As recyclables pile up in Lachine, Montreal tries to cut ties with sorting company

Montreal is attempting to terminate its contract with Ricova for its recycling sorting centre in the Lachine borough, as material piles up outside the facility.

Ricova blames collection process, inadequate equipment

Montreal's $50-million recycling centre in Lachine was inaugurated in 2019. Ricova took over the facility in 2020 after the previous operators went bankrupt. (Ivanoh Demers/Radio-Canada)

Montreal is attempting to terminate its contract with Ricova for its recycling sorting centre in the Lachine borough, as material piles up outside the facility.

Mayor Valérie Plante told the city's executive committee on Wednesday that recyclables "have been accumulating for several weeks" at the sorting centre because the company has been unable to sell its bales on the export market. 

She said the city's lawyers gave notice Tuesday that it would like to terminate the contract and put in place a new operator. 

In an earlier statement, city spokesperson Marikym Gaudreault said that "everything is done to ensure the continuity of operations in Lachine."

"Discussions are currently underway between the two parties and signals indicate that Ricova will agree to co-operate on a successful transition," Gaudreault said. 

La Presse and TVA first reported the development Wednesday morning. According to La Presse, Ricova sent a letter to the city earlier this month warning that it was running out of space at the sorting centre.

In a news release, Ricova said it will co-operate fully to maintain the collection and sorting of recyclabe materials in Montreal.

Legal battles

Ricova Services Inc., based in Brossard, Que., has been operating Montreal's two recycling sorting centres, in Lachine and Saint-Michel, since 2020. It also collects curbside recycling from two of the city's boroughs.

Sorted materials at the facilities have been found to have high contamination levels, which makes it difficult to sell and ultimately, recycle.

In the statement, Ricova's president, Dominic Colubriale, put part of the blame on the way recyclables are picked up in Montreal, saying "the materials collected at the source are highly contaminated."

But he also said Ricova told the city in the fall of 2020 that the equipment at its Lachine sorting plant was "not adequate to meet the volume of materials collected in Montreal."

Ricova says that it can't do much about the Lachine plant since it doesn't own it.

Ricova Services Inc., based in Brossard, Que., runs Montreal's two recycling sorting centres. (Jérôme Labbé/Radio-Canada)

The city's attempt to end its agreement with Ricova in Lachine is part of an ongoing battle playing out before the courts.

In a report earlier this year, the city's inspector general, Brigitte Bishop, said Ricova Services Inc. had sold recyclable materials to one of its sister companies, Ricova International Inc., which then sold them to outside buyers at a higher price. 

In all, the report alleges Ricova withheld more than $1 million it owed the city for recycled materials it sold over a 12-month period. 

Bishop recommended at the time that the city block the company from bidding on contracts for five years and cut ties with the company "as soon as possible."


Benjamin Shingler is a reporter with CBC in Montreal. He specializes in health and social issues, and previously worked at The Canadian Press and the New Brunswick Telegraph-Journal.


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