Waste management company leaving recycling uncollected all over Montreal

While Côte-des-Neiges—Notre-Dame-de-Grâce works to dig itself out from under piles of uncollected recyclables, a CBC investigation has revealed trash and compost have been piling up across other parts of the city for weeks at a time for more than a year.

Ricova blames CDN-NDG bidding process, China's ban on imported waste, heat wave

Among other reasons for the delays, Ricova blames the uptick in waste created by moving day, staff shortages, the heat wave and slowdowns at Montreal's recyclables sorting centre. (CBC)

While Côte-des-Neiges—Notre-Dame-de-Grâce works to dig itself out from under piles of uncollected recyclables, a CBC investigation has revealed that trash and compost have been piling up across other parts of the city for weeks at a time for more than a year.

Several Montreal officials are now pointing a finger at Ricova Inc., which has the contract to collect household waste and compost with many of Montreal's 19 boroughs.

"Since April 2017, we have had 1,363 complaints," said Normand Marinacci, the mayor of Île-Bizard–Sainte-Geneviève — and that's only based on calls made to 311. It doesn't count the many calls he and borough councillors receive directly from citizens.

On collection days, he said, Ricova routinely fails to pick up recycling in 50 per cent of his borough, sometimes skipping routes two weeks in a row. As a result, residents are forced to accumulate and store trash on their property.

"It is a problem," said Marinacci. "We sent them 26 notices of infraction, for a total of $29,300."

Île-Bizard–Sainte-Geneviève Mayor Normand Marinacci says in the past 15 months, he and his fellow councillors have received 1,363 complaints about Ricova's failure to pick up recycling in the borough. (Antoni Nerestant/CBC)

The City of Montreal has yet to provide CBC with the exact number of boroughs affected by the Ricova contract.

However, other boroughs known to be using Ricova's services, such as Côte-des-Neiges–Notre-Dame-de-Grâce, Outremont and Ahuntsic-Cartierville, have fined the company, as well.

Coun. Lionel Perez, leader of Montreal's official opposition, said Ricova has "been deficient" and it is "not respecting its obligations" when it comes to collecting waste, compost and recyclables.

Perez said it's disconcerting for residents and comes just as Montreal plans to expand compost collection.

"It could really undermine the collaboration of the population if they don't think that the proper pickups are going to be done in time," Perez said.

Undercutting the competition

Ricova, a multinational company that is based on Montreal's South Shore, has a history of offering substantially lower bids than its competitors, CBC News has learned.

In CDN-NDG, for example, Ricova's $2.8-million bid was about 45 per cent lower than any other company's, and that alarmed officials, said borough director Stéphane Plante.

Borough staff questioned the bid before passing it off to council for approval in August 2017, Plante said, but Ricova reassured them.

The company told the borough that, because it is so large and has contracts throughout the region, it can offer services for considerably cheaper.

The company promised to deliver, Plante said, but he said that hasn't happened.

The CDN-NDG borough has since fined the company more than $60,000 for failing to pick up recycling.

Snowdon Coun. Marvin Rotrand said the contract was approved by the council "in good faith" that the company would deliver, but he, too, has seen recycling pile up throughout his district week after week.

Borough Mayor Sue Montgomery told CBC News Monday the borough is now looking to sever ties with Ricova and instead pass the recycling contract onto a new company come August.

"Sometimes they pick it up and sometimes they won't," Montgomery said, noting she is encouraging residents to reduce the amount of trash and recycling they produce.

"I've seen them go barrelling right past my house."

In Montreal's Côte-des-Neiges–Notre-Dame-de-Grâce borough, blue collar workers are now being paid overtime to pick up recycling left to pile up by Ricova, the multinational firm with the contract for the borough. (CBC)

Until a new contract is signed with a different company, the borough's blue collar workers have been working overtime to collect the mounting piles of recycling.

Montgomery said Anjou-based Derichebourg Environnement, which already collects in part of borough, will be asked to step in.

Borough officials say they'll be looking to recover that overtime pay from Ricova.

Other boroughs, municipalities affected

Ricova is also facing other issues in boroughs like Ahuntsic-Cartierville, where the waste management company is responsible for compost pickup.

A spokesperson in that borough said the company has missed pickups over the last six weeks and has already been issued a few thousand dollars in fines. In Outremont, Ricova was fined $2,000 in 2017 for neglecting several streets.

Île-Bizard–Sainte-Geneviève is looking for a legal way to break the contract with Ricova, just as Côte-des-Neiges–Notre-Dame-de-Grâce is, said Marinacci, the borough's mayor.

He said even when Ricova does collect waste, debris is often left behind.

Residents are blaming him for the problem.

"They feel the mayor is responsible, and I feel it is not my decision and it is not something I am controlling. That's the frustration," he said.

Ricova, a multinational company that is based on Montreal's South Shore, has a history of offering substantially lower bids than its competitors, CBC News has learned. (CBC)

Montreal isn't the only municipality fed up with Ricova.

Ricova was hired to run Recup-Estrie's sorting facility in Sherbrooke, in the Eastern Townships.

However, the vice-president of Recup-Estrie, Pierre Avard, told CBC News that Ricova's failure to properly sort material forced a shutdown of the plant for two weeks.

Ricova blamed China's ban on imported waste for that problem in the Townships.

In a statement issued Tuesday, the company also blames China for triggering the global recycling crisis that is contributing to delays in collecting recyclables in CDN-NDG.

CDN-NDG bidding process flawed: Ricova

In its statement, Ricova also blames the bidding process in the west-end borough.

CDN-NDG sought bids for the collecting of 6,000 tonnes a year of recycled material, Ricova said, but that figure nearly doubled, to 11,000 tonnes, in a later amendment.

"This small detail, which is an enormous difference in price, put us in a bad position with this contract," Ricova said in the statement.

"Obviously our employee who prepared the contract never saw the 11,000 tonnes amendment, otherwise, we would not put in the price for 6,000 tonnes."

Ricova told the borough that it isn't able to collect 11,000 tonnes annually, the company states, and it requested the borough adjust the price or cancel the contract.

"We value the city business, and we agreed to continue to service them at a loss" until the next council meeting, said Ricova.

Among other reasons for the delays, Ricova blames the uptick in waste created by moving day, staff shortages, the heat wave and slowdowns at Montreal's recyclables sorting centre.

Ricova has yet to respond to CBC's request for an interview to answer questions on waste and compost collection in other city boroughs.

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