The sad state of the recycling industry is continually in the news creating worries and heated debates. There’s no denying, there is a huge issue across Québec which needs to be addressed as soon as possible. Because people are starting to lose trust in the process, the risk of adopting bad environmental behavior is really high.
It was reported by Grégory Pratte from Tricentris in a recent interview (Recyclage : la recette du succès), that the fact that some recycling centers are threatening to close is due to the fact that they’re sending junk to other countries. Those countries such as China and India are now only accepting products with a low contamination rate (around 1% contamination rate is accepted). If those recycling centers want to sell their mix-fibers, they’ll need to invest in technology like Tricentris did with their optical reader. Tricentris invested $6.6 million for 6 optical readers in 2018 in order to answer to the tighter requirements from China and other countries for the sale of fibers. It’s really disturbing that some recycling centers are giving the entire industry a bad name and leading people to think that their recycling is going to landfills. The media is also partly to blame by wanting to sensationalize their stories and focusing on the recycling centers who are problematic rather than the success stories.
But thankfully, not all recycling centers are created equal! Luckily, the MRC Vaudreuil-Soulanges deals with Tricentris, a non-profit organisation located in Lachute. They’re considered one of the best in the province.
What you need to know
Here is some information you should know which I gathered during a visit at their sorting center in Lachute last August:
(1) Tricentris has three plants (Lachute, Gatineau and Terrebonne).
(2) At Tricentris, plastics, cardboard and metal are sold locally (see map below).
(3) Glass is recycled at the Lachute micronization plant next to Tricentris and made into different products. Over $12 million was invested there.
(4) All of the cardboard collected in Tricentris centers is sold locally at Cascades.
(5) Tricentris uses an optical reader which is programmed to recognize unwanted items mixed with the fibers which are removed and eject them using an air jet. The contamination rate is 3% on leaving new equipment and, after the material has been combed through the sorters, it is reduced to an impressive 1%. This meets India’s criteria, so it’s not an issue for Tricentris unlike recent reports by other recycling centers. Since there aren’t any local buyers, there’s no other choice but to send it where they’re willing to buy mix-fiber. Read: Le papier recyclé des Gatinois encore assez bon pour l’Inde, assure Tricentris
(6) Modix Plastique Inc., a company of Chinese origin, is located two kilometers from the center of Tricentris de Lachute. Their goal is to process between 7,000 and 10,000 tonnes of plastic bags per year and transform it into small rigid plastic pellets. Processing of plastic bags will produce a raw material ready for use in various industrial processes. The recycled plastic pellets will then mainly take the direction of China. That’s where Tricentris is to send their plastic bags. Tricentris process about 2,500 tonnes of plastic bags annually.
(7) Most rejected material is due to the fact that people put stuff in their blue bin that isn’t recyclable. The reject rate is about 10-12% at Tricentris.
All recyclable materials received and processed at the Tricentris sorting center:
- Cardboard represents 13.5%
- Paper represents 64%
- Metal represents 3.5%
- Glass represents 14.5%
- Plastic represents 4.5%
1. To find out if something is recyclable, first ask yourself: is the item I want to put in my recycling bin made of paper, cardboard, plastic, glass or metal. Then, is it a container, packaging or print. If you answered “NO” to any of these questions, those items should not go into the recycling bin.
2. How can you easily tell if your flexible plastic packaging can be recycled? Take the bag or packaging and try to stretch it by pushing through with your thumb. If the plastic stretches easily, you can recycle it. Otherwise, it goes to the trash.
3. You don’t have to wash your jars or containers, lightly rinse and that’s it.
4. Plastic marked #1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 7 can go in your blue bin. Plastic # 6 doesn’t go in the blue bin but can now go to the Ecocenter.
5. Members of the Nespresso Club can recycle their capsules; the pilot project is intended only for Nespresso customers living in one of the 200 municipalities served by Tricentris. You will need a special bag to dispose of your capsules in your blue bin. Inquire through Nespresso on how to get the bags. Read more: Une Collaboration pour Tricentris et Nespresso
6. Starbucks and Tim Horton’s coffee cups are recyclable but lids don’t usually go in the blue bin unless marked. Coffee cups are made from the same material as juice and milk containers which are all recyclable.
How can we do better
In my opinion, the best way to solve our recycling problems is to first start changing the way we consume, shop and think about packaging. We should also demand more from our retailers. The good news is that there are more and more stores that offer other solutions such as bringing your own containers or offer more environmentally friendly packaging.
The government also needs to impose more restrictions and punitive measures to those industries that create excessive packaging. Incentives for those who make the effort to be more environmentally friendly is also a good way to motivate people. As well, we need to be more innovative and find new ways to process our recycling waste here, so that we don’t have to export to other countries.
Although there are plenty of recycling centers in Quebec which are struggling, this is not the case for Tricentris. Recycling centers all have their challenges but you should feel confident that the your recycling (Saint-Lazare) and other towns in our MRC is not going in landfills. No matter what, with climate change and everything that is happening in the word, this is not the time to give up!
Where does Tricentris send your recycling