Quebec Faces a Recycling Crisis


Plastic, paper, and glass are all sitting in mounds and towers that reach over six meters high and cover the surface of Sherbrooke’s recycling plant. Cats climb on the trash and play in cardboard boxes. Walking between the mounds, plastic crunches underfoot and conveyor belts now lay under the mess.

Who is to blame for the recycling crisis?

Pierre Avard has the answer. He is the vice-president of Recup-Estrie, a regional sorting facility which was shut down for two weeks and has reopened this week. He blames this crisis on Ricova, which is a multinational waste management company that was supposed to run the plant. Avard claims that the company did not fulfill the terms of the contract, although warned:

“We’d sent warnings and complaints to Ricova for several months and nothing changed. The material wasn’t getting sorted anymore.”

Avard stated that a dozen employees now try to place things in order after the plant was closed at the beginning of June. They sent a letter to Ricova a year and a half ago to force the company off the property and to terminate the contract.

How did Ricova respond?

With a different version of the story.

Dominic Colubriale is the president of the company Ricova, stating that there is a different version of the events. Operations at the plant ran well until they were forced to leave. They wanted to renegotiate the contract for more money, and that’s when things started to get rusty between Recup-Estrie and Ricova.

Colubriale said that the problems started last year when China banned the import of waste:

“Honestly, we believe it’s all about the market crisis. Where we used to sell [recycled paper] product for about $150 dollars a tonne, today we’re paying to get rid of it. So somebody has to pay the cost to get it processed.”

Recup-Estrie is now hiring back the former employees that worked at the plant for Ricova, and they’re starting the operations on their own. The city will be back to normal by next week, as curbside pick-up is now resumed.

As for Ricova, they’ve contacted the legal team and won’t disclose the next move.



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