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Environment File: St. Albert styrofoam recycling; and Great Backyard Bird Count

Committee gives thumbs up to Styrofoam recycling, and birders get ready for a Great Backyard Bird Count, in Environment File.
1502 envirofile CC 9566
FUND IT – A St. Albert standing committee recommended last week that the city collect Styrofoam at the city's recycling depot on a permanent basis. The city has been collecting the bulky material as part of a pilot since July, and has so far collected about four tonnes of material. CHRIS COLBOURNE/St. Albert Gazette

Styrofoam pilot worked

A city committee has moved to make Styrofoam recycling a permanent part of St. Albert’s recycling depot after residents dropped off more than four tonnes of the stuff there as part of a pilot program.

City council's community growth and infrastructure standing committee recommended Feb. 10 that city council offer Styrofoam recycling at the Mike Mitchell Recycling Depot on a permanent basis.

The recommendation followed a report from city waste and diversion programs supervisor Olivia Kwok on a Styrofoam recycling pilot project that started at the depot last July.

While expanded polystyrene (a.k.a. Styrofoam) is recyclable, it’s banned from blue-bag collection because it breaks into tiny bits that are impractical to sort.

The $12,000 pilot project saw the depot collect clean white Styrofoam for processing by Styro-Go – a Calgary company that squishes Styrofoam so it can be shipped, sold and remade into picture frames, baseboards and other plastic items.

Kwok said the city collected about 4,170 kg of Styrofoam at the depot as of January – a mass equivalent to about two Ford F-150 trucks. The city could offer Styrofoam collection permanently for about $8,000 a year, which would add three cents onto a resident’s monthly utility bill.

Styrofoam has a very long half-life in the landfill and we want to keep it out of there, said Coun. Wes Brodhead. Three cents a month was well worth the cost for this service.

“It seems like a foregone conclusion that we would do this. It makes sense.”

The recommendation goes before council later this month.

Backyard bird count

St. Albert birders will become citizen scientists this weekend as they take part in an international backyard bird count.

Feb. 14 to 17 is the international Great Backyard Bird Count. Organized by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and Birds Canada, this citizen science project has people spend at least 15 minutes logging all the birds they can see in any one location to help researchers track trends in avian populations.

“Scientists just can’t be everywhere at one time and birds are so widespread,” said Erin Dykstra of Edmonton’s Wild Birds Unlimited.

Bird populations have also undergone massive declines in recent decades, she noted, with one study last fall finding that Canadian and U.S. bird numbers – including those of common species such as barn swallows, sparrows and blackbirds – had shrunk 30 per cent since the 1970s. Bird counts such as this one help researchers track what’s happening to birds and what to do about it.

The great backyard count typically draws some 160,000 participants. Last year’s count spotted about 6,800 species in 100 nations, Dykstra said.

“That’s more than half the known bird species in the world!”

Participants can join this year’s count by getting a bird checklist from birdcount.org, which will also track count results as they come in, Dykstra said.

St. Albert birdwatcher Bob Lane said he’s been taking part in this backyard count for over a decade.

“We have some good feeders in our backyard and the birds are very co-operative,” he said.

Lane said that he’s seen many house finches, dark-eyed juncos, woodpeckers, magpies and blue jays visit his yard in recent weeks, the latter two of which sometimes squabble over peanuts. He encouraged people to give the count a try and learn more about nature.

“There are lots of things going on in your backyard. You don’t have to go very far.”

Visit gbbc.birdcount.org for more on the count.


Kevin Ma

About the Author: Kevin Ma

Kevin Ma joined the St. Albert Gazette in 2006. He writes about Sturgeon County, education, the environment, agriculture, science and aboriginal affairs. He also contributes features, photographs and video.
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