Mountains of recyclable materials are piling up outside one of Montreal’s sorting centres as the city teeters on the verge of a recycling crisis.
For the last two weeks, bundles of paper, cardboard and plastic have been left stacked several feet high outside the sorting centre in St-Michel.
Environmental advocates say the once-reusable material is being ruined by snow and weather.
“This material is mainly paper, and paper rots,” Karel Ménard, director general of Quebec Coalition for Ecological Waste, said.
“With the water and the sun, the quality is going down, sitting outside in the mud.”
The piles of debris are mounting as the provincial and municipal officials are bracing for four sorting centres in the province to cease operations in the near future, including two in Montreal.
Rebuts Solides Canadiens (RSC), which is owned by French company Tiru, announced last week it could be forced to close down the plants as it faces financial hardships.
In a statement, the company said it was dealing with “great difficulties” linked to the economic model of its sorting centres.
The value of the recycled goods, which were sent to foreign markets, has drastically tanked in recent years.
While Montreal Mayor Valérie Plante vows that recycling will not come to a halt in the city, piles of the material have been left outside for weeks, losing what little value it has left.
Ménard says most of the paper that is exposed will have to be removed since it will only tarnish the recycling process.
The city says that Tiru is ultimately responsible for the material according to the agreement between the city and the French company.
Ménard says this potential crisis was avoidable, saying the city needed to modernize its recycling process.
“In Quebec we collect a lot but we don’t recycle a lot, this is a problem. We should have developed the recycling industry far more than we did,” Ménard said.
He hopes the difficult situation will give the city and the provincial government a push to revamp the industry.
Quebec Environment Minister Benoit Charrette says the government will be working on long-term solutions in the coming days.
“We are working on a plan to transform the recycling system,” he said. “In the meantime, the money in the centres is not lost.”
— With files from Global News’ Kalina Laframboise