC)

The city also wants to redefine its customer classes based on the type of service rather than the number of units on a property. 

Under the existing bylaw, single homes pay more to have their garbage collected while multi-unit customers on a single property are charged a lower monthly rate.

About 27,000 multi-unit customers currently receiving curb-side pick up will be asked to switch from a monthly utility rate of $30.60 to the monthly single unit utility rate of $47.08.

"These are some of the anomalies that we have to work our way through when we make the change to the program," Labrecque said. 

The transition for these residents will be phased in over five years, beginning in 2020. It's a change Walters supports. 

"I've always said that Mother Earth doesn't distinguish between single occupancy houses and multi-unit houses," Walters said. "So all of those sources of waste, producers of waste, are going to have to be involved and do their part."

As well, the city will look at implementing an organics waste program for multi-unit residential, industrial, commercial and institutional sectors by fall 2022.

By 2025, the city plans to have new organics processing facilities, where food scraps, other organic material and recyclables are removed from the rest of the waste that ends up in the landfill. 

The city's composting facility was shut down completely earlier this spring after engineers discovered structural problems with the roof. 

The report proposes the city's new anaerobic digestion facility be used to compost a restricted amount of organics waste.

Households participating in the green bin pilot project, commercial customers able to separate their organics and single-unit residents will be given priority to use the anaerobic digestion facility, which will break down biodegradable material in the absence of oxygen.

The 25-year plan sets the city on "a path of transformational change," the report says. 

It reaffirms key commitments, such as 90 per cent diversion of waste from the landfill. That goal was set 20 years ago when the waste management centre was built. 

The proposed changes come a year-and-a-half after an audit showed Edmonton's formerly world-class garbage system wasn't up to current standards. 

The audit, released in February 2018, showed that Edmonton had diverted only half of its residential waste away from the landfill between 2012 and 2016, falling short of the target to reduce it by 65 per cent. 

The city lowered the lofty 90 per cent goal to 65 per cent by 2018. 

For years, Edmontonians threw almost everything into one garbage bag, which was sorted and managed at the waste management centre.

The city also intends to have a private company take over the commercial construction and demolition recycling from businesses. 

Council's utility committee will discuss the reports at its Aug. 29 meeting.

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