Municipal waste reduction: Gatineau ranks number one in Quebec
Thanks to more ecological municipal regulations and enhanced resident engagement over the last five years, the city of Gatineau ranked number one in the province in terms of waste minimization. A review of the city’s Plan de Gestion des Matières Résiduelles 2016-2020 (PGMR), presented to municipal council on February 23, stated that the average Gatineau resident disposed of only 287 kg of waste per year since 2016, about 100 kg less than the second-place city of Lévis (2019 reference year). According to a press release issued by the city on the same date, Gatineau accomplished 23 of the 29 goals outlined in the PGMR, having already achieved all its main objectives and having at least addressed each of them.
The city’s main targets were reducing residential waste by 45 per cent, cutting it in half for businesses, industries, and institutions, and by 55 per cent in the construction sector. Its ambitions were also raising awareness about what generates waste and how to minimize it, and to achieve the provincial government’s waste recovery objectives outlined in the Politique québecoise de gestion de matières résiduelles. Measures impacting the city, industries, businesses and institutions will continue in 2021, and the current PGMR (2016-2020) will remain in place until the new one is enacted for 2022-2028.
The city said the population’s actions to reduce waste were successful, following the implementation of a pricing system, noting that the average household waste tonnage was down 18 per cent from 2013. It added that it could’ve been 28 per cent, if not for the pandemic.
Tonnage for recycling was up 12 per cent and the city recovered nearly three-quarters of recyclable matter generated by residents. For compost, tonnage augmented by 50 per cent, and the city recovered 68 per cent of what residents generated. For construction, renovation and demolition residue, the city recovered 86 per cent of total waste. It was added that 70 per cent of the city’s multi-housing units where there is on-property garbage pick-up, use brown bins for composting. Eighty per cent of multi-housing units receive curb side service.
In 2013, around 60 per cent of average household waste accumulated in grey bins was recyclable and compostable matter. That number dropped to around 40 per cent. Despite failing to reduce waste by 45 per cent, the city is satisfied with the PGMR so far and, if things keep progressing as they are, the city will achieve its residential waste reduction goals this year. The PGMR was launched a year later than planned and natural disasters like floods and tornadoes in the last few years accounted for a considerable spike in total waste.
Praising the city’s measures to reduce waste over the last dozen years, Commission sur le développement du territoire, l’habitation, et de l’environnement President and Plateau district councillor Maude Marquis-Bissonnette emphasized that Gatineau is proving to be at the forefront of ecological practices in the province. “We can, among other things, think about the implementation of a tariff model for the reduction of household waste in the residential sector,” she said in the press release. “Gatineau is in fact the first large city in Québec to have adopted this system. Plus, compost collection is now offered to the large majority of residential units, including multi-units … with the consultation and collaboration put forward by the city, Gatineau has become a point of reference in residual waste management on its territory.”
Delighted with residents’ cooperation to the city’s mandate of reducing waste, Aylmer district councillor Audrey Bureau stated that the positive PGMR review shows that locals’ efforts have come to fruition. Still seeing considerable room for improvement in regard to waste reduction in local businesses and institutions, Bureau said the city’s next PGMR (2022-2028) will prioritize addressing that, notably by raising awareness about more ecological practices. Expecting the new PGMR to be established in the coming months, Bureau encourages the population to keep an eye out for information regarding upcoming public consultations on the matter and how they can participate in the process. Noting that the city has yet to ban certain materials such as Styrofoam, plastic water bottles and other single-use plastics, Bureau said that Gatineau is waiting to see what the federal government will do about it. Textile waste has also been a prevalent issue in Gatineau that needs an environmentally-conscious solution, Bureau said.
Considering that the PGMR’s initial elaboration was a shock to the system for residents, Deschênes district councillor Mike Duggan, said he’s proud to see it be successful. “We’re very happy about that project,” Duggan said, noting that Gatineau residents still need to improve their composting practices. “Ultimately, you want your grey bin to be as light as possible.”
Explaining that the city has approved the building of an ecocentre in Aylmer and a pilot project to have mobile ecocentres in different sectors a few times each year, Lucerne district councillor Gilles Chagnon said he’s optimistic that Gatineau will have the capacity to reduce a lot more waste in the coming years.