Wednesday, March 15, 2017

MCRs Tour Kennedale Eco Station

Almost forty MCRs (and MCRs-to-be!) and their friends braved an early-March snow storm to come for a tour of Kennedale Eco Station.

We were met by Andy, Hal and Chris, who showed us around, answered all of our questions and helped teach us what Edmontonians should know about coming to an Eco Station!

After a brief overview in the Kennedale lunch room, we bundled up against the cold and put on our safety gear. We then split up into three groups and got started!

Kathleen and Faical S. are two of our new 2017 volunteers! They're excited to start the MCR training.
Outside, we visited the entry kiosk and looked at some of the large bins, where things like scrap metal and lumber are collected. We also made a stop in the Reuse Area, where we chatted about what happens to still-usable items when they are dropped off at an Eco Station. With permission from the resident, those items are made available to others for reuse. We also chatted about the partnership between Eco Stations and the Reuse Centre, and the difference between the two different reuse opportunities.

Inside the main drop-off building, we learned a lot more about what Edmontonians can bring to an Eco Station, and how staff process those items.

Andy, Supervisor of Ambleside Eco Station, chats with his tour group about what happens when customers drive in with their items.
Eco Station staff are trained to accept and handle a wide variety of waste, including household chemicals. Cleaners, pest control products, motor oil, antifreeze and other potentially hazardous chemicals should never be thrown in the garbage or poured down the drain.

Motor oil can be dropped off at any Eco Station for free, and should never be placed in your regular garbage.
Staff place chemicals on labelled tables as customers drop them off, to avoid contamination and dangerous reactions. For this reason, Eco Stations ask that all chemicals be left in their original containers. This way, staff always know what they are dealing with.

Andy describes how chemicals are sorted by type.
For our safety, we were cautioned not to touch the tables or containers, as they might contain traces of corrosive or poisonous chemicals. Staff wear gloves, safety goggles, and protective Tyvex suits to keep safe while handling these items.

A drum full of household chemicals.
Chemicals of the same type are packaged together in large drums. When full, the drums will be sealed and shipped for processing elsewhere. Some chemicals can be recycled, while others are incinerated as hazardous waste at a facility in Swan Hills.

Hal, Supervisor of Kennedale Eco Station, opens up a drum of batteries.
Like other items, batteries are collected in drums and separated by type to avoid dangerous chemical interactions. This includes small household batteries, as well as the specialized batteries for laptops, cell phones and power tools. They will all be shipped to private companies for recycling. Different companies provide services for different types of batteries.

Cell phone batteries get removed, and the remaining hardware is collected in large, pallet-sized boxes. This one is about four feet tall, and about 3/4 full.
Some electronics like computers are kept in secure areas to protect personal information that might remain stored on the device. Televisions are put on pallets and wrapped for safe transport, while other small household electronics are stored in bins outside.

"White goods" like fridges, freezers and air conditioners can emit CFCs, or chlorofluorocarbons, into the atmosphere. This can be damaging to the ozone layer so these items are processed separately. Other large appliances are also collected.

All electronics collected at Eco Stations will be packaged and sent to Global Electric Electronic Processing (GEEP), a facility that is housed at the Edmonton Waste Management Centre. Employees working at GEEP dismantle all of the electronics and separate the various materials for recycling. They recover metals like gold, aluminum and copper, as well as other materials like plastic and glass.

Fluorescent bulbs are collected in large cardboard tubes to await processing.
Fluorescent bulbs are collected and run through a bulb crusher, which grinds up the glass and captures the mercury inside so it can be recycled or disposed of safely. All light bulbs, even those that don't contain mercury, should be taken to an Eco Station.
Chris, Lead Hand at Kennedale Eco Station, describes how the bulb crusher (pictured in the background) works.
Flourescent light ballasts are examined carefully before sorting. Old ballasts require special processing because they may contain polychlorinated biphynyls (PCBs), which are considered hazardous. Modern light ballasts are handled like other electronics.

This bag contains fluorescent light ballasts for special disposal.
After the tour, our three groups met back in the lunch room, where we were able to ask a few more questions, and chat with each other about what we had seen. Andy finished off our tour with his top tips to share for your next Eco Station visit:
  1. Do your research. Eco Stations accept a wide variety of items! Many customers arrive and are surprised by what they could have brought in.
  2. Handle your waste safely. Always keep chemicals in their original containers and never mix them. Transport chemicals in a sturdy box, rather than plastic bags, to reduce the chances of spills.
  3. Sort your material. Put chemicals together in one box, electronics in another and so on. This will make your visit quick and easy! 
  4. Be patient. Eco stations are popular so please allow for extra time during busy periods. Staff are working hard to serve residents as efficiently as possible!
  5. Start with the 3Rs at home! Many usable items are dropped off at Eco Stations. Save time, save money, and save the planet by limiting what you purchase, reusing the things you have, and donating items to others.
Thank you to everyone who joined us, and special thanks go out to Andy, Hal, and Chris for organizing and hosting our tour!

-Photographs provided by MCR program staff

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