Quebec's recycling deposit system will be fully up and running again as of next month, after being put on hold late last March amid worries that coping with empties would exacerbate the spread of the novel coronavirus.
Some Quebec retailers have been taking empty bottles and cans in their parking lots or elsewhere outside their stores since earlier this month, but it will become mandatory for stores to accept them as of June 22 on the island of Montreal and as of June 8 in the rest of the province.
For now, Recyc-Québec, the province's recycling authority, recommends calling your local store ahead of time and checking its website for an updated list of places you can drop them off.
In a release Thursday, Recyc-Québec said the deposit system would respect public health regulations.
"Individual protection measures can be put in place to limit the spread of the virus," the release said.
"The government considers all conditions are met for a safe return of current activities related to recycling deposits."
All cans and bottles need to be thoroughly rinsed and placed in a bag or box for the cashier. They must also be counted before you get to the counter.
When returning beer bottles, they must be returned in their case and sorted by colour.
Recyc-Québec did not return CBC's calls seeking further details Thursday.
Food associations wary of government's decision
Stéphane Lacasse, a spokesperson for Quebec's food retailers association, said the government's "cavalier fashion" of changing the rules is disconcerting.
Some retailers will not be able to collect returnables while keeping a safe physical distance from customers, he said.
The United Food and Commercial Workers, the union representing many workers in the grocery industry, has also denounced the decision to reactivate the deposit system during a pandemic.
However, Quebec's liquor board, the SAQ, is ready to take back bottles, according to spokesperson Linda Bouchard.
Not many are returned to SAQ outlets, she said, but stores will be ready to accept those returns in a safe manner next month.
Some stores rely on automatic machines to accept bottles returns. For example, L'intermarché in Quebec City has accepted cans and bottles via its machines for several weeks now.
Customers are first expected to wash the bottles before putting them in the machines, said the store's owner, Éric Courtemanche-Baril.
"I risk a fine if I do not take the bottles and cans, but I also risk a fine if I do not respect the standards of social distancing demanded by the CNESST [Quebec's workplace safety board]," he said.