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Recycologist promotes the ‘3 Rs’
Aswe celebrate another Earth Day, it’s disappointing to see the strides we’ve made as a country in the last few years, strides backwards that is, when it comes to protecting the environment. However, in the opinion of Monique Clement, who’s in charge of the Coaticook MRC’s ‘Residual
Material’ project, most people around here are doing their part.
“I’m in charge of managing all of the residual mate- rial pick-ups in the Coaticook MRC,” explained Ms. Clement, careful to use the new term that those working in the field have adopted to
replace the word ‘garbage’. According to Ms. Clement’s most recent report on the rates of composting, recycling and waste production in the region, published in February of this year, the numbers look promising.
The average amount of recycled material per person is 102 kilograms, higher than the Quebec average of 93 kg. The average amount of biodegradable material collected per person is 91 kg, much higher than the provincial average of 20 kg per person. When it comes to garbage going to the landfill site, residents once again beat the provincial average, this time with the lower amount of 177 kg per person when compared to 309 kg per person! Furthermore, the new recuperation service, the Ressourcerie des
Frontieres, has kept 301 tons of material from reaching the landfill site in just one year.
People in the Townships have definitely demonstrated that they want to compost and recycle their residual material whenever possible. “People these days want to recycle everything and sometimes they go a little too far. I once saw a golfbag filled with golf clubs in the recycling,” said Ms. Clement who also lends her expertise on environmental science to other organizations and associations. “I visit the recycling centre in Sherbrooke with groups, from daycare children to hotel employees. People who visit don’t see their recycling bins the same way again. I always try to simplify things for people so I tell them there’s only three things that can go into the recycling bin: paper, cardboard and containers, like glass bottles, tin cans and plastic containers,” mentioned the ‘Recycologist’.
Plastic can be tricky: you must look for the triangle with the number inside it. “Plastic items like coffee cup lids have the number 6 in the triangle and can’t be recycled around here. They take a special facility.” Plastic bags must be bundled up in one bag because, when loose, they can wreak havoc at the recycling centre, getting caught up in the machinery. Other items that people often put into the recycling by mistake, sometimes causing bodily harm to workers who sort the materials, are wires, strapping, cords, hoses, old toys, stuffed animals and wooden products. “Eight percent of the material from our region that goes to the recycling centre ends up at the dump. But that’s a good average compared to other areas.”
The brown bin pick-up has been a little more chal- lenging to implement than the recycling program. “The objective is to recover at least 60% of the organic matter that goes to the landfill site. But some people are still not happy with the bins and some still debate their merit. But the brown bin method is still the simplest method for most people and it can take more stuff, like diseased plants, excess plant material and dirty Kleenexes, than the home compost pile. The extremely high temperatures reached when it’s being processed kill all the germs,” explained Ms. Clement.
Agricultural plastic is being collected and recycled in our area. “We have a collector who presses it and then bales it. We’re the only ones in Quebec recycling that plastic.”
Besides her guided visits to the recycling centre, Ms. Clement speaks about recycling and composting at conferences and workshops, such as the bilingual presentation she makes every year at the Lennoxville Borough’s spring clean-up, held last Saturday. She also visits businesses, on their request, to diagnose how they can improve their waste management. “I just did a diagnostic of the Coaticook Hospital and how they can reduce their waste. Some of our businesses do a great job, like the Coaticook IGA and the Laiterie de Coaticook, which have almost no garbage.”
Monique just finished a big study for the Kahnawake Mohawk Reserve. “They have been doing their own sorting of garbage since before the big centres opened, but now they’re finding it expensive so wanted to reduce their costs.”
Obviously enjoying her work, Ms. Clement continued: “I’m interested in the environment but I like working with something that’s concrete, measureable. People are really interested in recycling and composting, after all, everyone produces waste. I get lots of questions at my conferences.”
A committed environmentalist, before she could speak English Monique enrolled in an English college so she could eventually go on and take Environmental Studies at Trent University, in Ontario. “My father, who couldn’t speak English, told me ‘Better to have a hard time for a few years than all your life’.”
“Environmental Studies wasn’t ‘a la mode’ back then. But when I was young, I grew up in the woods. During difficult times I went to the woods, to nature, and it always helped. I’ve always felt that I owed something back to the environment.”
Recycologist Monique Clement always finds items that don’t belong in the recycling bins.