Quebec should expand its bottle deposit system to include wine and liquor bottles in a bid to keep more of them out of landfills, a new government report recommends.
Environment Minister Benoit Charette said he welcomes the findings, released Thursday by a National Assembly committee.
"The committee included members of all parties, so it's a quality report, which will be a good element of inspiration for us as we come up with a policy," he said.
Charette said he hopes to announce new measures within weeks, although he refused to say if he endorsed all the report's recommendations.
"The only certainty is that the status quo is not an option," Charette said.
The report noted that three quarters of all glass containers used by Quebec households end up in landfill.
Committee members heard from industry representatives, lobby groups and the Société des Alcools du Québec (SAQ) during hearings in August.
The SAQ has steadfastly opposed wine and liquor bottle returns for years, but CEO Catherine Dagenais told the committee the SAQ would support the idea.
But she insisted that the SAQ didn't have the space or the means to collect the returned bottles at its outlets.
The committee's report didn't make any specific recommendation about how wine bottles returned for deposit should be collected.
It called for a modernization of the province's sorting centres to better accommodate glass, as well as improved education and publicity campaigns to encourage recycling.
Breweries, grocery store chains, restaurant associations and sorting centres all told the committee they had serious concerns about expanding the deposit system.
The main concern was the current recycling and sorting plants couldn't accommodate the resulting increase. The SAQ sells roughly 200 million bottles a year.
Recycling advocate says it's a big step
Karel Ménard, president of the Quebec Coalition of Ecological Waste Management told CBC he's very pleased with the report.
"The committee did what it had to do: to tell the government, 'you have fully the right to implement a deposit system on SAQ bottles,'" Ménard said.
He wasn't concerned about the lack of detail about how to collect wine bottle returns, saying the government will need more time to work out a plan.
Ménard said curbside recycling of wine bottles clearly doesn't work.
"Glass is a contaminant. Once it's put in the curbside collection, it's hardy recyclable," he said.
Ménard said a bottle return system at SAQ outlets would be the simplest option for consumers, but he acknowledged that not all SAQ outlets have enough space.
He suggested maybe select outlets could accept bottle returns.
Ménard said another option could be standalone collection centres that would accept wine and liquor bottles, as well as aluminum cans and water bottles.