The Pulse: Feb. 22, 2024

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  • 8°C: Mainly sunny. Wind becoming west 20 km/h gusting to 40 in the morning. High 8. Wind chill minus 9 in the morning. UV index 1 or low. (forecast)
  • Blue: The High Level Bridge will be lit blue for the National Day of Human Trafficking Awareness. (details)
  • 5-6: The Edmonton Oilers (33-18-2) lost to the Boston Bruins (34-12-11) in overtime on Feb. 21. (details)

A photo of black and green compost bins.

How Leduc uses AI to keep plastic out of organics carts

By Stephanie Swensrude

A Leduc pilot program that uses artificial intelligence to help residents keep plastic out of organics bins has been extended to the end of 2024 after the city saw a significant reduction in contamination.

Back in June 2023, when Leduc introduced the Organics AI program, roughly 20% of the organics carts its crews collected were contaminated, usually with plastics. This created a problem as processing facilities won't accept organics over a contamination threshold.

Leduc wanted residents to sort their waste properly and brought in AI to help shift behaviours.

"When the collection truck goes to a household and picks up the cart, a photo is taken of all the items that fall out, and the AI tech can identify whatever contaminations we set," said Michael Hancharyk, environmental manager with Leduc.

If the AI notices a contaminant (Leduc is mainly targeting plastic film for its program), a human looks and confirms the AI is right. There is a GPS chip in each bin that matches it with the house's address. Then, the city sends an educational mailer to the house with a photo of their contaminant.

Hancharyk said the mailer has tips for what should and shouldn't go into the cart. "Then hopefully, the resident thereafter learns from their mistake and can compost better," he said. The city also recommends residents download an app to learn more about waste sorting.

A recent waste audit found that since the program has been active the contamination rate for organics carts dropped to less than 10%. Hancharyk said the city sent out 900 mailers in the first eight months of the program and that each month it sends out fewer of them — though that may be a seasonal trend, as there are no lawn clippings in the last few months of the year and therefore fewer compost bins have been put out for collection.

There have been some bumps along the way, too. "We've seen 13 houses that are continually receiving mailers," Hancharyk said. "We're now moving to a formal letter to these 13 households, but 13 households out of 10,000 houses is really low, less than 1%."

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Headlines: Feb. 22, 2024

By Kevin Holowack and Mariam Ibrahim

  • City manager Andre Corbould believes it will be "a matter of weeks" until Edmonton's city hall reopens to the public after the Jan. 23 shooting. The city invited news media for a briefing inside the building on Feb. 21 for the first time since the incident. Corbould said the building should remain accessible to the public, but the city is looking at "the most unobtrusive" way to ensure people don't bring in weapons. He also said that his office, not council, will be making decisions about security, and that the Edmonton Police Service and an unnamed municipality are doing a security review. He also confirmed the estimated cost to repair damages from the attack is $100,000.
  • Edmonton city council approved renaming the Oliver neighbourhood to Wîhkwêntôwin, a Cree word meaning "circle of friends" that was chosen by the Oliver Community League after public engagement. The city's naming committee approved the change in August 2023. The city said it will now begin changing the name on websites, maps, signs, bylaws, and other documents at an estimated cost of $680,000.
  • Administration presented a list of cost-cutting options to Edmonton city council on Feb. 21, as part of efforts to reallocate $240 million to core services and council priorities, and to reduce the operating budget by $60 million. The city says it has already found $45 million in savings, through efforts such as streamlining two city departments, redeploying some staff members, and cuts to external training, travel, consultants, and hosting. Council is expected to review an updated list of cost-saving options on March 12, ahead of the spring budget adjustment.
  • During a visit to Edmonton, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced the federal government has reached an agreement with the city to fast track the development of more than 5,200 housing units over the next three years. In total, the federal government is investing $175 million in Edmonton through the Housing Accelerator Fund.
  • Edmonton city council unanimously approved a bylaw to rezone a 65-hectare quadrant of the Griesbach neighbourhood for Canada Lands Company to build a mix of single-family and multi-residential homes. The Crown corporation's plan involves demolishing more than 500 affordable rental units currently on the land, of which 85% have three or more bedrooms with below market rents. The corporation said it plans for Griesbach to have 20% affordable housing, but Postmedia reported there is no way to ensure that will happen. NDP MP Blake Desjarlais said just 16% of the planned units meet the definition of affordable housing, and there are "many, many, many people in Griesbach" who will be out of a home.
  • The Arabian Muslim Association received a federal investment of $29,663 to install security measures at Al Rashid Mosque, including CCTV, a panic alarm system, security lighting, and a new door. The funding was provided through the Security Infrastructure Program, which is available to private, non-profit organizations "linked to a community at risk of being victimized by hate-motivated crime."
  • CBC's This is Edmonton podcast spoke to Antidote Movement Club founder Andrea Yacyshyn for its latest episode focused on new approaches to exercise and how fitness classes and programs are focusing more on joy and less on struggle. Host Clare Bonnyman also spoke to University of Alberta professor Kerry Courneya whose research focuses on the benefits of exercise for cancer patients.
  • Premier Danielle Smith delivered a televised speech on Feb. 21 to outline the UCP government's fiscal policies ahead of next week's provincial budget. During the speech, Smith signalled the province will limit spending while increasing the Heritage Savings Trust Fund in an effort to reduce Alberta's reliance on resource revenues. "There is no doubt in my mind we are capable of achieving these goals; but we need to start today and stick with it fervently year after year," she said. Smith also said higher income tax rates or a sales tax are not the answer to budget challenges.
  • Residents of Westlock, a town north of Edmonton, will vote in a plebiscite on Feb. 22 on whether to ban Pride crosswalks. The vote comes after the town received a petition advocating for a bylaw that would only allow white-striped crosswalks and permit only federal, municipal, and provincial flags to be flown on municipal property. More than 700 of Westlock's 4,802 residents signed the petition. Town council has opposed the plebiscite, saying it would give Westlock an image of being discriminatory.
A bird's-eye view of a large park, including a body of water, meandering paths, and an event centre

Calls for public engagement: Elections, parks, urban farming

By Kevin Holowack

Here are opportunities to help inform city planning about elections, the Northeast River Valley Park, and urban farming.

  • Voter Engagement Initiative — The city wants to understand voter experiences in order to make municipal elections more accessible, inclusive, equitable, and ethical. Residents can ask the project team a question or take an online survey, which is available in seven languages, until Feb. 26.
  • Silver Berry Street Lab (evaluation) — A Street Lab was recently installed in the Silver Berry neighbourhood, and the city wants to hear about resident experiences to help evaluate the program, make adjustments, and improve future labs. An online survey will be open until Feb. 28.
  • Northeast River Valley Park Strategic Plan — The city is seeking feedback to inform the strategic plan for Edmonton's newest river valley park. The plan will include the park's vision, guiding principles, and approach to naturalization, restoration, and programming. Residents can share their ideas until Feb. 29.
  • Urban Farming Survey — The city is considering a new urban farming program or process, which it says would increase sustainable food supply and activate under-utilized land and buildings. The new program would be "significantly different" from the existing community garden and boulevard beautification programs, which are small scale and prohibit the sale of grown products. Residents can complete an online survey, which will inform the framework presented to city council, until March 10.

More input opportunities

Photo: Opened in September 2023, the Northeast River Valley Park is the largest river valley park in the city at 190 acres. (City of Edmonton)

A title card that reads Taproot Edmonton Calendar:

Happenings: Feb. 22, 2024

By Debbi Serafinchon

Here are some events happening today in the Edmonton area.

And here are some upcoming events to keep in mind:

Visit the beta version of the Taproot Edmonton Calendar for many more events in the Edmonton region.