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Guide and tip

Here’s how to get rid of things in an environmentally responsible way

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At this time of year, we see an extraordinary amount of “garbage” on the side of the road. Moving to a new home and leaving all sorts of unwanted things on the curb is the environmental version of a hit and run. Considering the current 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. What’s especially sad (and wasteful!) is that many of them are nowhere near the end of their useful life.

We all have a role to play in not only responsibly disposing of what we no longer need but also in trying to reuse and enhance what already exists, to make our economy more and more circular, equitable and focused on well-being.

Give your things a second life

  • Offer your furniture to friends and family or to young people you may know who are moving into their very first apartment;

  • Have a garage sale or post an ad on a site that has items for sale or donation (LesPAC, Marketplace, etc.). Your old radio may not do the job for your anymore, but someone else may love it;

  • 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. Be sure to inquire first!

  • Offer your items on sharing platforms like As-tu ça toi?;

  • You could always give a new purpose to your old objects. For example, an old ladder can become a beautiful shelf for your living room. Check Pinterest, Youtube or Google for inspiration. If you need help or equipment, visit a resource centre or a tool library in your area, or check for a nearby repair café.

Warning: Donating your items doesn’t justify buying new. If you want to refresh your decor, consider collecting other people's objects to give them a second life. Mature furniture is often more durable and will save you money in the long run. There are also lots of furniture and second hand objects for sale at this time of the year!

Make sure you get rid of your appliances responsibly

You might be tempted to put your old household appliances out on the sidewalk, hoping that people will pick them up and take them home with them. But be aware that they could 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).

Did you know? Refrigerating appliances (fridges, freezers, air conditioners, dehumidifiers, etc) 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 the machine is still in working order, the best thing is to find it a good home in order to give it its second (or third!) life.

  • If your machine is at the end of its life, contact your city or MRC to find an ecocentre or check for special collection dates;

  • For your old appliances and refrigerators, refer to the Go Recycle organization to find the drop-off point closest to you.

Properly dispose of your household waste

The recycling bin is not the place to dump all that old stuff that you’re not too sure what to do with… Our recycling system is not designed to deal with a large portion of the waste that ends up in the recycling trucks.

It can also take a huge toll on the recycling centres, by seriously damaging the equipment and requiring more staff time and work.

Consult the Recyc-Québec checklist to confirm what can go in the bin.

  • For all those things that you’re not sure how to dispose of, visit your nearest eco-centre: Call your municipality for the address, or check to see if there is a special collection site.

When people move, they often leave behind dangerous and toxic items. For the safety of your neighbours and our environment, these items cannot be left on the side of the road.

  • Find out about the environmentally friendly way to dispose of hazardous household waste (used oil, paint, expired medication, batteries, etc.) and electronic waste (cell phones, computers, etc.) in your area. Several hardware stores take back cans of paint, and your expired medications can be returned to the pharmacy.

Your city's website will direct you to the right place. Here is an example for the city of Montreal.

The keywords 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.