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Calgary, Alberta A study in waste management


Cindy Christensen

(Mistaya Engineering Inc, 2012)

The city of Calgary is located in Southern Alberta, west of Canada and close to the Rocky Mountains. This metropolis is the fifth largest in the Canada and the largest within the Province of Alberta with a population of over 1,214,839 - 12.6% increase, leading the country in growth (Statistics Canada, 2011). The city is well known for its petroleum and agriculture industry. While most of Eastern Canada is experiencing an economic decline, Calgary is currently experiencing an economic boom with an influx in population, construction and job opportunities.

Being the administrative headquarter for many petroleum companies such as Chevron, BP, Shell, Total E&P and various other corporations, Calgary is often scrutinized for its environmental management. Despite being known mainly for the energy industry and the controversial oil sands, the city of Calgary itself is consistently ranked by renowned publications such as Forbes Magazine, Macleans and Mercer as one of the cleanliest cities in the nation and is acknowledged to have undertaken many environmentally friendly initiatives. The Prime Minister of Canada, whom is an Alumnus of the University of Calgary, while celebrating the 2012 Centennial Stampede even went as far as to say that Calgary is the greatest city in Canada (Digital Online, 2012).

In 2007 and again in 2011, Forbes Magazine referred to Calgary as the cleanest city to live in. According to the consulting, outsourcing and investment firm Mercer, Calgary was ranked as the cleanest city in the world in 2011 (Forbes, 2007). The report analysed data from 221 cities. Aspects that were taken into consideration were water quality and availability, air pollution, sewage system, and waste removal (Forbes, 2007). Despite gaining significant environmental

awards and praises, various corporations, municipal and provincial government are continuing to improve the quality of living within the city of Calgary.

Most of the Petroleum resources are located within the Province of Alberta, luckily for the citizens of Calgary, the environmental impacts from petroleum refineries are virtually nonexistent. This is mainly due to the fact that the facilities are located in Northern Alberta. Most of the environmental hazards take place in these remote regions, where the population consists of mostly aboriginal groups and agricultural farmers. The environmental issues surrounding the oil sands have been heavily debated for decades between governments, corporations, environmental organizations, and of course the individuals who are directly affected.

As the demand for oil increases, individuals from all over Canada as well as the rest of the world will migrate to Calgary in search of job opportunities and to benefit from the citys high standards of living. Due to a surge in population, the provincial and municipal governments are working in conjecture to find ways to best manage residential and non-residential waste. The purpose of this assignment will outline various methods of waste management use in the city of Calgary specifically in regards to household solid waste.

Waste management programs and solutions within Calgary The City of Calgary (municipal government) collects residential garbage and distributes them to local landfills. As the population increases, the municipal government is aware that there is a need for a more strategic waste solution in order to reduce garbage and also to encourage citizens to recycle. In March 2012, the Green Cart food and yard waste pilot was introduced. The waste

material collected by this program is transported to a facility near Strathmore, where they are composted into useful products that can help enrich the soil in farms, parks and gardens (The City of Calgary, 2012). Due to the fact that the program is still in its early stages, it is not fully implemented city-wide but only available to a few local neighbourhoods such as Abbeydale, Brentwood, Cougar Ridge and Southwood. By implementing the program, the City hopes to reduce 80% of waste from landfill disposal by 2020 (Calgary Sun, 2012).

The rest of the city uses traditional methods of waste collection where a fee of $4.50/ 30 days is charged by the municipal government to collect residential garbage. The fee helps to sustain the waste management program and also to train and educate public servants who work closely in the area of waste management (The City of Calgary, 2012).

For non-residential garbage, there are companies such as Waste Management, 1-800 Got Junk, and Progressive Waste Solutions (BFI) who are in the business of providing waste disposal services for apartment buildings, corporate offices, shopping malls, restaurants and even residential garbage that are not accepted by municipal garbage collection standards.

For example, 1-800 Got Junk provide waste disposal solutions to non-residential clients as well as residential clients by removing items such as household appliance, refrigerator, mattress, furniture, carpet, television, tire, computer, printer, monitor, leaf, rubbish, garbage alternative, dumpster alternative, and other unconventional trash (1-800 Got Junk, 2012).

The disposal and decomposition of waste According to the Government of Alberta, most solid waste collected by the City of Calgary ends up in landfill and one tonne of municipal garbage takes up 1.5 - 2.5 cubic metres of space in a landfill (Waste Not, 2005). A study by the government of Alberta shows that up to 25 percent of municipal waste can be reduce simply by altering consumer behaviors. According to the same study during the first 15 years of burial in a landfill, only 25 per cent of organic material such as food and yard waste decomposes. Other trash can keep its original weight, volume, and form for at least 40 years (Waste Not, 2004).

Figure 1: Alberta Waste Generation 1996 -2008 (Statistics Canada, 2011)

Since direct land disposal of solid waste is the most common method of waste management, there are major concerns over long term environmental risks and health effects from this application of waste management. Referring to Figure 1, the municipal and provincial governments hopes to divert waste disposal and recyclable products in order to reduce the environmental costs associated with land deposition.

Despite efforts to contain hazardous and non-hazardous waste by using state-of the art technology, there is a possibility that the landfills will cause environmental impacts due the methane gas and other toxins being released into the air from the decomposition of organic waste matter. Methane gas (CH4), otherwise known as landfill gas is 21 times more potent than carbon dioxide emission (CO2). In order to reduce methane gas from being released, the best place for organic materials is in a composting facility, a bio-digester or an energy extraction facility by construction, renovations, and demolition activities and includes material such as: concrete, brick, painted and treated wood, rubble, drywall, metal, cardboard, doors, windows, and wiring, but excludes clean sand or gravel (Government of Alberta, 2012).

Efforts by the community to reduce reuse and recycle Information in related to reuse, reduce, recycle can easily be access through The City of Calgary website at The City also urges its citizens to buy local food or grow their own food in order to reduce energy cost, alter consumer behaviours and also to support the local economy. Many farmers markets and local supermarkets specifically cater to environmental conscious clients who are interested in sustainable living (The City of Calgary, 2012)

According to the Government of Alberta, if Albertans diverted household food scraps from the landfill to composting, there would be a net CO2 emissions savings of 237,690 tonnes per year. Diverting to an anaerobic digester would result in a net CO2 emissions savings of 213,500 tonnes per year (Government of Alberta, 2012).

Aside from the efforts by the municipal and provincial government, there are various not for profit organizations who are interested in promoting sustainable living and advocating environmental awareness such as Green Calgary. The organization provides education to corporate companies, and engages citizens to buy sustainable and environmental friendly products in order to reduce their ecological foot prints. Green Calgary also organizes several fundraising events to reduce, reuse, and recycle various waste materials and even electronics.

According to INFORM Inc, cell phones are replaced every 18 months and less than 5% are recycled. This means that in Canada alone, roughly 14 million cell phones enter the waste stream every 18 months (Green Calgary, 2009). That number has likely increased 2012 due to craze in the latest technology and the reliance towards the use of cell phones and other electronics. Green Calgary has tackled this problem by creating the Cell Phone Recycling Program in partner with other local organizations to recycle unwanted cell phones, and reuse them by donating to impoverished families who are living in need (Green Calgary, 2012).

Efforts to improve waste management within the local community According to Natural Resources Canada, in a lifetime, the average North American will throw away 600 times his or her adult weight in garbage. A 68 kg adult will leave a legacy of 40,825 kg

of trash (Natural Resources Canada, 2012). In order to reduce waste and to encourage recycling, The City of Calgary advertises various methods to reduce ecological footprints and environmental impacts throughout the city with additional information can be found on the City of Calgary website (Calgary, 2012).

In 2007, the Recycling Council of Alberta (RCA) took over the toll-free Alberta Recycle Information Line 1-800-463-6326 or (780) 427-6982 to offer citizens from all sectors information on recycling and waste diversion (Government of Alberta, 2007). Aside from recycling, the method of composting is also widely implemented by the City of Calgary because it keeps organic decomposition out of the waste system and provides natural fertilizer for gardens and farmers. According to a report by the Government of Alberta an average family of four can compost over 500 kilograms of food and yard waste in a year (Waste Not, 2004).

Recently, in 2012 efforts have also been made by The City of Calgary to amend existing landfills in accordance with the Environmental Protection and Enhancement Act in order to ensure that citizens will comply with laws and regulations in regarding to the disposal waste (The City of Calgary, 2012). The City also has the Blue Cart program where products such as paper and cardboard plastic jugs, bottles, food containers, metal food cans, foil, glass bottles and jars can be properly recycled (The City of Calgary, 2012).

The order to be successful with its environmental management system, Calgary citizens will need to abide to strict laws and regulations created by the municipal and provincial government. Private citizens will also need to alter their consumer behaviours and engage with various

methods of reuse, reduce, recycle. Private sector will need to educate their staff, follow environmental regulations as well as advocate higher environmental standards and practice. In order to adapt to the current and future demand for waste disposal as a result of increase in population, Calgary needs to implement sustainable environmental regulations, continue to progress with strategic programs such as the Green Cart and Blue Cart, and also support various not for profit environmental organizations. Only by doing so, Calgary will continue to be on an excellent path of sustainable and environmental management and also the city will justify its honor as being the greatest city in Canada and the most eco-friendly city.

References: Calgary Sun. (2012). Jenna McMurray: Calgary neighbourhoods go green with organic recycling pilot. Retrieved July 11, 2012, from Calgary Sun: Digital Journal. (2012). Andrew Moran: Prime Minister Stephen Harper declares Calgary as 'greatest city'. Retrieved July 8, 2012, from Digital Online: Environment Canada Greenhouse Gas Inventory. (1990 - 2000).Waste Facts: A Companion Document For Too Good to Waste: Making Conservation a Priority, 6. Retrieved July 2, 2012, from Government of Alberta: Forbes Magazine. (2007). Robert Malone: Which Are The World's Cleanest Cities?. Retrieved July 1, 2012, from Forbes Magazine: Government of Alberta. (2012). Waste Facts: A Companion Document For Too Good to Waste: Making Conservation a Priority, 5-6, 9-10. Retrieved July 11, 2012, from Government of Alberta: Green Calgary. (2012). Green Calgary: Earth Day Options, 3. Retrieved July 10, 2012, from Green Calgary: Green Calgary. (2012). Green Calgary: Calgary Phone Recycling Program. Retrieved July 11, 2012, from Green Calgary: Mistaya Engineering Inc. (2012). Retrieved July 10, 2012, from: Natural Resources Canada. (2012). Natural Resources Canada. Retrieved July 1, 2012, from The City of Burlington: Statistics Canada. (2011). Statistics Canada: Visual Census Population and dwelling counts, Calgary. Retrieved July 09, 2012 from Statistics Canada: Statistics Canada. (2011). Government of Alberta: Solid Waste Diversion. Retrieved July 10, 2012, from Government of Alberta: The City of Calgary. (2012). The City of Calgary: Environmental & Safety Management. Retrieved July 1, 2012, from The City of Calgary:

Waste Not. (2004). Waste Facts: A Companion Document For Too Good to Waste: Making Conservation a Priority, 6. Retrieved July 1, 2012, from Government of Alberta: