By sorting their waste into three bins, Calgarians have saved money by prolonging the life of their landfill sites.
There’s just no way around it: we make waste every day. We make waste as we cook meals, as we tend to our yards, and as we shop in our communities. As our city has grown and changed, so has the way we think about and manage our waste.That’s why we have three different bins to collect our waste. Calgary’s black, blue and green cart programs make the most sense financially and environmentally for our community.Calgarians are now composting and recycling more waste than is sent to landfill. By using the black, blue and green carts at home, you have saved a generation’s worth of landfill space in Calgary, and that’s a great thing.But those aren’t the only reasons we need you to sort your waste.The proper sorting that you do at home makes a big difference. That’s how Calgary has maintained one of the lowest-cost, three-cart programs compared to cities of similar size. And we want to keep it that way. Your recycling, compost and garbage can’t all go in one bin to be sorted later — there is no single piece of equipment that can sort waste better than you can at home.Separating garbage, food scraps and recyclables lets us turn yesterday’s waste into useful products again. But recyclables can only be turned into new products if they are clean and dry, and the cleaner the recyclables, the more valuable the material. In the nine years you’ve used the blue cart, you have recycled 579 million kilograms of glass jars, metal cans, plastic containers, paper and cardboard — enough to fill a freight train that would extend from Calgary all the way to Red Deer.You’ve stepped up with the green cart program too. Through your efforts, the green cart has collected 111 million kilograms of food scraps, leaves, branches and grass in the first year alone. That’s 30 per cent more material than expected — it’s amazing to see Calgarians embrace a new program so wholeheartedly. Since this material is no longer destined for a landfill, we have reduced greenhouse gases and other harmful emissions. The finished compost also helps our green spaces, gardens and farmers’ fields grow and flourish.Calgary is fortunate to have three landfills within city limits. Cities like Edmonton and Toronto pay significant trucking expenses to transport their waste hours away, as their own landfills are full. We don’t want to end up in the same costly predicament. Building a new landfill is a difficult and expensive process. Even if successful, it wouldn’t be nearly as close and convenient as our current landfill sites.That’s why keeping recyclable and compostable material out of our landfills is crucial. Our landfill space is limited and precious. We need to keep working together to conserve that space as long as possible.Using a three-cart program is the best value for Calgary now and into the foreseeable future. Every week we come to your home, empty your green, blue and black bins over 100 times a year, and take away an average of 838 kilograms of recyclables, compostables and garbage that you never have to think about again, all for less than a dollar a day.So, thank you, Calgary. You’re the reason why these programs are working. Putting the time and effort into sorting your waste at home goes a long way in conserving our landfill space, creating usable products and keeping our program costs down.Sharon Howland is the cart program leader at the City of Calgary with over 15 years of experience in waste management leadership.