In your Grade 4 science class, you likely learned the importance of proper waste management and how the three R’s – reduce, reuse, and recycle can help to divert waste from the landfill.
The importance of diverting waste from the landfill is evident in the fact that the less waste that is deposited, the less methane and greenhouse gases will be generated from the decomposition of that waste.
Not only will waste diversion lead to less greenhouse gas emissions, but diverting waste from landfills can also mean less space taken up within the landfill and less toxins generated from its decomposition.
Within the City of Red Deer’s Environmental Master Plan, released in 2011 to promote sustainability within the City, waste and its management is addressed with the hopes of reducing residential and corporate waste and increasing diversion of waste from the landfill.
Janet Whitesell, waste management superintendent for the City of Red Deer, explained the City has a number of waste diversion programs in place.
Programs such as the blue box recycling program, the yard waste collection program, as well as the recent composting pilot project all aim to reduce the amount of garbage and waste collecting in the landfill.
By recycling paper, cans, and bottles – this in turn will keep those items from taking up valuable space in the landfill which currently has 50-60 years of capacity left at the current rate of waste diversion.
“We have lots of disposal capacity currently and if we keep it that way and keep our diversion programs strong there is the potential to never need to build another landfill,” said Whitesell.
Yard waste can also be a space killer with Whitesell explaining how the City gathers the yard waste clippings and in turn composts it at the Waste Management Facility located on 40th Ave. across from the former landfill and current Oxbows Off Leash Dog Park.
The Environmental Master Plan states that in 2009, 10% per tonne of waste was being diverted from the landfill; in 2011 this number increased to 15% of waste being diverted. However, in 2012 they saw a decrease in that number back down to 12%.
The City hopes to increase waste diverted from the landfill to 30% by 2020 and 50% by 2035.
To reach these goals a number of programs are being put into place.
Whitesell also explained how the City has plans to capture the methane being released by the decomposition of waste at the landfill and hopes to begin construction next summer as they are currently in the detail design phase of their landfill gas recovery program.
“It will include drilling wells into the waste to collect and vacuum the methane from the bottom of the pile, as the older waste generates more methane,” she said.
“We would then connect all of the wells and pipe that gas.”
Other cities in Alberta, such as Edmonton, have been employing this tactic since as early as 1992. Edmonton’s old landfill currently has 60 active methane wells and collects enough landfill gas to fill the equivalent of 8,000 hot air balloons per day.
The City of Edmonton has been commended provincially for their Waste-to-Biofuels and Chemicals Facility, which is the first industrial scale waste-to-biofuels facility in the world to turn household garbage into biofuels and biochemicals.
The facility sees an army of employees sorting through residential trash on large conveyor belts everyday to pick out recyclables and compostable objects.
According to the City of Edmonton’s web site, this facility is responsible for the diversion of 60% of residential waste from landfills through recycling and composting with hopes to increase that diversion rate to 90% by 2016.
Whitesell explained that, “Once we pick your waste up from your house, that’s going straight to the landfill – we don’t sort through it.”
This means it is important for residents to monitor their own waste management practices.
Reducing consumption of non-recyclable goods, reusing products and recycling metals, plastics and paper will all help to reduce waste added to the landfill.
Whitesell stated she believes the future of waste management for Red Deer is bright, with hopes to roll out an automated waste collection program by 2016 in which a truck would pick up your waste as opposed to a person.
“The shift in mindset of seeing waste a resource and not just as something we have to bury and finding those things we can do with that waste and even not generating that waste in the first place is very important,” said Whitesell on the future of waste management in Red Deer.
The City also hopes to roll out their organics diversion program next spring, with Whitesell explaining this will be an integral part to waste diversion from the landfill.
“As much as 40 per cent of what people put in their garbage is organic and could potentially be composted.”