Leaves, grass clippings may be banned from Edmonton curbs by the fall

Grass, leaves and yard clippings may be the first items banned from curbside pick up in Edmonton if council agrees to proposed changes on dealing with the city's garbage.

It's expected to take another year and a half to develop an organics program

A city utility committee agrees grass and yard clippings should no longer be picked up on the curbside as of Sept. 2018. (City of Edmonton)

Grass, leaves and yard clippings may be the first items banned from curbside pick up in Edmonton if council agrees to proposed changes on dealing with the city's garbage. 

City managers presented options to a utility committee Friday on how the city can improve its failing waste management system.

Doug Jones, deputy manager for city operations, said the goal is to start diverting the 50,000 tonnes of grass, leaf and yard clippings a year from the landfill.

"The preferred approach would be leave them on your lawn, because they do break down [and] provide a good, natural fertilizer," Jones said.

Doug Jones, the city's deputy manager of operations, says grass and yard clippings puts a strain on the landfill and composting facilities. (CBC)

Residents may also take clippings to eco stations or waste drop-off sites around the city.

This change is expected to go into effect in September.

The city's waste services and operations branches are still figuring out the specifics on implementing the plan, to be presented to council in June.

An audit in February shows Edmonton is diverting on average 50 per cent of its residential waste from the landfill, far short of its goal of 90 per cent. It also shows the city is producing a low-quality compost difficult to sell on the commercial market. 

Coun. Jon Dziadyk questioned the need to ask residents to change the way they dispose of grass and yard clippings. But Coun. Ben Henderson said it's expensive for the city to continue treating the materials as regular waste. 
The city deals with on average 50,000 tonnes of grass and lawn clippings a year. (City of Edmonton)

"It's not really fair on everybody who is making a different choice that they pay for the few people who want to have it picked up at their door," Henderson said. 

The next major change is expected to be in organics.

Edmontonians will be asked to separate kitchen scraps from the rest of the garbage, starting in the fall of 2020.

Jones expects it to take 18 months to develop a business case for the organics program.

"We would have to buy different trucks or put a contract out," Jones said. 
The final compost product is considered low quality and difficult to sell on the commercial market. (City of Edmonton)

The city will have to determine what size bins will be used and how the bins will be distributed to residences.

The utility committee suggested a pilot project first.

"I think the faster we can get there the better," Coun. Henderson said. "I think we have some capacity to get on with this fairly quickly in a smaller way, but probably not city wide."

The city collects on average 80,000 tonnes of food waste a year and one million tonnes of residential, industrial and construction waste.

Majority on board

The city hired Banister Research to do a telephone survey in January to gauge current behaviour and attitudes toward waste diversion.

The company surveyed 1,200 people who live in homes with garbage pick up that have yards or lawns.

The survey found 93 per cent of respondents agreed every household should "participate in sorting their waste to reduce the amount going to landfill."

Coun. Michael Walters said he's pleased there's "not the pre-existing fairytale" that residents could just put everything in one bag and "send it to the spaceship in northeast Edmonton and it goes to the moon and it's all good."

In the coming months, the waste services and operations branches will look into into future changes, including multi-stream recycling and partnering with charitable organizations to recycle textiles.

City council will be asked to approve of the proposed changes at a meeting March 20.