Quebec is responding to the effective closure of much of the Chinese market to the province’s recyclables by launching an effort to modernize its recovery and recycling industry. Minister of Sustainable Development, the Environment and the Fight Against Climate Change Isabelle Melançon isn’t banking on re-opening the door to China. Rather, she’s hoping that higher quality recyclables from Quebec will spur the growth of domestic processing capacity, freeing the province from its reliance on an uncertain foreign market.
The government is allocating $6 million to support the improvements at sorting centres, where mixed recyclables are sorted into categories and contaminants are removed. Funding will also be available to other initiatives proposed by the province’s recycling agency — RECYC-QUÉBEC — or recommended by a new committee formed to help modernize the province’s recycling industry. This is on top of the $3.45 million already awarded for the modernization of seven recycling centres.
Another $4.6 million will be available specifically to help the recovery and recycling sector generate quality material suitable to support a circular economy.
At the same time, a recycling industry modernization committee, co-chaired by Louise Hénault-Ethier from the David Suzuki Foundation and Université de Sherbrooke research professor Marc Olivier, will examine all aspects of the province’s recycling system and make recommendations to improve the quality of the material it produces.
Quebec has relied heavily on China as a market for its recyclables. The 2017 introduction by China of higher quality standards for imported recyclables provoked a crisis within the Quebec recycling industry, raising the prospect of landfilling what had previously been considered recyclable material.
The province is hoping that the availability of clean, uncontaminated recyclable material will promote the growth of new processing capacity within the province. Government figures show that Quebec recovers more than 1 million tonnes of materials annually. According to waste industry source Waste360, 60% of this amount has been exported, mostly to China.