Solid Waste & Recycling

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Bags, Bins, Carts & Containers: Curbside Organics Recovery

Spruce Grove is the first community in the province of Alberta to implement a full curbside organics collection program. From April to October, all 4,957 households have weekly household food and yard...


Spruce Grove is the first community in the province of Alberta to implement a full curbside organics collection program. From April to October, all 4,957 households have weekly household food and yard waste pick up using a semi-automated collection vehicle.

Background

In 1999 Spruce Grove hired KC Environmental Group Ltd., an Edmonton, Alberta-based environmental engineering firm to conduct a public communications program to gauge interest about a proposed organics recycling program. A survey was printed in a short brochure format and delivered to each household. Residents returned 342 surveys. KC Environmental also conducted 100 phone interviews to ensure the responses in the mail back brochures were representative. The response was overwhelming, with a majority of respondents who would support an organics collection program to supplement the recycling program.

The program

In April 2001 Spruce Grove provided each household with one 245 litre (65 gallon) plastic organic cart courtesy of Rehrig Pacific Company, based in Lunenburg, Nova Scotia. Rehrig provided training and support for cart assembly and delivery, which took about two weeks with typically a five-person crew working 12-hour days.

In the first year of this program, 1,113 tonnes of material were collected, which represents a 35 per cent reduction in waste disposal.

Canadian Waste Services provide collection services to take the organics for processing to KC Environmental’s sister company Cleanit Greenit Composting System Inc. The company specializes in composting industrial and commercial non-hazardous, organic feedstocks and is the first commercial composter in Edmonton.

Of the organic feedstock diverted to the composting facility, 780 tonnes were converted to Grade “A” Compost and prepared for sale.

Critical communication

A key element to the programs success was a comprehensive public communication program delivered by KC Environmental Group Ltd. with support and training from Rehrig, which developed this type of program in Atlantic Canada for the past five years. (See “Organics Collection” in the October/ November 2000 edition.)

The communication program involved seven main components: literature development (featuring slogans like “When in doubt, leave it out” and “Spruce up Spruce Grove”), school education, hotline training, cart delivery, curbside monitoring (participation, contamination, and tonnage), promotional events, and hotline calls.

An important aspect of the program that was critical to communicate to the residents was the cart rejection procedure. Residents were told that if carts were contaminated they would not be picked up. KC Environmental worked with the hauler to document violating cart numbers and contaminants. When residents called and asked why their carts weren’t picked up, the hotline operator could provide specific information, such as the cart was full of plastic ice cream buckets. This aspect was crucial to reducing contaminant levels.

Data indicates that 44 per cent of households participated in the first week of the program and 46 per cent participated in the second week. Only 3 per cent of the total carts at curbside were contaminated in the first week, and just one per cent in the second week. Overall, contamination has been distinct, i.e., a cart full of garbage bags rather than the odd piece of plastic or metal.

Future program improvements that have been discussed include expanding the program year round (to reduce public education costs), implementing ongoing program monitoring, and exploring ways to increase the participation rate.

Kirstin Castro-Wunsch, P. Eng. is with KC Environmental Group Ltd., based in Edmonton, Alberta.


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