Phone: 780-442-6468

Happy Holidays from the Edmonton Waste Management Centre of Excellence!

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While Santa has been busy loading up his sleigh with Christmas presents, we, too, have been busy wrapping up an exciting year at

the Edmonton Waste Management Centre of Excellence (EWMCE).

The EWMCE facilitates perfection of sustainable waste solutions – providing a bridge between practitioners and the emerging

intellectual capacity of the world. Working in both the Wastewater and Solid Waste areas, the EWMCE provides key technology

selection and operational excellence services, including:

  • Strategic practitioner-based research;

  • Education and Training;

  • Advisory Services;

  • Testing; Technology Verification; and Certification.

We’re staffed by a diverse team of researchers, educators, and innovators who are fueled by a passion for their craft. That passion, in tandem with each staff's skills and abilities, makes for an incredible organization and has the potential to change the way the world views waste.

The New Year will continue to keep us busy with new projects, our Education and Training calendar, and some exciting changes coming to

our website!

From the EWMCE family to yours, we wish you a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

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Click here to learn more about our staff and the work we do.

Commercial and Business: The Next

 Wave of Waste Diversion By Kentson Yan

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Municipal solid waste (MSW), also known as garbage, rubbish, refuse, trash, sustainable materialsand resources, are

materials generated typically non-hazardous from households, commercial properties, and other users in a community or

municipality.MSW (from both residential and non-residential sources) to landfill sites instead of composting or recycling in

2014; an increase of 0.5 million tonnes from 2012. This equates to about 707 kg wastes landfilled per capita.

In Canada, the total amount of waste generated and the waste generation per capita has continued to increase over the

years. Compared to European countries (like Germany) that have made considerable success in waste diversion 

(EEA 2009), Canada is lagging. The Conference Board of Canada (2013) ranked Canada’s solid waste management 

activities last out of 17 similarly developed countries. 

Diverting MSW from landfills through prevention, reduction, and recycling/composting activities has many

environmental, social, and economical benefits, such as less demand for natural resources, creating green jobs enabling a

 ‘greener’ economy, and reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

Many communities and municipalities focus most of their attention to develop waste diversion programs and systems that

target  the residential sector (see “Emerging best practices in waste management from Canadian municipalities”below). 

This is primarily because the residential sector is within a community’s or municipality’s authorization. 

However, the non-residential sector tends to generate more MSW than the residential sector and has huge potentials to

achieve waste diversion targets and goals. In a report commissioned by the Canadian Council of Ministers for the

Environment (CCME), State of Waste Management in Canada, the report mentions that the “CCME’s CAP EPR

[Canada-wide Action Plan for Extended Producer Responsibility] does not target the ICI sector…. And could be considered the

remaining gap in coverage and a potential opportunity…”.

For example, of the 25.1 million tonnes of MSW sent to landfills in 2014 for Canada, over 60% (15.1 million tonnes) were from non-residential sources. The non-residential source is composed of two major sources: 1) institutional, commercial, and industrial (ICI), and 2) construction and demolition (C&D).

Some provinces have focused their attention on the ICI sector such as the Province of Nova Scotia, Quebec, and Ontario and some municipalities such as Calgary and MetroVancouver. The National Zero Waste Council has provided a toolkit, known as the Circular Economy Business Toolkit, that assist business and commercial to further their waste diversion activities. The eAcademy also provides a workshop on developing a zero waste framework.

The ICI (industrial, commercial, and institutional) are waste generated by commercial operations such as shopping centres, restaurants, and offices; and institutional waste generated by schools, hospitals, and government facilities. For any businesses within the ICI, to ensure a system-based, resource-efficient approach, a four-phase process is recommended when implementing (or improving) a waste diversion program:

  1. Characterize and assess current successes and challenges;

  2. Develop a diversion conceptual plan and strategy;

  3. Pilot key aspects of the plan; and

  4. Monitor performance and refine improvements

Characterization is ultimately the first key step in developing and improving waste diversion systems. You can’t change

what you don’t know.

About Kentson Yan

Kentson Yan is a Research and Development Engineer at the EWMCE. He has experience in the fields of waste characterization, greenhouse gas emissions/carbon accounting, and biosolids management.

Anaerobic digestion facility coming to

 Edmonton in 2017

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The Edmonton composting facility currently produces high quality compost used in agriculture and horticulture from 160,000 tonnes of organic waste and biosolids every year. In 2017, the City of Edmonton will open its new High Solids Anaerobic Digestion Facilitywhich will increase the city’s organic waste processing capacity by 48,000 tonnes, reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 51,600 tonnes per year, remove odours created from the process using biofilters, and aid in diverting 90 per cent of municipal waste from landfills by


A waste diversion method, anaerobic digestion, like composting, is a fermentation process that uses microorganisms to break down organic, biodegradable materials. It differs from composting because the environment is sealed and oxygen-free, allowing for the collection of biogas produced during fermentation. The anaerobic digestion facility creates an environment that prevents greenhouse gases from escaping into the atmosphere, resulting in energy production and reduced air pollution. A high solids facility is specifically engineered to breakdown organic materials from the solid waste stream that have a high biogas potential like foodwaste. The majority of this biogas is methane (natural gas) that can be used as fuel.

This organic material will be shredded and placed in an airtight, concrete container for approximately one month where it will be continually moistened and heated to promote methane generation. After digestion, the remaining solids, known as digestate, are then removed from the concrete container and transferred to another container, where they are dried and aerated before being treated the same as other composted organics used as fertilizer.

What results from the process is a combination of biogas and digestate. Digestate is a stable, nutrient-rich substance and can be used for a range of products and purposes: most usefully as a fertiliser, rich in nutrients, but also as feedstock for ethanol production, and in low-grade building materials like fibreboard. The biogas produced during this process is captured and burned in an adjoining power plant – the heat from the plant will go back into the facility. The methane can also be captured and used as fuel or returned to the grid.

Anaerobic digestion achieves reduced GHG emissions through the capture and displacement of biogas, which can be collected and combusted for electrical and thermal energy, and through the reduction of landfill methane emissions under uncontrolled conditions.

The new facility will process 48,000 tonnes of organic waste annually, which generates 8.5 million kWh of net electrical energy and 42,650 GJ of net thermal energy.

Annually, the project is slated to reduce Alberta’s GHG emissions by 51,600 tonnes per year – which will also benefit the city’s revenue

 through the province’s carbon

offset program.

Located at the Edmonton Waste Management Centre, the High Solids Anaerobic Digestion Facility is a partnership between the City of Edmonton and the University of Alberta – both of which will increase their waste diversion rates and reduce GHG emissions through this project.

*Cover image via

Waste-free Ontario: Does Bill 151 spell the end of the Blue Box?

by Daryl McCartney

Camped-out in Western Canada, I’ve been hearing dire news for the Blue Box as we know it in Ontario. One comment I heard was, “The move to full producer responsibility could put municipalities out of the recyclables collection business – a loss of ownership if you will.” While it seemed odd to me that the Province would jeopardize such a well-established staple in our waste reduction portfolio, I thought it was time for me to review the new Waste-Free Ontario Act to see if there were any major threats to municipal recycling as we know it. While there is some uncertainty surrounding Bill 151 and its details, it appears the Province is strongly encouraging key stakeholders, e.g. producers and municipalities, to work together to maintain the effectiveness and efficiencies achieved through Blue Box programs. The following is a brief summary and review of what I found.

Background on Bill 151 Waste-Free Ontario Act

Bill 151 Waste-Free Ontario Act passed into law on June 1
st, 2016. The legislation aims to stimulate a move towards a Circular Economy in Ontario and this aligns with some of the recent thinking coming out of other jurisdictions in Canada. The high-level drivers in the legislation are (1) a zero waste philosophy; and (2) the notion of zero greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from the waste sector. A key piece of the philosophy is the move to a full producer responsibility model. Producers will be responsible for the whole life cycle of their products and packaging, including end-of-life management.

Key challenges

The somewhat controversial issue here is that the Act will no longer require municipalities to collect recyclables at the curb, so there is a fear that this service could become fragmented due to the complexity of players in the producer space.

Another key piece not talked about as much is the development of an Organics Action Plan that would again place Ontario into a leadership role with respect to organics diversion.  This is most exciting news for an organic waste utilization specialist such as myself. This should provide a technological and experiential bump to the organics sector similar to what Ontario provided back in the early 1990s with regulation 101/94 related to leaf and yard waste collection and processing. But I digress. Back to the concern around the loss of municipal ownership of the Blue Box programs.

Bill 151 targets the four recycling programs currently operating in Ontario: (1) Blue Box, (2) municipal hazardous waste, (3) waste electronics, and (4) used tires. The Waste-Free Ontario Strategy calls for the latter three programs to transition to the full producer responsibility framework in three to four years; however, the Strategy recognizes the complexity of transitioning the Blue Box program and suggests that the projected timelines may need to be longer for that program to ensure a smooth transition.

The Strategy further states that consumer convenience should be “preserved or improved” for the Blue Box programs. This includes directing producers to work with municipalities in delivering the programs. In an internal brief regarding the new legislation, the Acting Deputy General Manager of Solid Waste Services for the City of Toronto stated that their Administration supports the general principles of the legislation; however, the details are unclear. The City’s internal brief laid out their specific needs and states their key action is to examine implications in detail as they emerge.

Isabelle Faucher of the Carton Council of Canada expressed her thoughts regarding Bill 151 in the October issue of Recycling Product News (page 30). One of her key cautions was in regard to promotion and education programs. According to her, when the full cost of recycling was moved to producers in Quebec in 2010, contamination levels went from 5.2 to 12.8 percent in curbside recycling streams.
She attributed this contamination increase to the loss of the municipal promotion and education voice associated with the programs.


It appears to me that carefully planned deliberative dialogue with key stakeholders should ensure a transition that keeps the best pieces of the current model, and in my mind, this includes the current municipal recycling collection and education programs; however, only time will tell. It will be interesting to follow developments in Ontario as this process and framework could serve as a model for the rest of Canada.

About Dr. McCartney

Dr. McCartney is the Executive Director of the Edmonton Waste Management Centre of Excellence (EWMCE) and the Professor of Solid Waste Engineering at the University of Alberta in Edmonton.

Further information about Bill 151 and the Strategy can be found here:

Ontario News Release

Ontario Draft Strategy for Consultation:

Draft strategy synopsis prepared by the Ontario Waste Management Association (OWMA):

*Cover image via Inside Halton

How Edmonton is leading the way in sustainable biofuel production from waste


In 2008, the City of Edmonton partnered with Enerkem to construct the world’s first urban waste to biofuels plant for waste diversion of municipal solid waste into biofuels and biochemicals via Enerkem’s proprietary gasification process. Earlier this year, the plant achieved International Sustainability and Carbon Certification, which will allow Enerkem to export its products and build more facilities. The Edmonton waste to biofuels initiative also includes a waste preparation facility and an Advanced Energy Research Facility.

Beginning in 2017, the facility will convert 140,000 tonnes of Edmonton’s municipal solid waste into 38 million litres of biofuels and chemicals annually, thereby aiding the province in reducing its greenhouse gas emissions and carbon footprint by six million tonnes over the next 25 years. This is “the equivalent of removing 42,000 cars off the road every year”. Overall, the initiative will increase Edmonton’s waste diversion rate from 60 per cent to 90 per cent.

What the Waste to Biofuels and Chemicals Facility does

The Waste to Biofuels and Chemicals Facility turns waste into clean-burning fuels. When garbage is picked up from homes and transported to the 

Edmonton Waste Management Centre, it arrives at the Integrated Processing and Transfer Facility where the waste is sorted into three streams:

  1. composting
  2. biofuels production, and
  3. landfill
The organics and recyclables are processed first and residual, carbon-rich waste materials (i.e. plastics, wood, and fabrics) are diverted to biofuels production. Before transferring the carbon-rich waste to the Waste to Biofuels and Chemicals Facility, metals and rocks are removed. The remaining materials are shredded into fluffy, thumb-sized pieces that become feedstock. The fluff is secured in a low oxygen environment using a green chemistry process that heats it up enough to break the chemical bonds (a process that takes less than five minutes), releasing carbon and hydrogen to create synthetic gas (syngas), which is then cleaned and converted into methanol and ethanol.

Benefits of waste to biofuel conversion

A sustainable waste management approach, waste to biofuel conversion (or gasification) uses waste as a resource. The Edmonton facility will begin with methanol conversion first and then ethanol as well, both of which benefit the economy and the environment. Using waste rather than crops as feedstock for ethanol produces cleaner biofuels with lower greenhouse gas emissions, ultimately making Edmonton an energy sustainable city. The syngas is also converted into renewable biochemicals, which are used to create products like windshield washer fluid, adhesives, beverage bottles, and polyester fabrics.

How is gasification different from incineration?

Waste to energy plants use incineration to burn municipal solid waste as fuel; the steam produced generates electricity. However, incineration also releases carbon dioxide. 

In contrast, gasification converts garbage into feedstock, not fuel, and uses heat to facilitate the production of synthetic gas. Gasification produces more than heat and electricity -- it creates syngas, which can be converted into valuable products like transportation fuels, chemicals, and fertilizers. Cleaner than incineration, gasification completely breaks down materials like plastics into syngas, prevents toxic chemicals from forming or reforming, and syngas can be cleaned before combustion.

*Cover image via Enerkem

Edmonton's journey to excellence in waste management

From the Clover Bar Landfill opening its doors in 1975, to a new, state-of-the art Anaerobic Digestion Facility coming in 2017, Edmonton's Journey to waste management excellence has hit a number of important milestones. 

The poster below traces Edmonton’s journey from the mid ‘70s to the present year, and looks at the way ahead in 2017.


2017: The Way Ahead - State of the art Anaerobic Digestion Facility opens in Edmonton. Because the breakdown occurs in a sealed container, this technology captures biogas and turns it into methane, producing electricity and heat for the city while reducing greenhouse gas emissions. The digester will add an extra composting capacity of 48,000 tonnes, and will be instrumental to Edmonton reaching its 90% diversion rate by 2018.

2016: City of Edmonton launches Waste Wise mobile app to educate residents on whether specific items should be reused, recycled, thrown in the trash or taken to an Eco Station.

2014: Turning Garbage into Fuel - The first industrial scale Waste To Biofuels Facility in the world opens in Edmonton. When operating at full capacity, this amounts to a staggering 140,000 tonnes of municipal solid waste, which will be turned into 48 million litres of biofuels, enough to tfill 400,000 cars’ gas tanks.

2007: The Global Electric Electronic Processing (GEEP) Waste Recycling Facility opens. The advanced 45,000 sq. ft. facility processes more than 30,000 tonnes per year of old computers, televisions, and a wide range of recyclable electrical and electronic waste.

2005: A North American First - Edmonton opens Aerated Static Pile (ASP) composting facility. Utilizing a new gore tex cover, which reduces the odour of conventional windows by almost 97%, Edmonton now generates an approximate 50,000 tonnes of compost products a year.

2000: “Turning goop into gold.” The Edmonton Co-Composting Facility (ECF) opens. Residential waste and municipal biosolids are mixed together and sent to this facility. The largest composting facility in the world at the time, Edmonton is now diverting more than 60% of waste from the landfill.

1999: The first Materials Recovery Facility (MRF) opens in the City of Edmonton. The 64,000 sq. ft. facility is capable of processing 70,000 tonnes per year, from the Blue Bag, Blue Bin, and Recycling Depot collection programs. In conjunction with the Composting Facility, they divert over 50% of residential waste from landfills.

1995: The first Eco Station, made specifically for household hazardous waste, opens up in Edmonton.

1992: Edmonton’s Clover Bar Landfill begins collecting gas to fuel the city. Sixty wells, approximately 24 metres deep, produce enough electricity to satisfy the demands of more than 4,600 Edmonton homes while significantly reducing greenhouse gases.

Early ‘90s: Through the new leaf and yard waste windrow composting facility, the City of Edmonton begins to divert a significant amount of residential waste away from landfills. The compost produced, called “Second Nature Horticultural Compost” is available to consumers in Edmonton.

1988: The first of its kind in Canada, the Blue Box Curbside Recycling Program begins in Edmonton.

Mid ’80s: The City Of Edmonton, while running out of space to dispose its garbage, undergoes a perspective shift, led by progressive mayor, Jan Reimer. Instead of searching for another site to dispose their waste, they decide to innovate ways to better use the space they already have.

Come work with us!

Edmonton continues to fair better than many parts of Alberta when it comes to employment opportunities. Of course, two years ago jobs were plentiful and skilled workers were in high demand. However, skilled and talented workers will always be in demand despite the economics of the time and, in fact, the EWMCE is looking for just such an individual. 

We have a position for a Senior Research and Development Engineer for solid waste. It is a unique opportunity to use your Alberta connections to expand our research and development work in areas such as anaerobic digestion, composting, biosolids applications, waste to energy, emerging transformative technologies and processes, greenhouse gas reduction, drainage, gasification and biofuels, just to name a few. Working with a dynamic team of professionals, you as the Senior Engineer will guide the team and explore unique solutions to solid waste industry challenges. You will also look for new and emerging technologies that will help our clients meet or exceed their targets.  

If you would like to learn more about this dynamic position please go to

14 of the strangest things we've found during waste characterization

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Waste characterization, also known as a waste audit or waste accounting, is a process used to determine how much material, and the type of material that is collected over a specified period of time. It has been shown that waste management programs, which are based on characterization studies, tend to be more successful than those which are not. An awareness of the amount (quantity) and type of materials (composition) is important in developing an effective and efficient zero waste system. But this awareness can also lead to some “interesting” and odd findings within a waste stream. 

Recently, the EWMCE completed a year-long waste audit that involved four-seasonal audits. Each seasonal audit was three weeks long and carried out every three months (i.e. every season). Curbside collection (e.g. single family) and multi-residential bin collection (e.g. multi-family; apartments) were investigated for both garbage and recycling streams. Findings from the audit provided valuable insights, which allowed the city to understand where its systems could be improved, and where to target social marketing programs and hone operations.However, sometimes during a waste sort, one discovers very odd and peculiar items within the waste stream.

Here’s our list of some of our more memorable discoveries:

1) An old fax machine in (somewhat?) mint condition.

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2) A nicely packed TV modem set.

3) A size 18 winter boot. What...?

4) Rubber strips? Who is using these? Nevermind, tossing them…

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5) Several boxes of unused fireworks.

6) A concrete parking slab.

7) IV unit anyone?

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8) An unused box of syringes.

9) A complete couch.

10) An old television unit. Just look at those dials!

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11) A bicycle.

12) A propane tank.

13) Halloween is over, but this is still kind of creepy...

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And last but not least...

14) Human feces.

If you are interested in conducting your own waste characterization study to see what is crawling around your garbage, come work with us.

Emerging best practices in waste management from  

Canadian municipalities

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On average, Canadians produce about 35 million tonnes of waste each year: one-third from residential sources; one-third from industrial, commercial, and institutional (ICI) sources; and one-third from construction and demolition (C&D) sources. In the past few decades, waste management strategies have evolved from collect and bury approaches, to waste reduction and resource recovery. By diverting waste from landfills, municipalities can reduce the number of landfill sites, increase green jobs, generate revenue (e.g. by selling recyclables), reduce carbon emissions, and encourage green-minded behaviour.

Approach that includes:

  • community involvement via partnerships with organizations, schools, and the government;

  • convenient options for residents to dispose of waste properly;

  • Policies and regulations like municipal bylaws that either ban or limit waste disposal, as well as provincial and municipals goals and strategies; and

  • marketing and education to increase awareness and participation.

A quick scan of strategic plans of large cities in Canada highlights some of the emerging practices for increased waste diversion.

Metro Vancouver

Metro Vancouver is widely lauded for its green practices and for making recycling a part of the city’s culture. Key waste reduction goals are to decrease the amount of waste generated by 10%, and to increase diversion to 70% on average across all sectors: residential, ICI, and C&D. Between hosting the 2016 Zero Waste Conference; waste reduction campaigns, such as Create Memories Not Garbage and the National Zero Waste Council; bans on organic waste and recyclables; and the city’s iPhone app, WeRecycle, Vancouver paves the way for Canadian cities to lead by example and engage communities.Vancouver is also focusing on waste management technology to reduce disposal by investing in the expansion of its Waste to Energy facility (extracting energy from garbage).


Currently diverting 60% of residential waste, Edmonton has mature recycling and composting infrastructure for the residential sector, and has long been seen as a leader in this area. Visitors to the Edmonton Waste Management Centre often refer to it as “Waste Disney”. In the near future, new technologies are coming online to increase the city’s residential diversion rate to 90%, and to provide processing capacity for some of the waste streams in the ICI sector. Two new technologies include: the Waste to Biofuels and Chemicals Facility (converts waste into fuel) and the High Solids Anaerobic Digestion Facility (creating renewable energy from waste). For the ICI sector, the Edmonton Waste Management Centre of Excellence offers education and training in solid waste training through the EWMCE Academy.


The City of Calgary has set a target of 70% diversion by 2025 across the residential, IC&I, and C&D sectors. This will be accomplished by delivering several key pieces of infrastructure and policy drivers, including: (1) Blue Cart (recycling); (2) Green Cart (organics); (3) construction of an indoor composting facility; and (4) amendments to waste and recycling bylaws to include the ICI sector. The indoor composting facility will be the largest in Canada once fully operational.


Toronto is focused on achieving a zero waste future and to support a circular economy by increasing waste reduction and resource recovery. City Council has endorsed a 70% diversion rate by 2026 for both residential customers and for ICI customers that receive city collection services. The city’s focus is on maximizing capture within its Green Bin (source-separated organics) program and Blue Bin (recycling) programs. A key piece of Toronto’s processing infrastructure is the continuing development and improvement of wet Anaerobic Digestion capacity treating the Green Bin materials (current capacity of 100,000 tonnes per year).