Skip to main content

Montreal is hoping to stop perfectly good food and unsold clothing from ending up in landfills as part of a plan to significantly cut waste by targeting the source.

The city’s point person on the environment announced the proposed measures Thursday as part of a five-year master plan for Waste Management Inc. between 2020 and 2025.

Councillor Laurence Lavigne Lalonde, the executive committee member in charge of ecological transition, cited an urgency to act owing to climate change and the fact that the city’s main dump is slated to shutter by 2029.

“The plan that we’re proposing today will enable us to achieve the ambitious targets that we set in terms of reducing greenhouse gas emissions and managing residual material,” Ms. Lavigne Lalonde said.

In the case of food, she said it doesn’t make sense that perfectly consumable items end up in the trash while children and others go hungry.

“We will prohibit large grocery chains, educational institutions and hospitals from throwing away food they no longer think is fresh,” Ms. Lavigne Lalonde said.

Food waste is a widespread issue across the country: According to a study commissioned earlier this year by Toronto-based charity Second Harvest, one-third of Canada’s discarded food could be recovered.

Quebec already has a supermarket recovery program in place that some stores take part in, sending food to various shelters. Ms. Lavigne Lalonde said the city wants to work with the province to ensure such programs are expanded.

Montreal will also move to forbid clothing and textile companies from throwing out unsold clothes, instead encouraging them to give unsold products to community organizations or introduce them into the circular economy so they can be reused.

Councillor Jean-François Parenteau says the city also hopes to encourage the Quebec government to allow used clothes to be made into stuffing or insulation, noting it’s the last province to have rules in place forbidding it.

“We are conscious that some companies are more concerned with the trademark and not the shirt itself, so we’ll look at … how they can develop different partnerships to find a use for those products,” he said.

The move is the latest in Montreal’s attempts to reduce its waste – and by extension, its carbon footprint. In April, the city announced it would introduce a bylaw banning single-use items such as plastics and polystyrene foam containers by spring 2020 – promising a slow transition to allow businesses to make the switch.

In 2018, it issued a ban on plastic bags that covers the distribution of lightweight bags with a thickness of less than 50 microns as well as biodegradable bags, which contain an additive that causes them to decompose in heat and light.

Ms. Lavigne Lalonde said the goal is to make it easier for citizens to reduce their waste.

In the case of clothing and food sellers, Mr. Parenteau said they could be subject to yet-to-be determined fines if they violate the new rules.

He pointed to France, where laws obliges grocery stores to donate edible food and levies hefty fines if they don’t, but added in Montreal, that’s not the main goal of the law.

“The first goal is not to fine, but to change the mentality,” Mr. Parenteau said.

A public consultation will be held on the plan, but the city’s objectives are to divert up to 70 per of residual waste away from landfills by 2025 and 85 per cent by 2030.

In that time, the city wants to reduce the amount of waste produced by each Montrealer by 10 per cent in 2025 and 20 per cent in 2030 – which works out to 10 kilograms a citizen per year.

Our Morning Update and Evening Update newsletters are written by Globe editors, giving you a concise summary of the day’s most important headlines. Sign up today.