Montreal Garbage – Some of you might have witnessed people around the city last summer doing the new ‘pinch and gag’ reflex – especially in the downtown area. It wasn’t a trend inspired by a Justin Bieber or Justin Timberlake video, but rather a self-defense mechanism inspired by the putrid Montreal Garbage smells coming from overfilled and under-collected garbage bins. Garbage in bins, in bags and on the streets. Montreal Garbage that smelled so bad, it was a detriment to our famous ‘joie de vivre’ reputation.
Several tourists, including friends of mine from out of town, questioned whether dead animals (or worse) were being dumped into the bins. Complaints went out to City Hall and the Boroughs, but like most things, they fell upon deaf ears.
Changes to the way our city and boroughs handle our garbage were implemented several years ago, with the goal of creating a more cost efficient and environmentally conscious system – but the verdict on that is still out. My nose, as well of those of many tax paying citizens in Montreal and its Boroughs are being subject to a scent more politely described as ‘disgusting’, or in French ‘dégueulasse’ (I heard far more ‘creative’ words, but they would have been censored from this article). People are pinching their nasal passages shut and gagging in an alarming way.
No doubt last summer was unusually hot and humid, which certainly added to the problem. Nevertheless, the question remains, will the stink prevail again this summer?
Back in 2015, Montreal announced plans to eliminate twice a week garbage pickup in all of its 19 boroughs by 2019, and instead have it picked up only once a week. Hand in hand with it, they also announced the rolling out of brown bins for the Organic Waste Program, with weekly pickups – which in theory would balance out the changes to the regular garbage pickup. Once all distributed, it would amount to a total of 536,000 households – including homes, duplexes and apartment buildings with eight residences or less, taking part in the program. That is almost two-thirds of the city’s total number of households.
But what they didn’t announce and have already implemented in several boroughs, is that once households are part of the Organic Waste Program – once a week regular garbage pickup is reduced to once every TWO weeks. The smell still lingers on and it is growing.
The programs have major flaws. Regular garbage bins are usually filled within the first week and by the second week they are overflowing with all the other smelly trash that is non-compostable like: diapers, rags, pizza boxes, sanitary napkins, cat litter and lord knows what else. Only the raccoons, squirrels, skunks, mice and even crows are celebrating.
Adding to the repulsive mix, changes were also made to apartment buildings with over eight units (who are not participating in the Organic Waste Program). Not only has regular garbage pickup been changed from twice a week to just once – they are required to keep the bins inside the building until pickup day. Placing them just outside the garage doors on the driveway is not allowed. The stink from overflowing bins are wafting up into the apartments.
As for the organic waste, last summer when I lifted the lid of our bin to add more scraps, it was filled with maggots – and not just a few. The underside of the lid was coated with them and inside the bin was like a horror film. The compostable liner bags, of which the city suggested I buy and use, had rotted through – and it stank to the point of making me dizzy. I tried all the tricks they recommended and none of them worked. Maggots multiply very quickly. And they are gross.
With the exception of homeowners, most people don’t have places like balconies or garages to store their brown bins until pickup day. The solution was to simply stop participating in the program.
During the mini-heat wave that hit us a few weeks ago, I had a 9:00 am meeting downtown. The humidity level was still high from the night before, but it was early enough in the morning and quite comfortable. Afterwards, instead of rushing back home to my computer screen, I decided to stop at a café down the street where a few tables and chairs were set up outside. There was a nice breeze, adding to the welcoming aroma of fresh brewed coffee. With cup in hand, I enjoyed a moment of pure ‘nothingness’ – but my Zen bubble soon popped. The wind died down and suddenly the overwhelming stink of garbage, coming from the side alley took over. Before the ‘pinch and gag’ reflex kicked in, I paid for my coffee and left, while hopes for a pleasant smelling summer faded behind me like the stink.
Montreal’s waste management program could use some serious tweaking. It’s unsanitary and filthy and one has to wonder how it is helping the environment if garbage trucks have to idle longer to pick up heavier, overflowing bins.
An idea brought up by several readers, offered a simple and intelligent solution – why not go back to weekly regular garbage pickup (twice a week for downtown) for the summer? The season when Montrealers get to enjoy the city’s outdoor ambiance is upon us – and enough noisy and messy projects are taking the ‘joie’ out of our reputed ‘joie de vivre’. Why not let us smell the roses for a little while?
And so, I ask again as I did last autumn… Mayor Denis Coderre, what say you? Or do you suffer from Anosmia – the loss of the sense of smell?