Recycling crisis hits Quebec as China rejects waste imports

Quebec is sounding the alarm over a recycling crisis now that China, one of the province’s biggest buyers of recyclable material, no longer wants it.

About 60% of materials collected in Quebec are sent abroad, mostly to China

About 60 per cent of the recyclable items that are collected in Quebec are sent abroad to be processed. (Espace pour la vie Montréal)

Quebec is sounding the alarm over a recycling crisis now that China, one of the province's biggest waste importers, no longer wants its recyclable material.

It's leaving environmentalists wondering what will happen to the surplus material that is collected and sorted in the province.

"Mainly, what is happening now is there is less exportation to China. So the material remains in Quebec. And we store, and store and store the recyclables in sorting centres," said Karel Ménard, the director of environmental group Front commun québécois pour une gestion écologique des déchets (FCQGED).

According to Ménard, roughly 40 per cent of the material collected in Quebec is sorted and then processed into new products right in the province.

The other 60 per cent of the material is sold abroad, mostly to China.

But China is planning to ban waste imports by the end of the year. The ban includes several types of materials such as plastic, glass and tires.

One major reason for the ban was that garbage was too often mixed in with the recyclable imports.

Recyc-Québec, the agency that advises the government on reducing waste, says the surplus collected in Quebec will not end up in landfills.

"[There is the] refusal to proceed with the burial of materials, even as a last resort or 'temporary solution,'" Recyc-Québec said in a written statement.

The agency added that one possible solution could include finding more buyers in Quebec.

It's also calling on Quebecers to be more careful about what they are putting in their recycling bins.

With files from CBC's Matt D'Amours