Every day, recycling bins are used as garbage cans. Ignorant or ill-intentioned people throw all kinds of objects there that have no place in sorting centers, which in particular risks causing fires.
At this time of year, sorting centers in Quebec are recording higher than usual rejection rates with the cleaning of yards and sheds. As a result, they are struggling with a panoply of heterogeneous objects that should not end up there.
During a visit to the Société VIA sorting center in Lévis, Le Journal was able to observe that there are many undesirables: garden hoses, shovels, bowling balls, Christmas lights, tarpaulins and even carports are the lot of sorting centers currently.
But, even worse, recycling bins also carry syringes, lithium batteries, chemicals, oil cans and paint cans.
Out of 150,000 tons of materials dumped in its four sorting centers in Quebec, VIA rejects 11.5%, a figure that has been increasing in recent years, as is the case throughout the province.
“Diapers, we get way too many. That is really unpleasant for the sorters because it manages to sneak through the machines,” says Emmanuelle Tremblay, communications advisor at Société VIA.
The Lighthouse in Port-Cartier, on the North Shore, recently posted a video on Facebook where you can see leftover shrimp on the sorting line where employees are busy.
According to the director, Asmaa Essalhi, the impact of this neglect is considerable.
" It's disrespectful. It certainly affects the dignity of the person. It sends employees a negative message that demotivates them. Every year, it's the same thing. Looks like it's not changing. It's really sad. I have the impression that we do not make the difference between a blue bin and a trash can, ”laments Ms. Essalhi.
Grégory Pratte, head of public affairs at Tricentris, wonders if citizens are not acting deliberately.
"You're going to say, 'Well no, there's no one who puts diapers in a blue bin. The answer is yes. With us, it’s 200 to 300 diapers a day in our three sorting centers,” he reports.
Risk of injury
Employees must be vigilant to locate harmful objects such as garden hoses.
Lithium batteries have become public enemy number one in sorting centers since they cause fires in environments where there is a high concentration of paper and cardboard.
VIA has dealt with three fires in two weeks at the Lévis sorting centre, caused by lithium batteries. It is no coincidence that there are many fire extinguishers in the factory.
On April 7, a fire at the Tricentris center in Gatineau caused several thousand dollars in damage.
"That's our big problem right now. People don't know how to get rid of it, when it's not recycling at all, ”explains Emmanuelle Tremblay, communications advisor at Société VIA.
“It is crushed by our machines and it creates small explosions. You imagine through paper and cardboard. So, these days we are managing fires, ”she adds.
The vast majority of small electronic devices run on lithium batteries. Devices like drills too.
“The firefighters were adamant, it was really a lithium battery that caused the fire. At the last damage assessment, we were down to $4,000. We also lost seven tonnes of recyclable materials,” said Grégory Pratte, public affairs manager at Tricentris.
"That means that there are people who put cardboard boxes, paper, canned goods in their blue bin and there are seven tons of this material that were thrown away because of a person who decided to put a lithium battery in his bin, it's sad all the same, ”he added, hoping to raise awareness among citizens to adopt good behavior.
“In fact, we must not wait for a tragedy to happen. We must prevent and put things in the right place, ”he said.
When returning from vacation, staff must also be on the lookout to intercept propane tanks, which do not go into the recycling bins.
“The little green canisters, we will find 150 to 200 a week when we return from the construction holidays. »
Their place is at the ecocentre.