Patrols monitor recycling bins

Patrols monitor recycling bins

On May 5, Éco Entreprises Québec presented municipalities with a management plan for the collection of recyclable materials. Since then, negotiations have been started with the cities.

The organization, tasked by the Legault government to manage selective collection instead of municipalities, specifically wants all Quebec towns and villages to monitor what citizens throw into their recycling bins. In this way, Éco Entreprises wants to ensure that residents only hand in materials that are accepted in sorting centers.

Éco Entreprises Québec also wants city officials to inspect 20% of the city’s dumpsters each year. The agency also requires these home inspections to vary from year to year, so all homes in a city are inspected at least every five years.

The municipalities condemn this approach to the plan that Éco Entreprises Québec intends to implement as part of the modernization of the collection of recyclable materials.

In Quebec City, Executive Committee Vice President Marie-Josée Asselin believes her community does not have the capacity to conduct such inspections. We absolutely don’t have the resources for that. […] to enable a systematic control of 20 percent of citizens’ rubbish bins.

Also, the director of the City of Quebec’s waste department, Steve Cantin, is concerned about this patrol that Éco Entreprises wants to impose on his community: the police of the dustbin, it will require resources to be able to do it. Given the labor shortage, that’s definitely a cause for concern.

“For me it makes no sense to have our citizens’ blue bins checked. »

– A quote from Joé Deslauriers, mayor of Saint-Donat

I really see challenges and problems related to oppression. […] We’ll be the bad guys, he says. In addition, the elected representative of Lanaudière reiterates that his city has neither the financial means nor the human resources to carry out these inspections. If you want us to take on additional tasks, the money has to come with it.

Overflowing recycling bins in a Montreal alley.

Overflowing recycling bins in a Montreal alley.

Photo: Radio Canada / Jean-Claude Taliana

In the agreement proposed to municipalities, Éco Entreprises Québec also requires towns and villages to notify citizens found to be at fault. A notice that can be placed in the form of a poster on the rubbish bin, on the door or in the mailbox.

In case of recurrence, Éco Entreprises Québec would like municipalities to take tougher action against the most recalcitrant citizens, in particular by imposing fines, sending out a solicitation or removing the collection bin from the home.

“We don’t want to go there. If the deal gets us there, we’ll go. We have no choice […] But will this ultimately change the behavior of citizens in the long term? We are not sure if this is the right measure. »

– A quote from Marie-Josée Asselin, Vice President of the Executive Committee of the City of Quebec

The director of the City of Quebec’s waste department, Steve Cantin, doubts that such measures will bear fruit: We would much rather get people to do the right thing through education and awareness than through coercion. We don’t believe that the profit we get from coercion will be worth it.

By requiring all municipalities to monitor the contents of curbside recycling bins, Éco Entreprises Québec hopes to reduce the amount of waste in bins, improve the quality of recyclable materials sent to sorting centers, and increase the amount of materials recycled.

Nevertheless, we take the concerns of the municipalities seriously. (…) We understand that this is an issue that needs to be discussed, says Philippe Cantin, Vice President of Public and Intergovernmental Affairs at Éco Entreprises Québec.

Philippe Cantin states that his organization must now meet recycling targets. We have responsibility, we are accountable for the performance of the system, which no municipality has had to do before.

Photo of the interior of the Lachine sorting center.  Cardboard and plastic are piling up.

High in the Lachine sorting center are bales of materials destined for recycling.

Photo: City of Montreal Department of Environment

In 2021, the amount of materials rejected by Quebec sorting centers increased. This year, 144,000 tons of material were rejected, while in 2020 the amount of rejected material reached 114,000 tons.

Some municipalities already have inspectors in their area checking for contamination of recycling bins. However, this is not on the scale requested by Éco Entreprises Québec and is being done in a way that is less intrusive to citizens.

The president of the Union des Municipalités du Québec says he continues to work with Éco Entreprises Québec to explore possible solutions and ensure the plan proposed by the organization addresses the concerns of cities. When we require this verification, it is an additional direct cost that we had agreed upon and that we would not have […] which has always been talked about from the beginning.

Several other measures included in Éco Entreprise Québec’s proposed road recycling modernization plan are raising concerns for mayors, including the penalties that could be imposed on communities with high levels of contamination of their materials.

Municipalities must reach agreement with Éco Entreprises Québec on the new selective collection terms by September 7. Otherwise, an arbitrator will be appointed for the file.

The reform of the selective collection system will be implemented step by step until the end of 2024.