City of Edmonton Circular Cities Roadmap
On March 2, 2020, the RCA led a Circular Cities strategy workshop for representatives of the City of Edmonton. These strategies keep products and materials circulating at their highest utility and value, through waste prevention, improved design, reuse, recycling, remanufacturing and innovative business models.
The provincial capital of Alberta, Edmonton, is situated on the banks of the North Saskatchewan River. It has a relatively young, entrepreneurial population of over one million people including the surrounding communities. The economy relies on a carbon-intensive industry, although economic diversification is valued and a transition to a new energy economy is already underway. Residents have a strong sense of neighbourhood connection, value the environment and are concerned about climate change. Edmonton’s four strategic goals for 2019-28 focus on a healthy city, urban places, regional prosperity and climate resilience.
We work together to create liveability for all,
where everyone has what they need to succeed.
Primary economic drivers in Edmonton include health services, a healthy digital and communications technology industry, agriculture, sustainable energy initiatives, machinery manufacturers and six post-secondary institutions.
ConnectEdmonton, Edmonton’s strategic plan, recognizes key identifiers that will allow Edmonton to transition to a low-carbon future, with clean air and water. The city currently diverts 36 percent of residential waste from landfill, with a goal of reaching 90 percent. In March 2018, Edmonton mayor Don Iveson and the Global Covenant of Mayors for Climate and Energy created the Edmonton Declaration. It “engages all levels of government to recognize the immediate and urgent need for action that will limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius.”
Generating and expanding renewable energy sources has been identified as a key focus for Edmonton. As 95 percent of the city’s energy comes from fossil fuels, the goal is to green that number. This involves a series of steps toward the use of renewable energy, which have been set out in the City’s Community Energy Transition Strategy (CETS). As well, Edmonton is one of four municipalities participating in the Partners for Climate Protection (PCP) program, from ICLEI (Local Governments for Sustainability Canada).
What’s already underway?
Edmonton is already moving toward sustainability with a number of notable circular initiatives run through city programs, private businesses and not-for-profit organizations.
City of Edmonton Reuse Centre
Various items from Edmonton residents are accepted free of charge and made available to organizations and individuals for reuse.
Alta Steel | Recovers, sorts and recycles steel products into new prime steel product
Bike and Scooter Share Programs (under development) | Public bikes and scooters offer an environmentally and economically friendly mode of transportation
Can Cell Industries | Makes insulation from post-consumer recycled newspaper
City Eco Stations Free Paint Service | Usable donated paint is offered to customers free of charge, with over 350,000 litres of free paint given away since 1995
Communauto Car Share Edmonton | Car sharing service providing 24/7 access to a pool of vehicles in a defined, central area of the city
Community Gardens | The City of Edmonton established various community gardens to encourage people to grow and harvest produce
Community Recycle Groups | An entirely non-profit movement of people who give and get items for free in their own towns and neighbourhoods, through groups including Freecycle, Buy Nothing, and Upcycling Edmonton
Consignment & Thrift Stores | Retail outlets sell used clothing furniture and other goods, often at a significant discount
Edmonton Tool Library | Provides members with affordable access to hand, power, and garden tools
Find Edmonton | Supplies low-cost, quality furniture and housewares for sale to the public, and offers free furnishings to those moving out of homelessness
Going Bagless (Grasscycling) | Edmonton residents are encouraged to leave grass clippings on the ground, where they act as a natural fertilizer
Operation Fruit Rescue | Volunteers pick fruit from private residences and distribute it to reduce fruit waste. They also run canning and preserving events during harvest season.
Waste Free Edmonton | Grassroots organization working to reduce the amount of waste created in Edmonton, with an initial focus on single-use disposable items
Zero Waste Retail Model | Retail businesses, such as Earth’s General Store, Replenish, and Carbon Environmental Boutique, with a zero waste, reduced packaging business strategy
Ideas & Knowledge
The City of Edmonton consultation brought together representatives working in the areas of economic and environmental sustainability, climate policy, advanced energy research, marketing and community services, business analysis, licensing and compliance, city operations, urban, corporate and strategic development, corporate procurement and supply, and waste management.
By becoming as efficient as possible, we can make the most of limited resources.
How can we educate residents, encouraging them to make better choices?
Effective communication helps us to collaborate even more.
Edmonton already has sharing economy initiatives in place thanks to to a strong network of Community Leagues. Other assets include a highly engaged population who value environmental change action and environmental protection, and a progressive city culture. Opportunities exist to innovate waste management systems and strategies, and to collaborate with other municipalities, post-secondary institutions and Indigenous populations.
Challenges include the cultural shift required to increase demand for a circular economy. It is still inconvenient to support these initiatives, and the local economy relies on a carbon-intensive industry. More urban density is necessary, along with provincial regulation and support.
The City of Edmonton is acting as a leader for the province through the Circular Cities project, and can continue to advance sustainability and build resiliency through a transition to a more circular economy.
What are potential actions?
Supply chain transparency
Sustainable purchase, repair and disposal
Providing education about what happens to materials as they travel through the supply chain encourages the move toward a circular economy.
Retail outlet recycling
Encourage businesses to serve as recycling drop-offs
Businesses benefit as more people access these convenient drop-off points, and more material is diverted from landfill.
City as regulator
City encourages circular initiatives through policy
The City of Edmonton can develop policy, business license renewals, physical monitoring, and partnerships which require and reward a shift toward sustainable practices.
Maximize building use
Symbiotic development and effective use of space
Thoughtful planning and design allow space in new and existing buildings to be fully used, with complementary organizations located near one another.
Develop carbon-offset app | Commuters can use this app to track and record kilometres they travel, with offsets paid out or placed in a communal fund
Circular business registry | Encourage local businesses and organizations to adopt sustainable practices by actively promoting their actions and services
Share waste energy | Energy produced by existing buildings can be captured and shared with neighbours
Make the most of Community Leagues | Use this existing network to facilitate neighbourhood swap events and repair workshops within communities
Circular initiatives in action
Ellen MacArthur Foundation
& Other Resources
This foundation has created an online suite of resources that can help cities transition to a circular economy. Fact sheets, policy levers, networks and case studies are all available.
Explore other communities
We thank Alberta EcoTrust and The Alberta Government’s Community Environment Action Grant for your support of this project.
The Circular Cities project supports the RCA’s primary mission to promote, facilitate and advocate for a Circular Economy in Alberta through waste reduction and resource conservation. For more information contact us or call 403.843.6563.