Fieldtrip to EWMC 2012

This is an open space for comments, discussions, ideas and questions in connection to the Hecol 493 fieldtrip to Edmonton Waste Management Center on June 4, 2012.

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    • carlosfiorentino
    • June 14th, 2012

    Thank you so much Larry for taking the time to answer all the comments!
    As a result of our visit to EWMC, every year the experience evolves with every new group of students, and your valuable participation key for this process.
    Thanks again.

    • Lisa
    • June 14th, 2012

    @larry george

    I first heard of the Re-use Centre by word of mouth from my roommate, Laura H. She works for EWMC in the downtown office. She wanted me to tell you “Hi!” 🙂

    • larry george
    • June 13th, 2012

    @Kate
    Is that you again Kate ?
    You might be very surprised, and perhaps alarmed, to know what is in some of the trucks in our province ! Several years ago, I met a trucker who was ‘carrying’ waste from Vancouver to Coronation, Alberta. Some waste from Vancouver is transported to a landfill in the centre of BC, hundred of miles from source.
    The Special Waste facility near Swan Hills in N. Alberta receives hazardous waste from other parts of Canada.
    The transporting of garbage to Ryley is actually short term although with the thinking that you and your classmates have, is this indeed the best solution? It may be an industrial way of thinking and planning but…, is it the only and best way?
    Edmonton used to bury garbage recyclables, everything ! But a change in thinking and strategies took place – slowly, perhaps but surely.

    I want to thank all of you, and your dynamic leader, Carlos, for this opportunity to interact with you again.
    Sincere Best Wishes to you all as you move forward, establish yourself in life, and make appropriate changes, in yourself and others.

    Life Is Good !

    larry

    • larry george
    • June 13th, 2012

    @Alessandra
    Hi Alessandra, Thank you for expressing your concern.
    I stated in another reply that the information you mentioned such as shredded paper, clean containers, what not to put in the Blue bag, etc. are all stated in a variety of ways. Unfortunately, you may well be a student who has put your head down and is so diligently working that the information is not coming your way. I had a student recently who was living in a residence as she was from “out of town” and knew nothing about the waste being created in her setting. Another student did not know about the bottle depot system we take for granted here in Alberta and how deposits were being charged at the checkout counter. She just paid her grocery bill and as she came from a province that did not have a deposit system, she did not know money could be recovered.

    • larry george
    • June 13th, 2012

    Hi there, Aislinn.
    Great thoughts you have expressed!
    You are so correct in saying that there is always room for improvement, on everyone’s part. As consumers, we all create waste. Even if everyone reduced their waste production, something has to be done with this waste. What you saw at the Centre has evolved over many decades here in Edmonton. As I said, the Centre actually came about due to a garbage crisis – the inability to locate a new landfill. Now…, had a new landfill being sited, you would not have had a tour, I certainly not there. Garbage would have been landfilled just like almost everywhere on the planet.
    The Waste Management Centre doesn’t have to go anywhere. Diversion from the landfill is presently at about 60% with a new target of about 90% in a few years. Although these are residential figures, much commercial and industrial waste is being diverted through the recycling of concrete, asphalt, drywall, wood, shingles and many other construction materials. The Centre creates the diversion – only the residuals go to landfill. And more and more is being done with the residuals and they also become diverted.
    By the way, the creation of electricity through burning of methane gas has the electricity going onto “the grid”. That is the way the regulatory system works. Otherwise it would go to the facilities at the Centre. I do not have an answer to that at this time.

    • larry george
    • June 13th, 2012

    @Kate
    Hi Kate. you are so correct when you say that our key messages must come often and in a variety of ways. People have very busy lives and it is a challenge to “get the word out”!
    This year, the waste pickup schedule, the Urban Recycler etc. were sent out through the mail, in an envelope that had to be opened. For many years, people considered such items as ‘junk mail’, like another pizza promotion or whatever. Researchers have found mail to be opened has a greater chance of being kept by the homeowner.
    We are ongoingly delivering messages on our tours, at trade shows, etc. During the boom years in Alberta, many people were coming from other areas where recycling programs were different or non-existent. Other young people such as yourselves are very busy with school assignments etc. and are not very informed or are too busy to get actively involved.

    • larry george
    • June 13th, 2012

    @Lisa
    Hi Lisa. Thank you also for “putting in a plug” for the ReUse Centre. It is a wonderful opportunity for all – those people who trying to release items from their life in a positive way and people who have a real need for those same items .I purchased 150 3-ring binders for newcomers in an ESL class (English as a Second language) and the cost was $5.00 total. Wonderful opportunities for craft people, teachers, whoever !
    Info can be found through edmonton.ca/waste then look for the ReUse Centre.

    • larry george
    • June 13th, 2012

    @Sasa
    Hi Sasa. You had a point of view then it changed somewhat as you did further research on the topic. This great ! To be open for other possibilities and other answers. Good for you!
    Methane gas is indeed produced in a landfill setting whenever organic garbage is buried and little oxygen is available to create compost. This is anaerobic decomposition resulting in CO2, and methane. Methane, as a GHG is about 22 times more powerful as a GHG as CO2. Methane can be burned as a fuel just like propane in a BBQ. Our 3 generators produce enough electricity for 4600 homes each year. A GHG reduction about the same as removing 15,000 vehicles off Edmonton streets every year. So, methane goes in and CO2 comes out. That is a fact. We are the only operation of this type in Alberta. Other landfills burn or flare the methane to reduce its potential as a GHG.

    • larry george
    • June 13th, 2012

    @Sam
    Hi Sam, Thank you so much for “the plug” re. information that can be found on our website. Many of our key messages are mentioned in a variety of ways such as specific ads, brochures, info relayed at trade show setting such as the Renovation Show – wherever many people gather and ‘shop’. We try to reinforce key messages in several ways in order to reach as many people as possible.
    eg. grasscycling, proper packaging of “sharps” such as broken glass, mirrors, sharp branches stuffed into plastic garbage bags, etc.

    • larry george
    • June 13th, 2012

    @Melissa Vuong
    Hi Melissa, the shredded tires actually provide better drainage to the roadbase. Water can create a lot of problems as freeze-thaw cycles occur in our climate. Actually the quality of our road surfaces and how they break up creating potholes is due to inadequate roadbases in place. A recent presentation by the head of Transportation and Roadways after being asked the question of potholes occurring here in the city but not appearing on the highway to the airport (and the weather being essentially the same) – answer was that of inadequate roadbed preparation before the asphalt was even put into place.

    • larry george
    • June 13th, 2012

    @Stephanie
    Hi Stephanie, your comments re. how many times could material be sorted is an interested one, for sure. Private companies such as GEEP will sort to whatever degree gives them the best profit margin.
    Now…, some companies in China and other countries will sort very exactly as their wages are very different from ours. You know a prescription bottle has a white cap for the amber colored container? ‘They’ will have people separate these 2 items (different plastics) by hand whereas in our economy that would be impossible to finance.
    In our setting, it is cheaper for a company to ‘source separate’ at their business and bring us segregated wood, cardboard, garbage rather than a ‘mixed load’ which has lesser value. Mixed or co-mingled loads have a higher ‘tipping fee’. Segregated loads have a lesser fee because we now can doing something productive with it.

    • larry george
    • June 13th, 2012

    @Kat
    Hi Kat, you went directly to the enerkem website which gave you a different profile but a more complete profile of them. eg their safety and first aid measures.
    edmontonbiofuels.ca is more specific to ‘us’. The 10% residual slag may be used for more research, and production of various fuels, or I have heard it may be used as a roadbed material.

    • larry george
    • June 13th, 2012

    @Jay Ess
    Hi Jay, there will always be responsibilities for the citizens to recycle, etc. ‘We’ will always be there to handle the majority of what is created. The Biofuels facility will be producing methanol and ethanol, not electricity as you stated. If you go to the website I gave you you will be the cost of this facility as about $80 million. The full story is at edmontonbiofuels .ca.

  1. The field trip to the EWMC left me with feeling mixed emotions. For starters, I cannot take this away from the facility but it was very impressive of its grandness, organized systems that seem to be working smoothly and efficiently. The amount of machinery, land space, time, cost, labour, distribution and manufacturing of all the systems provided a sense of almost comfort that the garbage and waste of the city is so properly being managed. However, it does lead me to question other factors. The biggest one would be the still-under-construction methanol facility to produce electricity. The fact that the EWMC is to be the first of such facilities to provide this system on such a large scale is both exciting yet questioning….
    Due to the fact that it is the first system of such largeness, do we know and are we prepared for anything in the future that may lead to problems? Are we knowledgable enough? Do we have specialized people to turn to on hand if something is to occur negatively? Just how much did this facility cost? And is it worth it in the end? I realize that methane gas is less harmful than carbon dioxide emissions, but what about all the other factors? Will we see any immediate results? Or just over the long haul?

    Another comment that I would like to leave is that feeling of ‘less responsibility’ that may have been highlighted…the fact that the facility is organized in such a way that we may not have the need to recycle or compost because it does it for us. As a strong recycler and composter, I do feel that we should still carry the responsibility of our garbage and waste as much as we can. After all, it is our garbage and having that responsibility would only lighten the load for the facility which could focus their energies elsewhere?

    • Kat
    • June 7th, 2012

    Although I did find the trip to EWMC to be informative there wasn’t a lot of information on the new ethanol plant that they’re building. Taking a look at Enerchem’s website I’m a bit critical of how environmentally friendly the process will be as they describe themselves as “a producer and distributer of hydrocarbon drilling and fracturing fluids designed to provide cost effective solutions to the upstream oil and gas industry and specialty solvents to help resolve production and processing problems to the downstream producers”. Through this description and the one on the ‘Who We Are’ page there appears to be a focus by the company on economic profit over environmental benefit, which is only noted as adhering to all environmental laws and no mention of the future ethanol production at EWMC. In addition I’m curious as to how the 10% that is left over after ethanol production will be disposed of or stored. Larry mentioned that engineers speculate they’ll be able to further refine the leftover sludge, this leads me to question what the effects of storing this sludge on both employees and the environment until engineers find a solution.

    References:
    http://www.enerchem.com/

    • Stephanie
    • June 6th, 2012

    I found the field trip to be very interesting and useful as there were many things I found out that I was not aware of in terms of the activities and amount of work put into managing our city’s waste. One of the things larry mentioned that I found intriguing was the amount of gold that can be found in the parts of electronics.

    After visiting the different recycling facilities I wondered how it is possible for the mixture of materials to be thoroughly sorted. Would the large amounts of materials be sifted through a few times or do some items just get missed?

    • Sam
    • June 6th, 2012

    I found this to be a very informative field trip. I’m a pretty avid recycler, to the point where I thought everything paper should be recycled. Since Larry said that not every paper product (ex. ticket stubs) needs to be recycled and instead can be put in the garbage to eventually be composted, I’m less worried about it. On the EWMC website they give a very clear list of what to recycle and what can be put in the garbage, and I think that should be promoted more!

    • Melissa Vuong
    • June 5th, 2012

    I found the field trip quite informational and interesting. I was really surprised to see that the “bricks” used in front of the Administration building was made from recycled tires. If I remember correctly, Larry mentioned something about the tires absorbing water or something like that, which I found really interesting and surprised that a material like this or similar isn’t used on our roads to reduce potholes and other various problems Edmonton faces with it’s roads.

    • Sasa
    • June 5th, 2012

    Larry mentioned that the methane gas that is produced from the landfill is burned to create electricity. Although this sounds like a good way to use resources, my only concern with this is that when methane gas is burned it releases carbon dioxide, which is considerable harmful to the environment.
    However, upon further investigation I found that methane is actually more harmful to the environment than carbon dioxide and traps heat in the atmosphere more regularly. Still, I am left to wonder with the emissions created and the energy used if this is really a sustainable process, or if there is a more effective way to get rid of the methane produced by the landfill.

    • carlosfiorentino
    • June 5th, 2012

    Excellent comments so far. Please keep giving suggestions and ideas for improving.

    • Lisa
    • June 5th, 2012

    I think the amount of garbage that can be reused for other purposes is impressive. I keep thinking about what will happen to the things that I throw out. The only suggestion that I would have for Waste Management would be to promote their Reuse Centre. The Centre takes in items that aren’t quite garbage, but can’t be taken to a thrift store (scraps of fabric, misc craft supplies, candle wax, egg cartons, Styrofoam, etc.). People can purchase however much they want for just $5 per visit. I purchased some Christmas ornaments there last year (and donated the ones I didn’t like anymore), and I’ve found many art and sewing supplies there too. Larry talked about the large amounts of wrapping paper at Christmas and the shoe boxes left over from back-to-school shopping. The Reuse Centre accepts boxes and paper of all kinds. If Edmontonians took those kind of items to the Reuse Centre instead of throwing them away, I think that would significantly reduce the amount of garbage and recycling we produces. The address is 10004 103A Ave (in front of the CN tower), in case anyone is interested.

    • Kate
    • June 4th, 2012

    I agree with Alessandra. I was so surprised by everything that goes on at the EWMC, and I think a fantastic ad campaign showing Edmontonians what goes on after they put their trash out to be collected.

    Larry mentioned that some things are better to put in the trash than in the recycling (cooking oil, shredded paper) and I think if more people were more conscious of their waste and knew what happens to it it would greatly benefit everyone.

    • Aislinn
    • June 4th, 2012

    Going to the Edmonton Waste Management Center today reminded me of a previous trip during elementary school. However, having gone once again, I realized that although they are promoting good practices that may help change the way we view our garbage, there is always room for improvement and growth.
    While the movement towards clean biofuel in form of ethanol gas does seem like a sustainable and positive use of carbon based trash, the entire structure and form of this new addition feels much more like a corporation trying to make a profit. In the presentation, Larry mentioned a “waiting list” of businesses and individuals prepared to buy-into this development. While making a profit from trash to perhaps improve the center is not an entirely stupid practice, I am wondering why the biofuel is not being prepped for use in the centre itself. The center must be using quite a bit of energy to keep processes moving, and it would not be a great example if the center itself was the first to use the product commercially? Perhaps I had misunderstood, but the product already being made in the center that can produce electricity from its burn-off, is being stored, but is it also being used to fuel the center?
    In addition (I apologize for this long comment), while I do believe how we are dealing with our garbage is a positive movement, it is much more reaction based. The real issue is with the amount of waste we create. If we have just filled our landfill, while it has lasted approximately 10 years longer, it still leaves the issue of needing a new hole in the ground. With this movement of the landfill location, how would this affect the current location of the management center, and the transportation that would be needed after?
    I have so many questions about these new innovations taking place, and perhaps it is my lack of understanding of the chemistry and process that these questions are coming from.

    • carlosfiorentino
    • June 4th, 2012

    Excellent point Kate, anyone commenting on this?

    • Kate
    • June 4th, 2012

    I never realized how advanced the EWMC was compared to other facilities. It surprised me that only 40% of the city’s waste went to the landfill and that we will be the first to convert waste into ethanol.

    It’s great that they’re able to recycle and compost most waste, but I wonder how much waste is produced simply through transportation. It can’t be very eco-friendly to drive waste to another landfill every 15 minutes, and to need dozens of trucks to deliver the pieces for the new biofuel section.

    • carlosfiorentino
    • June 4th, 2012

    Absolutely. Communication as rhetorical intervention is needed to get everyone on the same page.

    • Alessandra
    • June 4th, 2012

    I think they should increase their advertising or awareness campaigns for household and business in regards to proper recycling practices in relation to how the facility handles the waste. Such as information regarding shredded paper and how it would be better in the garbage than in recycling, the importance of cleaning recyclables- as otherwise they will be sent to trash. As well as information on what products cause the most problems at the facility, such as wires, tapes and strings. Although I recycle, I was not aware of many of these facts and how much of my ‘recycling’ could end up not being recycled for reasons related to this.

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