City to cancel recycling centre contract as bales piled to sprinklers

Services Ricova Inc. says the market for selling recovered material has collapsed.

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Montreal is set to cancel its contract with an entrepreneur operating the city’s Lachine recycling sorting centre as accumulating bales of paper have reached as high as the sprinkler system.

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The firm, Services Ricova Inc., warned the city in early September that it would have to stop accepting the recyclable material collected weekly from households across Montreal because the market for selling recovered material has collapsed.

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At a city council meeting on Monday, opposition leader Aref Salem, who leads the Ensemble Montréal party, blasted Mayor Valérie Plante and her Projet Montréal administration for the situation, saying the problem with the contractor has festered for months.

“We realize that the environment is only a slogan for this administration,” Salem said during the councillors’ question period, adding that Montreal’s inspector general’s office recommended cancelling Ricova’s contract six months ago. “We have no plan that is put forward with this administration.”

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However, Plante said her administration was acting responsibly because “kicking out” Ricova six months ago would have caused a break in recycling collection service in Montreal, she said.

“We’re acting with diligence,” Plante said.

The council was expected to vote late Monday on a resolution to cancel Ricova’s contract no later than Nov. 14. The date will be determined by the city’s director of environment, the resolution says.

In the meantime, the city has approved the transfer of the operations to another contractor, Société VIA, a non-profit company.

Nevertheless, Plante said she has “no problem” with acceding to the opposition’s demand to hold a special council meeting on the problem at the recycling centre. The special meeting is expected to be called sometime in the next week.

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Ensemble Montréal said it has more questions for the administration given that Ricova also has the contract to operate the municipal recycling sorting centre in the St-Michel district.

Councillor Marie-Andrée Mauger, the city executive committee member responsible for the file, told council that cancelling the Ricova contract was “complicated” because the city wanted to first take steps to bar the company from receiving municipal contracts for five years for poor performance.

Ricova is seeking to overturn that decision in court, claiming the city acted “illegally” and “on unfounded conclusions” by the inspector general. An investigation by the inspector general concluded in March that the company was under-reporting how much it received for the sale of recycled materials, a contravention of its contract with the city.

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Meanwhile, Mauger warned the opposition on Monday to stop “crying wolf.”

Ensemble Montréal councillors suggested that hundreds of accumulating bales of material will end up being landfilled. Mauger said none of it to date has been sent to landfill.

The recycling sorting centre at Fairway and François-Lenoir Sts. in Lachine has been problem-plagued since the city awarded a $46.2-million contract to build and operate the facility in 2017. The winning bidder filed for creditor protection in 2020 before the facility was completed. Ricova acquired the company’s contract the same year, but hasn’t to date fully completed construction, a civil service report submitted to council on Monday says.

Under its contract, Ricova has been responsible for accepting household recyclables and carrying out sorting operations at the facility at its own cost in the meantime, but it hasn’t attained the quality standards set out in the contract for the sorted material, the report says. The company, it says, blamed the materials it was receiving from the city.

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The city sent the company several notices and demand letters, it says. On July 25, the city sent Ricova another demand letter “notably because this time the material was accumulating inside the building, sometimes beyond the sprinkler system.”

The matter is urgent, the report adds, because two fires occurred at the centre in 2021.

Ricova informed the city in July that it has problems selling the recyclable material, specifically paper and cardboard, locally and overseas. On Sept. 6, the company’s president, Dominic Colubriale, informed the city that Ricova will no longer be able to receive recyclable material at the Lachine centre after Sept. 11, the report says. Since then, it adds, material has accumulated on the site and “the city is constantly at risk that Ricova will cease receiving recyclable materials.”

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