Friday, May 21, 2010

New Blue Bin Spring Recycling Campaign News

As you know the blue bin recycling campaign is receiving extensive media attention. Most of it has been positive, although the Sun incorrectly reported the cost of the sound devices as $160,000 when in fact the entire public education program is $160,000.

Please look at the brief summary below that will help you answer questions from the public. The commercials are on our website.

Campaign Objectives:
- to reduce the level of non-acceptable items being placed in blue bins
-to increase participation in the blue bin program

Campaign Description: multimedia campaign runs from May 17 - June 27 and includes:
- Radio - Advertising on five stations, contests and promotions on three stations
-Transit Interiors -Advertising on ETS buses and LRT interiors
- Interactive Blue Bins - decals on 1500 bins and sound devices on 400 bins that deliver a pro-recycling message when material is dropped into the bin.
-Community Outreach - A community outreach team will bring interactive displays featuring recycling activities and information to major events and public locations May through July.

Costs and Benefits:

The total cost of the education program is $160,000 of which $12,500 is for the sound devices. (The total amount is unchanged from previous annual education budgets and is approximately $2 per multi-family household with a bin).

The benefits expected include increased rates of recycling, reduced contamination, reduced downtime and cost of repairs at the recycling facility, and prevention of injuries to staff at the recycling facility.

"Inspired Composting" Workshop was Fun!

Those folk who came out in the evening on May 13th for the latest Connect and Learn Workshop certainly got "inspired" about composting!

Four master composter "gurus" shared their stories and expertise with everyone. Sheldon L. reviewed all the basic principles and practices of successful backyard composting from a "lazy composter's perspective" and made it sound easy and achievable.
Also, Herb G. summarized his experiences working with red wigglers on a larger scale at the City Hall worm bin, and with a farmer wanting to implement worm composting to help him meet his organic farming requirements.

Harvest of City Hall Vermicompost Bin

The first official harvesting of the vermicompost made in the City Hall worm bin happened at noon on June 13th. The weather cooperated, a class from Minchau school assisted with separating the worms out of the compost and then raking the compost into flowerbeds. Thanks to volunteers: Doyle D., Kelley P., Helen M., Herb G. and Marilyn K. for helping out!

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Update Tour of the IPTF and Co-Composting Facility

Last week, a group of the Public Education staff at the Waste Management Branch went for an 'update tour' of the IPTF and the Co-Composting Facility. Lots of changes to the intake of waste in the last few weeks! We each needed steel toe boots, a safety vest, hard hat, face mask and protective eyewear because we were heading into the belly of these two facilities, and geez- it's extremely automated! Below, Jim (Composting Facility Operations Technologist), Neil (Program Specialist at EWMC), Brant (Education Officer at EWMC) all geared up. This is the inside of the Co-Composting Facility- the old tip floor. It is now used as extra space for tipping. These conveyor belts are coming from the Pre-Processing area so you see some bags of grass clippings beneath the blue chute on the right. These have been sorted out in the Pre-Processing to go through the Co-Composting Facility.
Standing under those conveyor belts, I took this shot of the old tip floor. No longer used as the main drop off site for garbage trucks, but rather material is sent here from the IPTF Pre-Processing area. Notice on the left of this picture, the two conveyor belts and making piles of materials from the Pre-Processing.
One conveyor belt was transporting material which was screened to 5 inches, which is mostly landfill material.
The other conveyor belt had stuff screened to 2 inches, which will mostly continue on into the Co-Composting Facility.
Following the path of this screened material, we walked INSIDE of one of the mixing drums. This one has been shut down permanently (hence the conveyor belt inside of it). I never thought I'd be in one of the drums!
Same process from here in the Composter. But I was happy to walk up, waaayyy up to the trommel screens. They're out of use right now since the screening is mostly being done in the IPTF. It is so insanely humid at the top of that ramp, phew! Jim said 95% humidity and I believe it. So hot! (I was adjusted to the stink by this time.)
A peak inside the old trommel screen. Pretty clogged up. Apparently that's a common problem with trommel screens.
Ok over to the IPTF. Here's where the garbage trucks are unloading residential waste and multi-family waste. No more guys with hockey sticks poking around in the bags (unfortunately... you'll see why that's a problem later). The grappler and front end loader are pushing the material to a hole at the right side of this pic which puts stuff onto a slow conveyor belt to go into the Pre-Processing.
Material goes to the Pre-Processing, which just started up in the beginning of May. When on a tour, you will just see from the skywalk that the Pre-Processing area has lots of conveyor belts, some trommel screens and disc screens, but most surprising to me was that there are workers in a little room hand-sorting some of the garbage! The picture below is inside the room where these workers are. Much like the MRF, they are pulling certain things off the line to either go to the Composting Facility (eg. large bags of grass or leaves), things that go for recycling (eg. large pieces of metal, appliances, etc), and of course things that they don't want to go any further in the IPTF because they will clog up the system (eg. extension cords, bicycles, propane tanks, etc).
Here are two items that were taken off the line during Pre-Processing. Back in the days when there were workers on the tip floor sorting through things a bit more carefully, this stuff would have been pulled aside and landfilled. In the IPTF, the grappler is not able to notice a bike so it continues on into the sorting. Unfortunately, these two items jammed the entire facility for hours when they got stuck in the screening stage.
Here's a look at all the various conveyor belts in the Pre-Processing. Some going to the Composter, some going to the other side of the IPTF to be loaded into trucks for the Ryley landfill, some going to GEEP, some going in circles ;)
A new kind of screen called the disc screens do similar work to the trommel screens. Small stuff falls below and big stuff bounces over the discs to go on a separate route. Jamming is extremely common in the disc screens because of long stuff, such as VHS tape, extension cords, rope, panty hose, and so on. The whole facility stops when this disc screen is jammed. These workers jumped in to try to unjam it.
Yup, it's good and stuck. More reason we need to focus education on bringing extension cords, VHS tape and such to the Eco Station. It really clogs up our garbage processing.
The culprit!
Moving along, the material that is not compostable and not recyclable is moved to the trucks for the landfill. In a few years, these conveyor belts will re-route the landfill stuff to another area of the IPTF to shred up the material in preparation for the Biofuels facility. That will be an exciting day, and will definitely require another tour!

Monday, May 17, 2010

Make a Blue Bin Less Blue

The Waste Management Branch is launching a campaign promoting blue bin recycling for apartment and condominium residents. The campaign encourages multi-family residents to "keep recycling" and to "recycle the right stuff." Over the past few years, there has been a lot of inappropriate materials coming to the MRF from multi-family recycling bins, such as vacuums, televisions and almost any kind of electronic, chemicals, furniture, etc.

The campaign includes radio advertising of a blue bin singing the blues (hilarious), a transit interior campaign, a contest and advertising in the Edmonton Sun.

Don't give me the misused blues. Make a blue bin less blue. Recycle the right stuff. See what you can recycled at

One feature of the campaign is that 300 blues bins will have sound devices installed and will deliver a "Thanks for recycling"" message to anyone using the blue bin.

The blue bin recycling outreach team will take the campaign to the streets with displays and activities at malls and events over the summer.

To get a preview of the radio commercials, see the ads, and hear the talking blue bins, come down to City Hall (City Room) tomorrow, May 18th at 10:00 a.m. We will have Michael Recycle on hand to help us out too!

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Congratulations to our Story Submission Winner!

Congratulations to Nicola Harper who won the draw for a $100 Gift Card from Earth's General Store. Nicola was one of many volunteers who entered a story on their volunteer experiences with the MCR Program. Nicola wrote a short excerpt on her experience as a Master Composter/Recycler preparing for the opening of the Reuse Centre.
"I get a huge sense of pride whenever I go to the Reuse Centre and see the door that I painted!".
Thanks to Nicola and all the other volunteers who submitted their stories. Stories will be utilized in various ways throughout the year to help commemorate the 20th Year of the Program.

Monday, May 10, 2010

More info on the Biofuels Facility

The plans and building for the Biofuels Facility are moving along! Construction is beginning this summer. I thought it would be good to pass on some resources about this highly technical, confusing, difficult to explain topic. I'm still learning about it so hopefully these resources will help me and other Master Composter Recyclers explain what is happening to Edmonton's waste in the coming year.

Biofuels and Gasification

Let's start with the basics. Biofuels include ethanol, biodiesel, butanol and others. Biofuel production uses both old and new technologies. Conventional “first generation” ethanol is made by fermenting sugars from plants with high starch or sugar content into alcohol, using the same basic methods that brewers have relied on for centuries. The purest form of biodiesel is straight vegetable oil, but a more refined form produces methyl esters (basically, diesel). At the moment, most of these fuels are made from three kinds of agricultural feedstocks, which are also used for food:

• sugar crops, including sugar cane, sugar beets, and sweet sorghum;
• starch crops, including corn, wheat, barley, rye, cassava, sorghum grain, and other
cereals; and
• oilseed crops, including rapeseed/canola, soybeans, sunflower, mustard, and others.

“Second generation” biofuel technologies employ more sophisticated processes to convert biomass into fuel. These include enzymatic and other processes to turn urban waste (municipal solid waste, or MSW), animal waste and fat into biodiesel, and convert cellulose from grasses and waste wood into ethanol and other fuels. So the Edmonton Biofuels Facility is a second-generation biofuel technology.

After reading a May 6, 2010 press release about the facility, I found a nice diagram of the gasification process as it would look for our facility. (Click the image to see a larger version.)

Step 1- Feedstock pre-treatment
The sorted municipal solid waste which is left over from the Materials Recovery Facility or the Composting Facility or other landfill material is shredded. It is stored in a container that is connected to the gasifier via a front-end feeding system.

Step 2- Gasification
The gasification process converts carbon-rich waste into a uniform synthetic gas (syngas). The heat and the pressure break apart the chemical bonds of the waste material into a syngas. The conversion of waste materials into syngas takes less than 10 seconds. Due to the lack of oxygen in the process, there

Step 3- Cleaning and conditioning of the synthetic gas
The syngas is cleaned and conditioned in order to prepare it for catalytic conversion to methanol and ethanol. The cleaning process is accomplished through a sequential conditioning system, which includes cyclonic removal of inert matter, secondary carbon/tar conversion, heat recovery units, and reinjection of tar/fines into the reactor. The syngas that is produced by this process is ready for conversion into liquid fuel.

Step 4- Conversion into liquid fuel
Using a sequential catalytic conversion process and commercially available catalysts, the syngas is converted to market ready fuels and chemicals. The catalysts rearrange the molecules in the gas into methanol and ethanol.

The Emissions from Gasification

Because there's a lot of concern about "heating up" garbage which will release extremely harsh chemicals like dioxin, I've been wondering about the emissions from a gasification facility. Thanks to Wikipedia, here's some insight into the greenhouse gas emissions:

In second generation thermal technologies, nearly all of the carbon content in the waste is emitted as carbon dioxide to the atmosphere (when including final combustion of the products from pyrolysis and gasification). Municipal solid waste contain approximately the same mass fraction of carbon as CO2 itself (27%), so treatment of 1 metric ton of MSW produce approximately 1 metric ton of CO2. In the event that the waste was landfilled, 1 metric ton (1.1 short tons) of MSW would produce approximately 62 cubic metres (2,200 cu ft) methane via
the anaerobic decomposition of the biodegradable part of the waste. This amount of methane has more than twice the global warming potential than the 1 metric ton of CO2, which would have been produced by combustion.

Further readings:

Waste to Energy Research and Technology Council (WTERT) Canada

Edmonton Biofuels
"Trash-Based Biofuels Could Alleviate Land Use, Emissions Issues" posted May 4, 2010

In a January 2009 publication released by the Sierra Club and Worldwatch Institute, entitled Smart Choices for Biofuels, gasification and other second generation (or thermal) technologies were highlighted as having a potential advantage over first generation technologies (p.7):

Nearly all studies on the role of biofuels in mitigating global warming and boosting energy security have concluded that “second-generation” biofuels, which rely on non-food feedstocks and offer dramatically improved energy and greenhouse gas profiles, are necessary to make wider use of biofuels feasible worldwide.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Vermicomposting Pilot Reschedule Notice

Postponement Notice

Please note: The Worm Bin Harvest event at City Hall scheduled for Thursday, May 6th has been postponed due to bad weather.

The event has been rescheduled for May 13, 2010. All other event details remain unchanged.

Monday, May 3, 2010

A look inside the City of Edmonton's Composting Facility

Here is the famous video, back by popular demand :-). Enjoy!!

Compost Awareness Week Events

Heads up everyone! This week, May 3 – 9th is national Compost Awareness Week! This is a great opportunity for all of you to introduce “composting” to everyone you talk to.

• Start some conversations on the topic of composting with/without red wigglers

• Remind people of the events at our John Janzen Composting Education Centre: workshops May 4,5,6 and the Planet Party on Sunday May 2, etc.

• The City Hall Pilot Vermicomposting Project is worth bringing up. Since last fall, offices in City Hall have been donating their organics to a worm bin in the parkade. We will do our first harvest during Compost Awareness, and the worm compost will be used in the plants and flower beds in and around City Hall.

• Think about showing off your composter or the DVD of the Composting Facility to some people.

Compost Awareness Week Event Schedule
Saturday, May 1 - Master Composter/Recycler Grad day includes reading of a proclamation by the mayor announcing Compost Awareness Week in Edmonton.

Sunday, May 2 - Planet Party at John Janzen Nature Centre! Compost mentors will be on hand at the Backyard Composting Education Centre to help residents plan their composting methods, and to learn how to keep their lawn greener with less labour. Participants can purchase an Earth Machine Compost bin for only $35, and/or a compost turner for $10.

Tuesday, May 4 - Backyard Composting Workshop, 7-9 p.m.

Wednesday, May 5 - Worm Composting Workshop 7-9 p.m.

Thursday, May 6 - Worm Bin Harvest event at City Hall (featuring City Hall School children from Minchau School

Backyard Composting Workshops will be held at the Devonian Botanical Gardens on Saturday May 8th.

The Family Worm Composting Workshop will be held May 8th at the Bloomin' Garden Show and Art Sale, at the Alberta Ave Community League (9210-118 Ave), from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m..

Other opportunities:

Monday to Friday - Business Lunch 'N Learn session and Classroom Presentations, provided by the Waste Management Branch.

Watch for your community league newsletter for more community learning opportunities.