Waste can and should become a new product or a fuel

Christian Felske

Solid Waste Management Specialist
Edmonton, Alberta, Canada

Mr. Felske, tell us a little bit about yourself.

My name is Christian Felske and I work for the City of Edmonton. I was born, raised and went to university in Germany. Since 2003 I live and work in Canada and am very happy to visit Ukraine right now. Currently, I am working in the field of solid waste management and renewable community energy systems in Edmonton.

In Edmonton, you treat waste as a resource. How do you manage waste?

For the city, the goal is to divert as much waste from landfill as possible. There are many reasons for this. Most importantly the City is trying to re-use, recycle and recover as many products or as much energy as possible from the waste stream. Waste can and should become new products or a fuel or can generate energy.

How do you encourage Edmonton’s residents to sort their waste and bring it to drop-off facilities for recycling?

For that reason, we have an extensive educational and communication program in our city. It is very important that we are connected to the city residents so they can participate and help us achieve common goals. We do a regular survey. Over 90% of Edmontonians voluntarily participate in the recycling program. And we want to keep it that way. We have educational programs. We go and talk to schoolchildren and university students, to the community at large. We have a big network – over a thousand of volunteers – within the city who spread the word for us.

Do you collaborate with business on waste management?

Yes, we do. We have a goal in our waste management strategic plan. We want to attract companies to come and do business with us. The vision of those companies however has to be aligned with our vision. We do have private companies in Edmonton providing waste management services. For example, we have a private company doing electronic waste recycling. We have opportunities for the private sector to partner with the municipality.

How much do city residents pay for waste management?

The system is relatively expensive compared to Ukraine and even other Cities in Canada. Our system allows residents to receive many recycling and garbage services.  In our rate structure, we distinguish between a single home and a multi-family home. A single home is where a family or a couple leaves. Multi- family homes are condos and high-rises. Our waste recycling system is capital intensive and it does come at a cost for the residents.

And how do city residents feel about that?

Right from the start when we only had a landfill operation we communicated with the community a lot. We convinced residents the path we were going is the right path in terms of environmental and economical sustainability. The residents understood that. They liked what we were doing. It is important to get the opinion and support of the residents. Over the years support in the community has further grown. I think Edmontonians are actually proud of being the leader in waste management both locally and globally.

What are the biggest challenges that you are facing right now?

The biggest challenge is cost management and the ability to control cost for the services we provide. Edmonton is the fastest-growing community in Canada. We always need to optimize the way we process waste. At the same time, we want to meet environmental sustainability goals and do the right thing for the planet.

What are the ways of reducing the amount of waste going to landfill?

We focus on a bunch of things. We encourage Edmontonians in the summer to reduce organic waste generation by leaving grass clippings on the lawn and to compost at home. We are reaching residents and businesses through social marketing campaigns. Reducing at the source is a very effective step as the waste is recycled right there and is not even coming to our facilities for processing.  We encourage people to look at what they are buying, to make sure that overall waste generation is reduced in the first place. There are some areas in the City where there is more garbage generated. We are monitoring that and we talk to residents to minimize the amount they are producing. The less waste comes to us, the better it is for us and for the environment.

How do you manage odors from waste?

When we deal with garbage, we automatically deal with odors. That is the nature of the business. We are following best operational practices so odor generation will be minimized. For example, it means, once the waste comes to our facility we process it on that same day. So, it doesn’t sit for too long and doesn’t generate odors.  We also have other various odor control systems for our processes.