Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Composting, Ninja Level by MCR Jane T

We all know the benefits of composting. Forty percent of the waste that makes its way to the EWMC is compostable and a significant amount of that is grass clippings and leaves. Keeping these at home and composting them along with your kitchen waste not only reduces waste, it provides a source of highly nutritious humus for the garden.

Composting takes time and patience. Depending on the environment it can take months or even years to produce a good batch of this hearty mulch.

That's why sheet mulching is a fabulous option. Creating a garden by sheet mulching, sometimes referred to as lasagne gardening, is a simple way to manage yard waste while creating a fabulous new bed for flowers and vegetables.

My front yard, before sheet mulching
Start by defining the area you wish to turn into a garden and cut a trench to separate it from the rest of the lawn. Place 2-3 layers of cardboard over the region where the new bed will be and water it well. I like to wrap the edges with newspaper so the grass is completely enclosed and won't sneak out the perimeter and grow into the border you've created. You can fill the trench with whatever you like; I use a combination of broken bricks and wood chips.

Now the layering begins. Start with an inch of nitrogen-rich materials such as grass clippings, manure, coffee grounds and kitchen waste. Throw some bone meal on top of this, then add a 2-3 inch layer of carbon-rich waste such as leaves or straw. The more diverse your materials, the better. I use whatever I can get my hands on, which has me cruising the back alleys in my neighborhood looking for bags of yard waste. I've even posted ads for straw bales and horse manure. Shredded documents from the office? Why not?

Finished bed, later that day
A few more layers, alternating between greens and browns, and the garden bed begins to take shape. A final layer of compost finishes the project. After that it's simply a matter of keeping it well watered and waiting for the medley to become a rich bed of organic soil. Do this in the summer or fall and you'll be planting in it the following spring.

Check out this update from 9 months after creating my bed.

As opposed to dirt, soil created this way has vitality. It's full of nutrients and micro organisms, it's well balanced and rich. Your flowers and veggies will grow tall and happy in their new home.

One year later

Jane T completed the MCR course in 2013 and has been active ever since. She's participated in trade shows, helped out with the grasscycling campaign, and blogs at

MCR Winter Social 2014

It was a chilly evening but Kennedale Waste Operations was warm, toasty, and full of lively conversation. Over 40 current and future MCRs, their friends, and family came out to the annual MCR Winter Social, last Monday evening.

We had a mountain of delicious food, and plenty of time to mingle and chat. Rodney gave us a short speech about our 2013 accomplishments, our goals for 2014, and what we can expect to see from Waste Management Services in the future.
The impending move and expansion of the Reuse Centre was a hot topic. Everyone was excited to hear about the much-needed facelift of this Edmonton treasure.

MCRs were also pleased to hear about the starting of the Waste-to-Biofuels facility.

Another topic of discussion was the new focus on "large volume producers." These are residents who put out lots & lots of garbage, often. Many folks who could not participate in home interviews were curious to know about the project, and excited to hear about the results.
MCR John B. drew on his experience as both a Waste Collector and a Collections Inspector with the City to give us a talk about collector safety. He touched on some common problems, like snow and ice, and gave us some simple tips to help our neighbourhood collectors through the year. John also explained the reason behind some of the quirky restrictions on bag size, container type, and garbage enclosures.

John also explained the purpose of the new facility at Kennedale Waste operations, answered questions, and took MCRs on a quick tour around the building.

Thanks, John!

Rodney and Sarah would also like to extend their thanks to everyone who joined us. We had a fabulous time, and we hope you did too. To those who were unable to attend, we hope to see you next time!
To make our next event as fun and engaging as possible, please share your opinions on our MCR Potluck Survey.

Friday, February 7, 2014

Is The Path To Your Trash Safe?

Slips and falls during the winter are a common cause of waste collector and pedestrian injuries, and they can be prevented with the help of residents.

Waste collectors work 10-hour shifts, getting in and out trucks to lift 20-kilogram garbage bags all day. Maneuvering on slippery ice makes their job more challenging and even dangerous.

The City of Edmonton thanks residents for playing their part in keeping collectors safe and reminds them of simple things they can do to help:
  • Clear snow from collection area/garbage stands and spread sand on icy surfaces.
  • Put bags/cans on level ground and as close to the street or alley as possible, not on top of windrows and snow piles.
  • Avoid placing waste on slippery areas near downspouts and sump pump discharge pipes.
Residents with front street pick-up are asked to park vehicles off the street on their collection day. Vehicles parked on the street force collectors to carry heavy cans and bags greater distances.

Under Edmonton’s Community Standards bylaw, homeowners have to clear ice and snow from sidewalks right down to the pavement within 48 hours of a snowfall.

For more information about waste collection please visit

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Down with Dog Food Cans by MCR Leigh-Ann T.

Down with dog food cans - make your own dog food instead

Pet food cans have got to be one of the smelliest and messiest items to clean for recycling – even if you use the dishwasher. With two dogs and a cat, cans seemed to make up about 50% of the contents in my weekly blue bag. I decided to lose the cans.

Dogs are not picky eaters - quite the opposite – most are very appreciative eaters, gourmands, you might say. Unlike children and spouses, they don’t comment on what was overdone or under spiced, or how tired they are of your menu choices. No, dogs attack their meals with gusto and tail wagging. Really, it’s surprisingly gratifying to cook for your dogs.

First, a few cautions:
  • ·Most dogs will overeat if given the chance, and overweight dogs face the same health problems we do. A great local brand of dry dog kibble is the mainstay of my dogs’ diet. This way I know they are getting all the base nutrients they require. To supplement that, they get about a 2:1 ratio of dry kibble to homemade food.
  • Many human foods can be harmful, or even poisonous, to dogs.
    • This includes onions, garlic, chives, green potatoes, salt, sugar or honey, corn cobs, tomatoes, rhubarb, other fruits such as apples, apricots, cherries, peaches, pears (the seeds can cause cyanide poisoning), grapes or raisins, avocados, bread dough or yeast (expands in their stomach), raw eggs, anything with caffeine, chocolate or xylitol, broccoli (okay only in small quantities as it may cause stomach upset), raw eggs, meat with bones that can shatter, dairy products and fatty foods such as chicken or turkey skin, bacon, hot dogs, or deep fried foods (can cause pancreatitis in dogs), nuts (a little peanut butter is okay), mushrooms, or raw fish.[1]
    • This list may seem daunting, but if you think in terms of cooked, low fat meats and most green and orange vegetables you can’t go wrong. Always check with your veterinarian, especially if your dog has any health problems.
Now to the good stuff:

My first experiments with homemade dog food started this past summer with raw carrots, peas and green beans from our community garden. Both my dogs loved them, and I crossed the expensive, store bought dog treats off the shopping list. Then I tried cooking up a pot of lean hamburger, carrots and peas, with some water to make a gravy, and mixed this with their dry kibble instead of canned dog food. It was a hit.

I did a rough calculation of the possible savings – let’s say 25 cans of dog food per month, at about $1.50 per can = $37.50 per month, versus about $12 for a large package of hamburger, stewing beef, chicken, minced turkey, or other meat, plus $7 for a bag of fresh carrots and a pack of frozen no-name peas or green beans = $19, or a savings of about $18 per month. Not to mention 25 less cans in the blue bag.

When I’ve cooked up a big batch of doggie stew I keep 4-5 days’ worth in the fridge and freeze the rest to defrost as needed. Once a week or so they get cooked eggs or other leftovers. They also love roasted or boiled sweet potatoes, pumpkin and other winter squash, brown rice, and even kale and brussel sprouts (in small quantities). They've yet to complain, and cooking for such an appreciative audience is a pleasure! Now to try homemade cat food - a fussier clientele for sure, but getting rid of smelly cat food cans will be worth a little culinary effort.

[1] Source: Delta Community Animal Shelter. Available:

Leigh-Ann T. completed the MCR course in 2011. Since then, she's volunteered with the City of Edmonton's grasscycling campaign, participated in workshops and presentations, and written several articles about waste reduction.