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‘It’s worrying’: Quebec faces recycling ’emergency’ as sorting centres on verge of closure

Quebec faces recycling crisis
WATCH: Quebec is facing a recycling emergency after four sorting centres in the province are threatening to close. Global’s Raquel Fletcher reports.

Quebec is facing a recycling emergency as four sorting centres are threatening to close their doors.

Environment Minister Benoit Charette is in crisis management mode. In order to maintain the public’s faith that climate change can be fought, he said the province needs to transform the whole recycling system — and fast.

“We are in an emergency state,” Charette said.

Two centres in Montreal, one on the South Shore and another in Saguenay, are on the verge of closure. If that’s the case, untold amounts of recyclable material could end up in a landfill.

The centres are run by TIRU group, who told Global News it would not be commenting at this time.

READ MORE: Canada’s recycling industry is on life-support. Here’s how to fix it

Charette has called an urgent meeting on Friday to make sure that doesn’t happen.

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“It’s worrying because recycling for most Quebecers and most Canadians is really their contact point with adopting environmental behaviour, green behaviour,” said Karel Mayrand, director general of the Quebec and Atlantic regions for the David Suzuki Foundation.

“And if they see this failing, their trust in the ecological transition is affected.”

READ MORE: Canada can expect more nations to send trash back: expert

The Quebec government has already doled out millions of dollars in the last budget and is ready to hand over more to keep the centres open, but the minister said more money is not the answer.

Quebec Solidaire MNA Ruba Ghazal said further funding is just a band-aid solution.

“What we [have been] doing for years and years is exporting bad-quality recycling materials,” she said.

“And today, these countries — China, India, Malaysia — they are saying, ‘We don’t want to have your garbage.'”

Zero waste and Quebec: what can be done
Zero waste and Quebec: what can be done

Without the option to export our recycling, Quebec will need to overhaul its system. Charrette said the previous Liberal government should have started thinking about alternatives years ago.

“We knew that situation would happen [and] the previous government didn’t take the right action,” Charette said.

When China and India shut down the border to a lot of our products, that’s not the fault of the government of Quebec,” said Liberal MNA Greg Kelley.

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“That’s not the fault of the Liberal Party of Quebec, but it presents some very unique challenges to our recycling industry.”

READ MORE: ‘Time is running out and we need to act’: Montreal wants to ban single-use plastics by 2020

The David Suzuki Foundation said Quebec should be investing in a circular model of waste management, where product packaging and other garbage is sold to companies to make new products.

“This entire industry needs to be reorganized from upstream to downstream…so we can build this economy and generate employment,” Mayrand said.

However, he said Quebecers need to be aware that “it won’t be cheap.”

“The cheapest thing to do is just to throw things away, right? But it’s not cheap for the planet and it’s not the right thing to do,” he said.

“So we need to invest in this circular model and make sure that waste is not wasted.”