Many Quebecers will spend July 1st moving, and for most people it’s no walk in the park. Stress, exhaustion and a lack of time can sometimes cause us to forget some of our environmental convictions. However, with a bit of planning and foresight, it’s possible to reduce the environmental impact of moving.
The amount of things that we see on the curb at this time of year is insane. Considering current challenges with regards to the overexploitation of resources and the climate crisis, we can no longer be putting so many products and toxic substances out with the trash. In Montreal alone, we’re talking about 50,000 tonnes of items of all sorts that are carted away on moving day – and what’s especially sad is that many of them are nowhere near the end of their useful life.
The keywords here are reduction and reuse. Choosing to keep your furniture, devices and appliances when moving from one place to another rather than buying new is not only good for your wallet, it’s important for the planet. And when it’s not feasible to keep them, consider donating or selling the items that are still in working order. Think of how happy it will make someone else! For everything that cannot be sold or donated, make sure to dispose of it in the right locations.
Taking some time to plan ahead can have a big impact!
The following suggestions apply all year round of course, not just during the moving season or the spring cleaning period.
FOUR THINGS TO AVOID WHEN MOVINGDON’T #1: Deprive your old items of a second life
For many, moving day is the perfect opportunity to part with things that we’re not using anymore. But that’s no reason to treat them as garbage! Many of our household items can have a second life (and maybe even a third and fourth…).
- Repurpose/reuse: Offer your furniture to friends or to people around them. Donations are often popular with young adults who are moving into a first apartment. Have a garage sale or post an ad on a site that has items for sale or donation. Your old radio may not be what you need anymore, but someone else may love it.
Bonus: LesPAC, an online ad site is currently donating $1 to Équiterre for every ad posted on its site until July 31st. Not only is this a great excuse to post your ad, but the money that you will make and the happiness your item will bring to the buyer will be so worthwhile!
- Donate your items to charity: Many low-income families are moving too, and they may really need your old curtains! But a word of caution: some organizations that resell used items are overwhelmed with donations during the moving season. Because of space constraints, they may have to refuse donations or throw out furniture and other items that are in good condition - items that could have been reused. Donating your items therefore doesn’t justify buying new.
If you do want to refresh your decor, try to give someone else’s items a second life. There are loads of used items and furniture for sale in the classified ads during this time of year!DON’T #2: Toss your household appliances to the curb
You might be tempted to put your old household appliances out on the sidewalk, but that’s not where they belong, especially refrigerating appliances (fridges, freezers, air conditioners, dehumidifiers, etc). These appliances are full of halocarbons – greenhouse gases that contribute to climate change. According to Recyc-Québec, an old fridge may contain up to 3.5 tonnes of CO2, equivalent to the emissions of a car driven 17,000 km. Think about that before putting a functioning fridge on the curb!
If you’re hoping that people will pick up your appliances and take them home with them, consider that they can get damaged in the meantime (if, for example, they get rained on). Also, they may get carted away by people who will use only some parts of the machine and will dispose of the rest (and not necessarily in an environmentally responsible manner). If the machine is still in working order, the best thing is to find it a good home to give it its second (or third!) life.
How about those electronic devices (cell phones, computers, etc.) that are tucked away in your drawers? They too can be repaired and reused. Before tossing them in the trash, think about the human and environmental costs of the materials that went into those devices, as well as their toxicity when they aren’t properly recycled!
Have a retailer dispose of your broken household appliances and refrigerating devices, or plan a visit to the eco-centre. And while you’re at it, bring along your other items that are ready for recycling!
The recycling system is not set up to deal with a large amount of the waste that ends up in the recycling bin. The recycling bin is not the place to dump all that old stuff that you’re not too sure what to do with…
Putting things in the recycling bin that don’t belong there (whether it’s during moving week or otherwise) takes a huge toll on the recycling centres. Your old coat hangers, for example, can seriously damage the equipment. Staff must also spend more time removing inappropriate items, and can occasionally face health risks when they come in contact with things like syringes or propane gas tanks.
- Visit your nearest eco-centre: Call your municipality for the address, or check to see if there is a special collection site.
- Consult the Recyc-Québec checklist to learn what should be thrown out as garbage, or download the Ça va où app.
- As for those hangers, bring them to the thrift store if they’re in good shape, or to the eco-centre.
When people move, they often leave behind dangerous and toxic items. For the safety of our neighbours and our environment, these items cannot be left on the side of the road.
Solution: Ask your municipality about the environmentally responsible way of disposing of hazardous household waste (used oils, paint, expired medication, batteries, etc.). Here is an example for the Montreal region.
Also note that many hardware stores take back cans of paint, and any expired drugs can be brought back to the pharmacy.
WHAT CAN YOUR CITY DO?
Équiterre believes that our cities can benefit greatly by taking measures to incentivize reuse and by adopting waste management best practices all year round. But particularly, during the moving season, they should establish special collection initiatives to keep our streets from becoming dumping grounds.
Certain municipalities are already proposing some inspiring solutions:
Mobile eco-centres: Quebec City has set up a mobile eco-centre with collection events in the city’s most densely populated neighbourhoods. Residents can bring hazardous household waste as well as small electric and electronic appliances.
The “Je déménage, je valorise” awareness campaign: The Société pour l’action, l’éducation et la sensibilisation environnementale de Montréal (SAESEM) has been carrying out awareness campaigns during moving week every year since 2015, to encourage those who are moving to better value the items that they are disposing of. With their drop-off locations and awareness booths in various strategic locations in downtown Montreal, as well as curbside collection and on-request home pickup services, the initiative diverted 15 tonnes of items from landfill in 2015.
Grants to recycling depots: The MRC de Bellechasse and 10 municipalities from the MRC des Etchemins pay $125 per tonne to the Bellechasse recycling depot for the materials they recover. This depot offers a door-to-door collection service for furniture, mattresses and home appliances. Where possible, these items are refurbished and resold.
If you would like your city to take on these types of initiatives, write to your city council and insist on better waste management measures to help your city get to a waste-free future.
REDUCING OUR WASTE: IT’S EVERYONE’S BUSINESS
As both individuals and as communities, we need to rethink the way we plan the moving process. Dumping our old stuff on the side of the road before moving into our comfy new home is not the solution. We all have a role to play to reuse and value our existing possessions - to make our economy increasingly circular, fair and focused on our well-being.