Solid Waste & Recycling


Integrated Waste Management

On March 30, 1999, Edmonton Mayor Bill Smith and Greg Muldoon, CEO of Browning-Ferris Industries (BFI), opened the new $12-million Materials Recovery Facility (MRF) in Edmonton, Alberta. The MRF, one ...

On March 30, 1999, Edmonton Mayor Bill Smith and Greg Muldoon, CEO of Browning-Ferris Industries (BFI), opened the new $12-million Materials Recovery Facility (MRF) in Edmonton, Alberta. The MRF, one of the largest in North America for processing mixed recyclables, will operate in conjunction with a co-composter as part of an integrated waste management system that is unique to the world.

Connie Boyce, public education supervisor of the waste management branch for the City of Edmonton, says, “Together the new facilities may make Edmonton the first major city in Canada to exceed the national waste reduction target of 50 per cent diversion from landfill by the year 2000.”

Approved by City Council in 1994, the MRF is a public-private business partnership. BFI built and has a contract to operate the plant for ten years.


In November 1996, the city issued a Request for Proposal to finance, develop and operate the MRF. Seven companies expressed an interest and two submitted proposals.

The criteria used to select the company focused on nine areas: cost, experience, local and social benefits, financial resources and stability, management plan, operation plan, materials marketing plan, construction and performance testing, and technical feasibility and reliability.

Prior to the operation of the new MRF, Edmonton was diverting 14 per cent of household waste through its Blue Box and depot programs. With the MRF in full operation, a diversion rate of 18 per cent is expected.

The facility

The MRF can process up to 40,000 tonnes of recyclables per year, collected from Edmonton’s new Blue Bag program and the community depots.

A mix of manual and automated mechanical processes are used. The plant features an automated bag breaker; the blue bags and other film plastic are removed manually.

Because the new technology at the MRF enables the acceptance of a wide variety of recyclables, residents are able to use bags, which allow for higher volumes to be put out.

A vibrating conveyor called a “bounce adherence separator” separates containers from paper materials (including newsprint, magazines, office paper, cardboard, boxboard and polycoated milk cartons). The paper products are then sorted by hand.

Screens, a magnetic trommel, an eddie current separator and a cyclone separator (that separates lightweight from heavy materials) sort the containers (including cans, plastics, glass and aluminum) both manually and mechanically.

The size of the plant is 5,920 square metres (64,000 square feet).


The cost of the recycling program is competitive with landfill disposal on a lifecycle cost analysis basis. The total cost to develop and build the MRF was $12.5-million ($1-million of which was spent on the purchase, development and servicing of the site).

Special staff

The total permanent employment created is 46 full-time positions. As the chosen contractor for the MRF, BFI is working in partnership with Chrysalis, an Alberta society for citizens with disabilities, and will provide work experience and vocational training for disabled youth throughout the ten-year contract.

End markets

The city will receive 75 per cent of all gross revenues from the sales. The City will pay from $90 to $96 per tonne of recyclables processed.

At today’s values, the total gross revenues from the sale of recyclables could approach $1-million per year.

According to Boyce, almost 90 per cent of the materials will be sold to local industries, including Alberta Newsprint, Altasteeel, Allied Paper Savers and BPCO.

During its first 3 months of operation, the MRF processed approximately 8,000 tonnes of recyclables (approximately 130 tonnes per day, or 17 tonnes per hour).

Written by Connie Vitello, editor of this magazine.

Print this page

Related Posts

Have your say:

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *