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2000 Waste — Co-winner 3

City of Montreal, Quebec

Discovering the value of waste through the city’s eco-centre system

Population: 1 Million

The City of Montreal's eco-centres are now recycling and reusing many types of waste materials that once languished in the city's landfill. Each of Montreal's five eco-centres is a user-friendly, community-based facility where residents can dispose of items, such as furniture or renovation waste, that are not accepted in pickups of regular garbage or recyclables. Between 1997 and 2000, the eco-centres received almost 85,000 tonnes of materials, or about 25 per cent of the total mass of waste produced by Montreal residents. Sixty-five per cent of that was diverted from landfill. The city estimates that the cost savings generated from the eco-centres will offset infrastructure and equipment costs in less than five years.

Background

Until 1996, municipal employees picked up all types of materials from Montreal streets to take to 10 waste yards located throughout the city. Sofas, appliances, garden waste, materials left over from renovation or demolition projects — anything that did not fall under the city's guidelines for regular garbage or recyclables - were routinely tossed into piles at the waste yards where they sat until they were either scavenged or could be transferred to the city's landfill. Public works and environment department employees estimated that the city picked up 100,000 tonnes of this waste every year. Furthermore, the depots were not monitored. Montreal's public works department recognized the depots as a potential safety hazard.

Results

  • The city saves about $400,000 a year on tipping fees for every eco-centre it operates. Each centre cost about $1.3 million to construct, therefore each centre pays for itself in less than five years.
  • In 2000, less than three years after the first eco-centre opened, Montreal was recovering close to 40 per cent of the total amount of waste discarded by residents in 1996. The potential for a higher rate of recovery is excellent given that only one third of the planned eco-centres were in place in 2001.
  • Montreal has saved $3 million by diverting 85,000 tonnes of materials from landfill. Montreal estimates in less than five years the savings from this program will have offset the infrastructure and equipment costs of building the eco-centres.
  • The eco-centres have contributed significantly to public awareness about waste reduction.
  • The project has created 13 full-time eco-centre jobs and many temporary jobs. For every 1,000 tonnes of materials collected, one job is created in the community.

Lesson Learned

Planners underestimated how popular the eco-centres would become for disposal of reusable materials. New plans are underway for future eco-centres to have larger facilities.

Page Updated: 21/12/2015