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The last stop for the city’s recyclables

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Emterra's material recovery facility in Winnipeg.


Emterra's material recovery facility in Winnipeg. Photo Store

I was driving along McPhillips a couple of weeks ago and noticed, just south of the McPhillips Street Station Casino, a couple of huge smoke stacks which attracted me into an enormous plant on Henry Street just a block east of McPhillips.

The plant belongs to Emterra, the company that picks up our garbage and recycled material. All of the recycled material that is picked up from our streets is sent to this "material recovery facility," or MRF. The non-recyclable garbage is taken directly to the Brady landfill site. The smoke stacks are the remaining parts of the City of Winnipeg’s old incinerator, which has been decommissioned since 1978.

The material is separated into categories such as paper, glass, aluminum and plastics by state-of-the-art sorters and, except for the glass, transformed into bales which can be sold to local buyers and to buyers from the United States and Asia. Asia is a growing customer for recycled paper, as they produce new packaging for the many products manufactured there.

Emterra’s recycling and yard waste pick-ups contributed to 55% less materials going to our Brady landfill site in 2013. The yard waste picked up at specific times throughout the summer is being gathered and piled on a newly developed nine-hectare pad at the Brady site, which will create thousands of cubic feet of nutrient filled compost. One hectare is approximately the size of a football field. This compost belongs to the city.

There were 60 environmentally friendly natural gas vehicles introduced in 2013 to collect all of our waste, and this is the largest fleet of natural gas trucks in the world operating in Winnipeg’s type of weather conditions. Emterra also has built a natural gas refuelling station and a certified maintenance facility to service their vehicles.  

The company’s garbage and recycling routes in Winnipeg accounted for approximately 335,000 households per week in 2013, which converts to over 17 million stops for the year. There were 31,500 calls reporting "missed" collection over the year, which sounds bad at first, but only accounts for less than a quarter of 1 per cent (.18 per cent) of all stops.

Another problem we’ve experienced throughout this past winter is the amount of damage done to the wheels on the carts. The damages are likely a result of our bitterly cold winter and the manner in which some of these carts are dropped after unloading. Plastic wheels just cannot stand up to these types of extremities. The damage reports were 9,000 out of the 335,000 carts out there around the city. That works out to a 2.7 per cent damage ratio. That’s a 97.3 per cent success rate. Emterra does cover the costs of replacement or repair and their goal is to have the problem corrected before the next pickup date.

Hopefully with another year underway, Emterra will improve and focus on the manner that they are handling the carts. There have been reports of the trucks rushing and in some cases dragging the carts an additional couple of feet, busting the wheels off. I’m hopeful management is addressing these types of issues. Continuing education for the drivers, along with weekly monitoring and feedback, would improve their performances. Perhaps our future winters won’t be as bad as this past winter.

Rick Sparling is a community correspondent for North Kildonan. Email him at

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