Future of Montreal recycling uncertain after company announces intention to cease operations

RBS, the company operating four sorting centres has announced its intention to cease operations in Quebec. Friday, Jan. 24, 2020. Tim Sargeant/Global News

The City of Montreal confirmed Friday afternoon during a press conference at City Hall that Rebuts Solides Canadiens Inc. (RBS) plans to cease its operations in the province.

The company operates four sorting centres in Quebec, two of which are on the island of Montreal. One is located in the borough of Lachine and the other in the borough of Villeray–St-Michel–Parc-Extension.

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

Jean-François Parenteau, the executive member in charge of the environment, said the city has various options when it comes to moving forward.

He explained the city owns the building and all the equipment at the Lachine facility, while at the Villeray location the city owns the land and building but not the installations inside.

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Parenteau suggested the possibility of transferring the contract to another company.

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“In Lachine, we just need an operator. At Villeray–St-Michel, we need a new owner or transfer the contract we already signed with Montreal,” he said, adding it depended on what RBS wants to do.

That comment didn’t sit well with the opposition.

“If we want to continue giving services to Montrealers, we need to be leading in this plan,” said city councillor Francesco Miele.

“We shouldn’t be waiting for Rebuts Solides Canadiens to tell us what they’re going to do. We should be telling them, ‘you’re leaving such a date, here’s our plan B.'”

READ MORE: Is Canada’s recycling industry broken?

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While Parenteau agreed there is a recycling crisis, especially when it comes to paper due to its low cost, he said recycling operations would continue in Montreal.

“We have a social contract with the citizens and we will continue,” he said, adding the city was looking at short-term solutions to ensure that social contract isn’t broken.

Miele argued the city has known since 2018 that the market for locally-produced recycled paper was diminishing — most notably in China — and should be better prepared.

He put forward the idea of turning the sorting centres in to non-profit organizations as a possible solution.

“If we’re going to invest the money to save a private corporation, we might as well invest the money to run our own business so it could be possibly through a non-profit,” he said.

Miele said Montreal could model itself after other cities who have already turned to the non-profit model.

RBS is expected to release more details of when and how it plans to pull out of operations in the coming weeks — perhaps as early as next week.

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