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Montreal Smells?


by Bonnie Wurst – mtltimes.ca


As a proud Montrealer I do not enjoy having to write this, but there is something very smelly going on in Montreal. And it’s not the giant replica of dog excrement, complete with flies, mounted on top of a downtown bus shelter at the northeast corner of Peel and René-Lévesque, part of the city’s $950,000 new cleanliness campaign. It is the garbage stench pervading our city – largely due to the recent changes in the Garbage Collection Schedules. Add in the Organic Waste Pickup Program and quite frankly, it stinks.


MONTREAL; QUE: JULY 3,  2011--  A  pile of garbage on Georges Vanier Boulevard near Lionel Groulx in Montreal, Tuesday July 3, 2011.  Residents say that the switch from twice weekly garbage pickup to once weekly has resulted in many piles of garbgag on the sidewalks and streets.   ( Phil Carpenter/ THE GAZETTE)
MONTREAL; QUE: JULY 3, 2011– A pile of garbage on Georges Vanier Boulevard near Lionel Groulx in Montreal, Tuesday July 3, 2011. Residents say that the switch from twice weekly garbage pickup to once weekly has resulted in many piles of garbgag on the sidewalks and streets. ( Phil Carpenter/ THE GAZETTE)

Over the past couple of years, changes being implemented to the way our city and boroughs handle our garbage is purportedly leading to a more cost efficient and environmentally conscious system. But is it really? My nose, as well of those of many tax paying citizens in Montreal and its Boroughs are being subject to a scent often described as putrid. We are pinching our nasal passages shut and gagging in an alarming way.

The smell is pretty much everywhere, depending on where the wind is blowing – especially during this hot and humid summer. It’s in front of our homes, businesses and in our parks, it’s in alleyways, backs of restaurants and in bins near outdoor terraces. It’s trash spelled, ‘EWWW’!

overflow-garbage-mtl-2 In the spring of 2015 Montreal announced plans to eliminate twice a week garbage pickup in all of its 19 boroughs and change it to once a week by 2019. At the time ten boroughs were having their trash picked up twice a week and nine once a week. But it is not as clear as that.

In August of 2015 Mayor Denis Coderre issued the same edict with an Organic Waste Pickup Program. The city of Montreal also wants every household to be collecting and separating food scraps from trash by 2019. And that is where it gets even smellier.

This year the city started rolling out what will amount to 435,000 brown composting bins over the next few years (with over 100,000 bins previously distributed to households in several boroughs). They plan to offer the collection of organic waste to a total of 536,000 households – which includes homes, duplexes and apartment buildings with eight residences or less, almost two-thirds of the city’s total number of households.

overflow-garbage-mtl-1 But what they didn’t announce and is already being implemented in several boroughs with the Organic Waste Program, is their ONCE a week regular garbage pickup is reduced to once every TWO weeks. If the program worked it would make sense – but it doesn’t.

First of all, the 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 yes, even rats are celebrating.


    And you can imagine the smell from apartment buildings with over eight units – those who do not have the organic waste program and now have only once a week garbage pickup instead of twice a week forced upon them. And they have to keep the bins inside until pickup day. It’s horrid.

As for the composting bins, they contain organic waste from table scraps like fruits and vegetables, meat, bread, cereal products, dairy products, coffee grinds and egg shells. And with this type of waste sitting outside for a week, especially during the summer, the bins really stink. They also attract animals and all kinds of things – especially flies. Flies lay eggs and the eggs become maggots.


  When I lifted the lid of our compost bin to add more waste into it this summer, 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 called my borough office and was told I simply had to put my food scraps and meat into my freezer until the day of pickup. I’m sorry, but my freezer is not huge and I need to keep the food we need to eat in it. There is simply no room. They also suggested I clean the bin out after it is emptied with some vinegar and salt. Tried that, it did not work. Maggots multiply very quickly. And they are gross.


As for the growing number of vermin attracted to the stinky buffet, I was told to use the smaller household bin they also distributed to put my waste in until pickup day. But that was not a viable option for me because the bin needed to remain in our home – and it smelled repugnant when I had to open it, permeating our entire home. I tried leaving it on our back balcony but huge raccoons managed to throw it down the stairs and pop it open. In the winter we often have to shovel the balcony from the outside just to be able to open the door.

With the exception of home owners, most people don’t have places like balconies or garages to store their garbage until pickup day. The solution for many people I spoke with, was to simply stop participating in the program.

Despite citizen complaints, the city is sticking to its new pickup schedules and programs. We are being forced into a corner to come up with our own ways to deal with the maggots, animals and trash. Montreal is smelling really bad.
overflow-garbage-apts   The bottom line – the program was not well thought out and the city has so far remained silent to the cries of its citizens. Tourists are even asking what the horrible smell is.

A few weeks ago I was sitting on a terrace in downtown Montreal enjoying a cool drink with some friends who were in town. Then the winds shifted. Overflowing garbage from the back alley smelled like, well, death. “Is there a corpse in there?” asked one friend. They gagged, pinching their noses as we left to find some clean air, only to run into piles of overflowing garbage bins on a side street.

It’s unsanitary and disgusting and I don’t see how it is helping the environment if garbage trucks have to idle longer to pick up heavier, overflowing bins that attract vermin, making us sick to our stomachs – literally. The garbage pickup schedule needs to seriously be revisited.

As far as the recent cleanliness campaign, with the giant pile of plastic poop and the tag line, ‘Ton caca de chien, ce n’est pas rien.’ (Your dog poop, it’s not nothing) – the $950,000 could be far better spent.

Mayor Coderre, what say you? Or do you suffer from Anosmia – the loss of the sense of smell?

By: Bonnie Wurst – mtltimes.ca


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