Taking out the garbage

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I recently attended a conference on waste management in Quebec, organized by CRE Montreal with speakers from the Recyc-Québec, Centre Eaton and Héma-Québec. The conference was titled, “Projet de nouvelle politique de gestion des matières résiduelles”

The main speaker was Mario Laquerre, from Recyc-Québec, went through their plans for reducing the of waste sent to landfill. Recyc-Québec’s first policy came out in 1989, the second in 1998 and the third in 2010. The new goals go further than ever before and have the ultimate purpose of sending 100% of recyclable or valuable waste to the appropriate processing facility. Despite their best efforts, the amount of waste sent to landfill has been steadily increasing as seen in this image – notice how it is tied to sales at stores, though it is obvious, it does make the point that our economy is tied to waste.

One figure that stood out was how the population in Quebec has increased by 5% since 1998, but waste has increased by 47%. Thank you China. Full Bilan found here. In 2009, per capita, we recycle more than we are send to the dump, but our increase in consumption means more is still going to the big hole in the ground (see image above).

Today, 96% of paint, 92% of used oil and 88% old tires are properly disposed of – not sent to the landfill. This great success is due to the taxes and deposits placed on these items, companies must recycle them or face stiff fines, the cost of recycling is also built into the product. These initiatives work, and should be applied to more products – though some lend themselves more to this method than others. The next targets for this system of deposits is cooling liquids, mercury based lamps, batteries and electronic equipment – all major polluters in landfills.

Organic waste is also a top priority for Recyc-Québec, with a goal of recovering and processing 100% of organic waste by 2020. If we can successfully achieve these ambitious goals, Québec will be much greener.

The Eaton Centre and Héma Québec presented their modest initiatives to curtail waste. If you recall, a few years ago the Eaton Centre was caught throwing out recyclables; afterwards, they decided to be green – goes to show you that we need a both a stick and a carrot to get companies moving.