Garbage is Our Responsibility

Is it Garbage or Recycling?

When discussing garbage and recycling, it’s important to know how your local waste and recycling programs determines what goes where. The easiest way is to work backwards, looking into your cities recycling programs as you may have access to electronic recycling, furniture donations, mattress recycling or other common recycling programs. Many cities are now pushing for Zero Waste, implementing a multitude of waste reduction measures to avoid burying garbage where possible. Some more advanced facilities can even recycle garbage, turning it into a fuel source and creating energy for its community.

Once you discover what types of items can be recycled locally, you can then easily determine what remaining items maybe left to garbage. At Junk 4 Good, we help our customers with their garbage pickup & removal, and recycling items daily. Our teams will work hard to sort the items properly and deliver them to the appropriate recycling or disposal facilities.

Why garbage sorting is important

It is becoming increasingly more and more important to properly sort garbage and recycling items from our local waste streams. Whether this means sorting at a household level, or at a waste management facility, accurately identifying and separating items can prove challenging.

In cities that encourage residents to sort items prior to collection, these programs can actually assist in a more cost effective and efficient operation. The education and learning process may be challenging for individuals, but once you learn what goes where, it can actually be quite simple. The benefit of this model is that as items are used, they are separated into their appropriate collection containers and set out for collection. This pre-collection sorting allows for garbage trucks to deliver directly to the appropriate facility and reduces the number of trucks and individuals needed to handle the items.

Where waste management programs employ a sorting facility, relying less on the residents, bags will be transported to a central location. These bags are often opened and travel on a conveyor belt, being sorted piece by piece manually. This can be quite effective; however, it can require quite a substantial facility and even additional transportation.

Regardless of your local municipalities waste management program, it is critical that we all work to better sort our garbage and recycling.

Is wood recyclable or garbage?

Wood is so often part of our waste stream, being used in furniture, construction and more, but is it garbage or recyclable? The vast majority of wood can be reused in many waste systems, being used in the landfilling process, composting facilities and even bio fuels. However, these processes can often be complicated. If the wood is attached to other materials as in furniture, this could prevent it from being recycled. Additionally, if the wood has been treated to prevent rot (often found in pallets or railroad ties), these items can rarely be recycled.

It is always best to fully separate wood from other materials to give it the best chance of a future purpose.

What percent of garbage can be recycled?

The amount of garbage that can be recycled can vary greatly from city to city. As waste programs in different municipalities often use different processes, equipment and have access to different budgets, this will often dictate the recycling percentage. It is always best to check directly with your local waste management program for more information. 

Is recycling cheaper than garbage disposal?

Assessing costs when looking at recycling and garbage disposal programs can be challenging. Often, recycling materials can be costly in the short term, but the “bigger picture” is the most important to consider when looking at recycling. The whole point of recycling is to prolong our environment and extend the life of active landfills.

The cost of garbage disposal can be cheaper in the short term, but potentially costly in the long run. As landfills fill up, they become “capped” and are closed to burring future items. The cost we incur when filling landfills is ultimately a sustainability and environmental issue.

When you personally go to dispose of items at a transfer facility or landfill, there will most likely me a minor fee charged to recycle certain items. These fees are for items like mattresses, fluorescent bulbs, sometimes household hazardous liquids and more. These fees help to sustain the programs that recycle these items, creating longevity.

Is foam recyclable or garbage?

There are several types of foam and the type of foam may determine whether it’s recyclable or not.

The foam commonly known as “Styrofoam”, often found being used in packaging, can be recycled, however this process isn’t available everywhere. The process is very specific to this type of foam and may not be found in each city due to the volume required. Be sure to search your city to see if you may have access to a facility to recycle polystyrene.

Other commonly found types of foam often found in furniture would be polyurethane, memory foam and latex foam. These foams can often be recycled into other foam consumer products. One common product that uses recycled foam is carpet under pad. These recyclers can be found throughout the country, however, not in every city. These types of foam can often be recycled through a mattress recycler in your area.

How long does garbage take to decompose?

Most of us never think about it, but sometimes it is very sobering to find out how long materials take to decompose. That extra plywood from that home renovation project you are doing will take 1-3 years to break down in a landfill. The dimensional lumber even longer at 10-15 years. Wool clothing thrown away can take up to 5 years to break down. Those are some of the best case scenarios, as clothing items made out of nylon fabrics can take 30-40 years to break down.

Throwing out a few AA batteries that have run out of power? You may be able to find them sitting there in the landfill 100 years from now. Even aluminum pop cans that can be recycled are thrown in the garbage far too often, and take 200-250 years to break down. Plastic bags from the grocery store may have a total time of use of a couple of hours, but will sit in a landfill for up to a thousand years! Then there is the real nightmare of Styrofoam, which has been shown to have a zero rate of breakdown.

This is a global problem, and thankfully many individuals are making efforts in the areas of innovation, reuse and reduction in order to stem this problem before it becomes an irreversible nightmare.

Where can I dispose of garbage in Edmonton?


In Edmonton, there are a handful of convenient options to access for disposal of garbage and recycling. The City of Edmonton operates their Edmonton Waste Management Centre in the north east part of the city. At this facility, residents and garbage pickup haulers can bring all types of waste and recycling to several sites within the facility. Items can be sorted for recycling at the Residential Transfer Station, construction materials at their specific site and mixed loads tipped onto the sorting floor.

Edmonton also offers access Eco Stations located throughout the city for convenient access. These facilities can be utilized by residents and accepts all sorts of garbage from yard waste to furniture, and recycling for items like used oil and mattresses.

Additionally, you could access another Edmonton garbage dump just west of the city. Northland is a private landfill only a short distance from Edmonton’s limits.

Junk 4 Good can easily arrange for our teams to load and transport your items safely to these facilities. Allow us to take care of all the sorting and recycling of your waste items.

junk sitting on a driveway including railroad ties, wood and branches and other garbage in Edmonton

How to know what’s what?

There are three primary means which can cause most materials to break down. In order for them to break down, they must be either Degradable, Biodegradable, or Compostable.

  • Degradable would mean that the material will undergo a process of deterioration or breaking up by the action of natural forces, or by the addition of certain chemicals.
  • Biodegradable materials are made of a substance capable of being decomposed by bacteria or other living organisms.
  • Compostable material would be entirely organic material that would break down entirely into carbon dioxide, water and biomass at the same rate as paper.

Search for your local “What Goes Where” tool!

What are some ways YOU can reduce your environmental impact?

We have a few simple suggestions!

  • Try switching to rechargeable batteries, although they may be more expensive up front, over the long run you will probably save money and avoid throwing out old batteries that can never be used again.
  • Take your own reusable bags to the grocery store, and help avoid the use of plastic bags that will sit at landfill for generations.
  • Try not to use Styrofoam for packing, but instead reuse old news paper to cushion breakable items. Avoid Styrofoam plates and cups at all costs, and instead use recycled paper products for a disposable option, or even better just use dishes that can be washed.
  • Take your old aluminum cans and glass bottles to the recycling depot, or donate to a local bottle drive or to a local non-profit to be recycled rather than throwing them in the garbage.
  • Don’t throw out your old clothing, but donate it to a local charity to be reused. If the clothes are too old or damaged to be donated, tear them in to rags to be used over and over around the house or garage.
  • Believe it or not, the single most common waste item going to landfill is food waste. Make sure to purchase only as much as you think you and your family will be able to eat. If you have spoiled food, instead of throwing it in the garbage, start your own composting bin. Even grass clippings and other organics from around the yard can be added to the compost bin and help reduce the volume going to landfill.

Small changes can make a big difference and those changes start with us. Let’s all do our part!

This post was originally published in April 2016 and has been updated July 5, 2022