Nearly half of Montreal’s 19 boroughs do not recycle glass, despite telling residents on the city’s website that they can put it in their bin or blue bag.
Recycling from eight municipalities is brought to the sorting center in the Saint-Michel neighborhood of the city, managed by the company Ricova. Recycling from the other 11 boroughs goes to a new $47 million facility in Lachine, operated by another city contract company, Société VIA.
Both sorting centers have had trouble separating glass from other recyclable materials, as well as cleaning it, but the Saint-Michel center is the latest to come under scrutiny for not even trying.
The 20,000 tons of glass that Ricova collects in Montreal ends up in landfills or is crushed into powder and used as landfill cover instead of sand. The chute cover is spread over the trash at the end of each day to minimize odors and prevent animals from entering it.
“It’s basically a glorified landfill,” recycling advocate Karel Ménard said of using glass dust as a landfill cover.
Ménard said the Quebec government has allowed the practice as a stopgap measure until it can implement better glass recycling measures. The government has never limited the thickness of that deck, which means it can often be taller than necessary, she added.
The municipalities where Ricova collects recycling are: Plateau-Mont-Royal, Rosemont–La Petite-Patrie, Villeray–Saint-Michel–Parc-Extension, Montréal-Nord, Anjou, Mercier–Hochelaga-Maisonneuve, Saint-Léonard and Rivière- des -Meadows–Pointe-aux-Trembles.
Plateau resident Pierre Beaudoin has been meticulously cleaning and recycling glass bottles for years.
“It amazes me that there are so many counties that have this malpractice of making us believe we are recycling,” Beaudoin said. “It’s disconcerting.”
Ricova says she can’t make the investment in better equipment since her contract with the city ends in 2024. The city will not renew that contract and will close the Saint-Michel center and replace it with another one under construction in east Montreal.
Infinitely recyclable glass, but Quebec barely does it
When glass is not mixed with other materials, it is one of the most recyclable materials out there. It can be melted and re-blown an infinite number of times and requires much less energy than making glass from scratch.
But Quebec has struggled to recycle glass since it stopped requiring citizens to sort their own materials about 20 years ago, opting instead to hire companies to do the sorting after curbside pickup.
Since then, Ménard says none of the glass collected on the side of Quebec roads can be turned back into glass bottles. Much of it ends up broken, contaminating other recyclable materials such as paper and cardboard. The material that can be recovered is mainly converted into products used in construction, sandblasting or swimming pool filters.
That is the case for the approximately 12,000 tons of glass received by the sorting center in Lachine, the shipment of which is paid by Groupe Bellemare, a company in the Mauricie region of Quebec.
“It’s all very opaque,” Ménard said, noting that it’s not clear if 100 percent of the glass Bellemare buys can be transformed. He wonders why the company requires payment to take the glass.
Bellemare told Breaking: that it does not have the capacity to take glass from the Saint-Michel sorting center other than from Lachine.
The City of Montreal recognizes that existing systems are not ideal.
“The solution is modernization,” said Marie-Andrée Mauger, mayor of the Verdun district and a member of the executive committee responsible for the environment. “We have to remove the glass before it goes to the recycling bin.”
Montreal factory uses maritime glass from Ontario
In May, Quebec once again delayed a program to do just that. The glass and plastic deposit system that had been promised for November 2023 is now scheduled for 2025.
Meanwhile, there are about 100 storage containers in Quebec that have been installed by an organization called verre-vert operation, including four in Montreal. Their locations are available on the group’s website. websitewhich is in french
The province invested $21 million in Montreal’s Owens-Illinois glassworks last year, with a view to taking over glass from the upcoming warehouse system.
According to Ménard, the factory is the largest of its kind that can recycle glass in eastern North America. However, it can barely use recycled glass in Quebec, instead making bottles with glass sourced from Ontario and the Maritimes.