When I started the Master Composter Recycler program, I didn’t know that I would learn so much more than recycling. Part of the program’s objective is to teach people not only to reduce waste but to also reuse. Composting is also part of reusing your food, yard waste and animal waste to turn it into food for the plants. Most importantly compost gives organic matter back to the earth and helps plants fight disease. It is a natural alternative to pesticides and herbicides.

Composting for Canada coverI was so surprised when I began to learn more and more about different ways of composting. There is so much to learn! One could write a book about this stuff….just like fellow Edmontonian Suzanne Lewis. Her book ‘Composting for Canada’ is quite handy and worth picking up if you’re considering composting.

There are so many ways of composting and you can decide what works for you, depending on your living conditions and whether you want your system indoors or outdoors, seasonally or all year round. In making your decision, you have to take into consideration the climate, especially the winters in Edmonton. 

The City of Edmonton does a great job of composting the waste that its own residents produce. You can buy compost from the City. If you think about it, what you are paying for is the waste you threw away. So perhaps it’s time you started your own composting. 

A good place to start is the John Janzen Nature Centre where they hold composting workshops. You can use the compost toilet while you are there. Happy Composting!

Since taking the Master Composter Recycler (MCR) course through the City of Edmonton, I have become more aware of everything to do with waste wherever I go. A few months ago I was visiting Nassau, the capital of The Bahamas. I had just finished drinking a cold beverage and was looking around for a plastic recycling bin. I asked a nearby vendor where I could find a recycling bin and she told me to throw it inside the garbage as there were no recycling bins around.

Even though I didn’t find anyone who could tell me how they deal with waste, the fact that recycling bins were a rare sight meant that their waste management wasn’t yet vigilant or responsible on recycling.

I also visited the island of Exuma which is less IMG_8103remote than Nassau. During a conversation with a local resident I was told that there is no sewage system. A service truck visits each household collecting all the bio waste and a separate truck collects the garbage. One of the reasons that they use sceptic tanks is because homes are very far apart and it would be too expensive to install all the pipelines throughout the entire island to have an adequate sewer system.

I also looked everywhere for recycling bins here but didn’t see a single bin. However, on the day of my departure while at the airport, a sign caught my eye. There was a simple hand written statement to encourage people to pick up caps, bottles and cans. Since the main income generator to the economy is tourism it’s no wonder that the campaign is centred around preserving the ocean and its species.

There was also a large framed mosaic of plastic caps used as an art piece. What a creative way to reuse garbage!
 It is encouraging to see that the campaign was done by school children. It means a new generation is being taught to be aware that waste should be properly disposed of and that waste affects our environment. That plastic caps mosaic was like a glimmer of hope that there is a new era of environmentally conscious young people in the making. It was enough to satisfy a Master Composter Recycler on vacation. Even though my mind didn’t take a vacation from thinking like one!

There have been a few times that I have thrown away something either in the garbage or recycling but was left with a feeling that its purpose or job wasn’t yet done. I often get this kind of feeling when something still looks new and I always wish I knew someone who would want to use it. So I must say it was quite exciting to find out about Re-Use Centres in Edmonton.

IMG_2791This is where you can bring all kinds of stuff that is in good condition for others to re-use.  So if you have things that are in good condition but you no longer have need for them, you can take it to the Re-Use Centre.

I took a trip to one of the centres with the Master Composter Recycler group. I can tell you that it was like finding a treasure box. I started getting ideas just looking at all kinds of stuff in there; arts and craft materials, puzzles, vinyl records, board games, tiles, trophies etc.

For example, I could use the trophies as a form of recognition in a workshop program that I am planning for young IMG_2794people. It would be quite affordable to be able to do something special like that. You can pay five dollars ($5.00) to pick up to 50kg worth of stuff or if you are a non-profit organisation that uses the service often, you can pay fifty dollars ($50.00) for 25 visits per year.

You only pay when you take things from the Re-Use Centre but you don’t pay to drop off the stuff you no longer need. Not everything is accepted at the Re-Use Centre though. The Re-Use Centre has a list of accepted items and as for the rest of the stuff, the Re-Use Directory can give you a guide of organisations that would be happy to give certain things a stretch of life. http://www.edmonton.ca/programs_services/garbage_waste/reuse-centre.aspx

You can also get ideas of stuff you can reuse and how you can turn it to different objects. http://reuseitedmonton.blogspot.ca/

Tiles could add accents to your wall or floor.
For times when you really want to follow your own fashion style, patterns can be of help.

This is truly an example of how one’s garbage is another’s treasure. I think it’s important that before you throw anything away, you should ask yourself if it’s for Recycle or Reuse. Recycling is manufacturing a material into new products but Re-Use involves no processing at all, the items just change owners/users and sometimes, roles.

Imagine if you were that item and your owner no longer needed you. Would you prefer to get crushed and melted and lose your form or would you rather be taken by a new owner who treasures you and gives you a life you deserve, to serve your purpose of what you were made to do?

So if you are getting rid of stuff at home or office, think “RE-USE.” There’s even a place that will take used building materials. Wouldn’t it be nice to know that your door knob that is still in a good condition has gone on to adorn another family’s home at an affordable price?

IMG_2793If you don’t live in a place that has a Re-Use Centre, may be you can plan a Re-Use Fair at a community centre. I know that the City of Edmonton has grants that you can apply for whether as an individual or community league. You could get up to $500 to help organise your Re-Use fair.

I am going to volunteer at one Re-Use Fair this weekend, Sunday June 13th, 2015. So come drop off stuff that is still in good condition but you no longer need. But remember, please check this list to see what is being accepted at this particular event. http://www.edmonton.ca/programs_services/documents/PDF/Acceptable_list_Reuse_Fair_2015_King_Edward_Park.pdf

I hope to see you there!

With weather warming up, I am finally feeling confident that there won’t be any snow storm surprises in Edmonton. Which means it’s time to spruce things up. Sprucing things up is different for everyone. For some, it may be picking new clothing items for their wardrobe, changing hairstyles, repainting a house, buying new furniture or simply turning your place inside out for thorough cleaning. It seems this time of the year brings out a need for renewal and rejuvenation. I am definitely going to spruce up the deck, make it cozy enough to stay out all day and have dinner outside or invite friends over for drinks and good conversation.

One day’s worth of grass collected from the whole city.

There are many changes that people make this time of the year and that is why it’s during this time that the City of Edmonton collects the highest volume of garbage. One would think the high volume of garbage stems from all the renovations and old stuff we throw away to make way for the new. However, the main culprit is grass from lawn mowing. Grass from mowing becomes a huge burden to the City of Edmonton’s Waste Management. In the summer, about 40% of all residential waste is grass. Each collector picks up waste from about 700 homes each day. When garbage collection goes up, it also costs more. This is why the City of Edmonton is encouraging residents to go bagless this summer. That means you leave your grass clippings on the lawn.  You’ll be “grasscycling.”

Besides reducing waste and costs, grasscycling will also make your lawn happy. The basic rule is to mow often and high. Try to mow no more than one-third of the grass blade at one time. There are two reasons for mowing high.

  • Mowing is like pruning a plant. It is healthier to cut only a small part of the plant at one time. This keeps the plants from going into shock. Grass can take a lot of shock, but it will not thicken while it recovers.
  • Mowing high helps the grass out-compete weeds like clover and dandelion.

If you decide to grasscycle, keep your mower blade sharp. A dull blade shreds the grass and can cause moisture loss, slow recovery and brown tips.

So are you going to let the grass clippings go back to the environment and give yourself more time? It will be less work for you; buying bags, bagging and dragging the heavy bags to the curb. You can learn more on grasscycling and get tips on taking care of your yard in a more environmentally friendly way on the City of Edmonton website. http://www.edmonton.ca/residential_neighbourhoods/gardens_lawns_trees/grasscycling.aspx

I hope you get inspired to let it all hang out and go bagless this summer!! My Master Composter Recycler classes ended but I learnt so much and I shall continue sharing.

Before starting the Master Composter Recycler program, I didn’t have a clue about what goes where. So everything went into the garbage bag including household hazardous waste like oven cleaners, paints, batteries, light bulbs etc.,  which are supposed to be taken to an Eco station.

Eco stations also accept things like computer equipment, car parts, mattresses, sofas and other household appliances. If you are not sure about whether the Eco Station will take your furniture items, you can go directly to the Edmonton Waste Management Centre (EWMC). Just remember that you pay to leave your garbage at EWMC. It takes machinery, energy and manpower to process these things properly.

There are reasons why lots of stuff go to Eco Stations instead of being picked up with your garbage collection; one of the most important one is making sure it’s safe for collectors. In Edmonton, they pick  up between 14,000 to 22,000 kg of waste every work day. Here are a few things residents can do to help make the collections safe.

Keep it light.  -Each bag of your garbage or recycling should weigh ess than 20kg. If you can’t carry one bag with one hand then split it.  -Bundles of tree trimmings should be bundled together securely

Use the right garbage can  -If your garbage can is too large it could cause injuries. It must be under 100 litres in volume.

Package sharp objects  -Things like broken mirrors or nails should be packaged together in a cardboard box and label “Sharps”

Don’t Overfill  -Your garbage should easily come out of the can/bin.

There are so many dos and don’ts but these few are quite easy to remember. I also found out that you can buddy up with your neighbour to reduce the number of stops for collectors. And while Rodney (our volunteer coordinator) was talking about buddying up, I was having all kinds of different scenarios happening in my imagination. One of them was a situation where you have a paranoid neighbour who sees you collecting their garbage bags and putting them in front your house with your garbage.

Then they start running after you, asking what you are doing with their garbage…and then it causes an uncomfortable garbage scenario…ha…ha.   So I think it’s best to talk to your neighbour and say “hey, did you know that neighbours can buddy up for garbage collection?” Then you explain that it’s quite a great idea for a number of households to put all their garbage bags in one place to reduce stops for the collection truck.

I know that sometimes the truck is collecting just when you’re getting out of the driveway on your way to work.  If you’re behind it and it’s stopping in front of every house along that block and there are cars parked on the side; you can’t pass…then you will definitely be late for work. It has happened to me more than once. This is a situation that could be avoided if you buddy up your garbage bags! Am sure your garbage bags like having buddies too. Anyways, I hope you keep garbage collection safe for those who collect it for us.

I found this image funny and ironic. I think it's fitting for a story about garbage. (Hwange, Zimbabwe)
I found this image funny and ironic. I think it’s fitting for a story about garbage. (Hwange, Zimbabwe)

My upbringing taught me that if I saw a piece of paper on the ground, I should pick it and throw it in the bin; even if I wasn’t the one who dropped it. So I cringe every time someone takes the last bite of something and just throw the wrapper to the ground and continue walking or when someone throws rubbish out of their car through the window instead of waiting until they find a bin to discard of it.

When I moved to Canada I found out that there is a system to how one discards of their household garbage. I was also introduced to recycling which I didn’t know much about. I soon learnt that bottles go in their own bin, then plastics and papers separately and then garbage also goes to its own bin.

It seemed easy because the recycling bins had posters of what you could throw in there and what went where…that was straight forward for the most part, except when the item you needed to discard of didn’t feature in any of the stickers on those bins (confused face).

So I must say that a lot of stuff that is supposed to be recycled ended up being collected as garbage. I also thought a lot of what really happens after all the stuff has been collected. I tend to ponder a lot on behind-the-scenes of everything. It’s like watching a commercial on television and wondering who wrote that, what were they thinking and how did they write it in a way that whoever directed it knew how the creator envisioned it and that the director would make sure the actors brought the vision to life? Questions, questions and more questions.

Anyways, let’s get back to garbage talk. So I felt uncomfortable dealing with garbage. I didn’t have confidence about what goes where and I was bothered by the feeling. In today’s world humans produce so much waste. Living has lots of waste that comes with it. So I felt that if this is going to be part of my everyday life why not find out more about it and learn to treat garbage properly.

I believe that everything in life needs to be treated properly, with respect and love. I found out a few good things about recycling. It takes garbage away from the landfill to making other products, composting and creating biofuels; among other things. I’m not a genius on environmental issues but if treating garbage properly can somehow treat the earth a little gentler, then why not learn more about this recycling business?

I found out about the City of Edmonton’s Master Composter Recycler Program where you get to learn all about waste and what happens to it after it leaves your sight. I applied and I was accepted. It’s a volunteer program where you take all that you learn and share it with others. So I’ll be sharing great garbage stories for the next few months.

I came across this cool story about how people give life to other people’s garbage.