Montreal

Quebec to make companies responsible for reducing, recycling of packaging waste

The Quebec government plans to revamp how recyclable materials are handled by giving manufacturers in the province more responsibility to make sure what they produce doesn't end up in the trash.

Government to update recycling centres and fund 'innovations' pitched by companies with $30M fund

Quebec Environment Minister Benoit Charette said since producers are helping to pay for recycling services already, they should be lending the recycling industry their expertise, too. (Ivanoh Demers/Radio-Canada)

The Quebec government plans to revamp how recyclable materials are handled by giving manufacturers in the province more responsibility to make sure what they produce doesn't end up in the trash.

Provincial Environment Minister Benoit Charette said the goals are to give companies incentives to make products that are more easily recyclable and to reduce the amount of material at the source.

"We have problems with contamination. We have problems with selling [the materials]," Charette said at a news conference Tuesday at Montreal's recycling centre in Lachine. 

"[The public's] confidence is quite fragile because we've had crisis for some years now."

With markets abroad raising the quality standards of the recycled materials they will accept — or refusing the materials entirely — Charette said the priority will be to find local companies to make use of the paper, glass, metal and plastic collected.

An inability to find a buyer for recycled paper was the reason given by TIRU, the company that managed the recycling plant in Montreal and some of those elsewhere in the province, when it announced it was ceasing operations.

The government says it will make $30 million available over the next three years to upgrade the province's recycling facilities and support innovative ways to process recycling and reduce reliance on single-use plastics.

It plans to begin implementing the new system in 2022 and have it fully in place by 2025.

Since producers are paying into recycling services already, Quebec's environment minister says they should be lending their expertise, too. (Ivanoh Demers/Radio-Canada)

Companies working with municipalities and the province's recycling authority, Recyc-Québec, will be able to track how much of their packaging is actually making it through the system instead of being thrown out.

Charette said legislation will be introduced that would require producers to make sure at least 70 per cent of their materials are recycled by 2025 and 90 per cent by 2030.

Those who fail to meet that target would face financial penalties, he said.

In a statement, the environmental group Équiterre said the measures were a positive step, but more must be done to reduce the amount of material being recycled.

"Reducing at the source must be the priority for the government to protect our resources, and introducing more responsible consumption habits in the face of the climate crisis," said Équiterre's executive director, Colleen Thorpe.

Last month, the government announced that its consignment system would be expanded to include all beverage containers, which Charette said will also ease the burden on recycling centres once it is in place.

Currently, only some aluminum cans and beer bottles can be returned for a refund.

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