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How Edmonton is Finding Value in Its Waste Stream

By reusing, recycling or composting everything possible, the Canadian city of Edmonton is on its way to reaching the seemingly impossible goal of diverting 90 percent of trash from landfills.
by | August 26, 2013
A waste management facility in Edmonton, Alberta.
Edmonton, Alberta, already diverts 60 percent of its waste from landfills but it's seeking to up that to 90 percent. FlickrCC/Green Energy Futures

A growing volume of waste has long been viewed as a natural consequence of industrializing society. Unfortunately, we also have grown accustomed to disposing of most of what touches our lives, resulting in the challenge of managing vast quantities of municipal waste.

Edmonton, Alberta, facing the familiar problem of dwindling landfill capacity, has set what many might consider an impossible goal: diverting 90 percent of its waste from its landfills. As much of a stretch as that might seem, Edmonton already had a diversion rate of 60 percent, thanks in large part to a major composting facility completed in 2001 -- an already enviable figure in a province with an average residential waste-diversion rate of 29 percent.

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But to get to 90 percent, Edmonton's leaders knew that they would need to go beyond traditional approaches. So the city's leaders looked for and found value in Edmonton's waste stream. Edmonton, they decided, needed to stop wasting its waste.

They started by getting input from residents over a period of many months. "We did not dictate to residents," said Roy Neehall, general manager of Waste RE-Solutions Edmonton, a city-owned corporation. "We listened, educated, listened." What the city found, Neehall said, is that its residents were "way ahead of politicians and administrators" on this issue.

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Bob Graves  |  Associate Director of the Governing Institute

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