New recycling centre in Lachine will send glass to landfill for now

The long-awaited sorting centre, built for $50 million, has machinery that better separates paper, cardboard and plastic, but it will be several months before it has a machine to sort and clean recycled glass.

The centre, built at a cost of $50M, will process 100,000 tonnes of material per year

The $50M Montreal sorting centre was officially inaugurated Tuesday morning. (Radio-Canada)

Montreal Mayor Valérie Plante inaugurated a state-of-the-art, $50-million recycling centre in Lachine Tuesday — a recycling centre that, for the time being at least, cannot sort and clean glass.

A glass-sorting and cleaning machine donated to the centre by Éco Entreprise Québec, a private non-for-profit organization that represents businesses marketing recyclable material, is now not expected to arrive until the spring.

"We ordered it. The agreement is signed. It's time for this," said Jean-François Parenteau, the Montreal executive committee member responsible for the environment.

Until the $2.5-million glass-handling equipment arrives, glass destined for recycling at the centre will be sent on to a landfill to be crushed and spread as aggregate, in place of sand — unless packers can be persuaded to take it.

"We are in discussion with different packers from Quebec to use the material," Maxime Roberge, a waste management engineer at the City of Montreal, told Radio-Canada.

100,000 tonnes a year

The new centre's inability to handle recycled glass put a damper on the plant's otherwise celebratory inauguration. Plante said the François-Lenoir plant is the most advanced recycling centre in the province. 

Some 80 trucks a day will arrive at the centre in Lachine from everywhere on the island, west of Ville-Marie. The centre will be able to process 100,000 tonnes of recycled materials per year — 58 per cent of the recyclable material collected in the city. 

The plant will use automated machinery to separate paper, cardboard and plastic.

This is the area where recycled materials are dropped off in the new sorting centre in Lachine. (Valeria Cori-Manocchio/CBC)

That means just 35 workers will operate the facility. Working conditions will be much better, too: the work areas are sound-proofed, well-ventilated and air-conditioned.

Plante said this plant is part of the city's master plan to attain zero-waste by 2030.

"This will significantly improve the recycling of plastic and paper, which means that the quality, and therefore the value of the products will be improved," said Plante. 

'It was about time'

Karel Ménard, the executive director of the Quebec Coalition of Ecological Waste Management, says the new sorting plant has been a long time coming. (Radio-Canada)

"It was about time that Montreal has a large and new sorting centre," said Karel Ménard, the executive director of the Quebec Coalition of Ecological Waste Management.

Ménard said for decades, Montreal only had a single sorting centre, in Saint-Michel, which has not been updated in many years. 

That sorting centre in Saint-Michel is to remain in operation for another five years, until a new centre is built in the city's east end. 

As for glass recycling, the new machine set to be operational in Lachine by the spring is supposed to do a better job of cleaning glass, leaving it 95 per cent pure.

Ménard expressed reservations about how well that will work. He said if Quebecers want to ensure their glass can be recycled into other glass products, the change needs to start at the curb.

"When you put glass into the curbside collection bin, it's being contaminated with ceramic, porcelain and brick," said Ménard. 

Ménard said glass that has impurities cannot be melted down to make new bottles and other objects.

With reporting from Valeria Cori-Manocchio and Radio-Canada


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