Once the waste has been collected from the plane by the cleaning teams or the airline caterer, the protocol requires that they take the shortest route to their destruction.
- Mathieu Prost (View profile)Mathieu Prost
A directive from Health Canada forces the destruction of all waste produced on planes that land in Canada. Airlines, airports and environmentalists are calling for changes to allow recycling.
An aluminum can, a paper cup, a plastic plate… It would no longer occur to you to put these objects in the trash as sorting actions are so ingrained in the routine of Canadians. Yet this is what airlines are obliged to do, under a federal directive dating from 2002.
This regulation on international waste falls under the jurisdiction of the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA). As the name suggests, it is supposed to cover waste from international flights that land at a Canadian airport.
Bags of waste collected in the cabin of an airplane which must be buried or incinerated.
However, as the risks of contact with other waste cannot be ruled out, the regulation also applies, most of the time, to domestic flights.
By 2024, the volume of international waste is estimated to reach 5.7 million tonnes worldwide. This is the equivalent of what all Quebecers throw in the trash every year.
The initial objective of the regulation is to avoid contamination environmental.
An Estrie union affiliated with the FAE advises its members to reject the agreement
ELSEWHERE ON INFO: An Estrie union affiliated with the FAE advises its members to reject the agreement
I do not believe that Canada wants to experience an episode of African swine fever or foot-and-mouth disease, which would have devastating consequences on the country's economy and on animal health, explains Marie-Lou Gaucher, of the Veterinary Faculty of the University of Montreal.
Marie-Lou Gaucher, holder of the chair in meat safety at the University of Montreal, judges that the federal directive is crucial, but that it can be relaxed.
Yes, the measure may seem strict, according to the holder of the research chair in meat safety, but it is not exaggerated.
Health Canada describes in equally alarming terms the possibility of a foot-and-mouth disease outbreak that would be a national catastrophe: Foot-and-mouth disease must also be considered as a possible agent of agricultural terrorism.
Anything that may have been in contact with a food product on board the plane therefore suffers the same fate when it arrives on Canadian soil: systematic destruction, either by incineration or by burial .
But there are flaws. Nothing stops a traveler from bringing home their entire meal tray, then deciding to compost and recycle its contents.
Martin Massé, vice-president of Aéroports de Montréal, suggests a pilot project for aluminum recycling.
We initially understand the x27;idea of being concerned about the safety and health of Canadians and we are not calling that into question, assures Martin Massé, vice-president in charge of sustainable development for Aéroports de Montréal.
What we say, on the other hand, is that from the moment the object, depending on whether it is transported by the passenger or by the catering service, [suffers ] different treatment, at that point, clearly, we are not achieving the objective.
According to a 2018 report prepared for the International Air Transport Association (IATA), there is no precedent in the world where a virus carried by waste from abroad has caused a outbreak.
Canada is one of the countries in the world with the strictest rules, says Nicolas Jammes, deputy director of sustainability at IATA.< /p>
In 2024, it is estimated that the volume of international waste will reach 5.7 million tonnes worldwide.
Similar, but less restrictive, regulations are in place in the European Union, New Zealand and the United States.
IATA, which brings together nearly 300 airlines, wants to enable its members to recycle what is recyclable, to reuse what is reusable, while remaining close to zero risk of contamination.
< p class="StyledBodyHtmlParagraph-sc-48221190-4 hnvfyV">Once the waste is collected from the plane by the cleaning teams or by the airline caterer, protocol requires that they take the shortest route to their destruction.
In Toronto and Vancouver, they are cremated. In Montreal, the Terrebonne landfill must prepare a special trench for them in its mound of waste.
The truck dumps its international waste and we go backfill the trench with local waste, without the machinery being in direct contact with international waste, explains Michèle-Odile Geoffroy, environment manager for Enviro-Connexions.
A special trench is dug for international waste, which is then covered by a layer of local waste.
The same ballet is repeated four times a week. According to Aéroports de Montréal, 6,000 tonnes of waste are buried each year.
This is a regulation that is a little abusive and unusual today' ;today, says Karel Ménard, general director of the Quebec Common Front for Ecological Waste Management.
He describes air transport as one of the most polluting industries in existence, but he pleads, like the carriers, for a review which would make the sector a little greener.
Look what we give you. Everything is overpacked: the salt, the pepper, the juice, everything. And it's going straight to the landfill. So, I think we are ripe to review our ways of doing things in Canada and perhaps relax these regulations which are a bit mammoth.
The Canadian Food Inspection Agency plans to update the directive during 2025, without mentioning the possibility of recycling. In the meantime, voices are being raised to demand short-term action.
Let's at least start with a pilot project, argues Martin Massé of ADM. For example, on soft drink cans.
No need to convince Danielle Coudé, converted to the cause at Alu Québec. The recovery and recycling coordinator considers it scandalous that metals, including aluminum, are found [buried].
We agree that this will not be huge deposits, but each initiative of this type contributes to reducing the landfilling of metals, she says.
Danielle Coudé, recycling coordinator for Alu Québec, considers the burying of a recyclable metal “scandalous” infinite.
To be recycled, bales of aluminum cans must be melted. The melting point of aluminum is around 700 degrees Celsius.
It's practically the same as going to the incinerator, analyzes for her part Marie-Lou Gaucher, who occasionally collaborates with the ACIA.
The survival of a bacteria at such temperatures is impossible. If this waste follows a route which is recognized and which limits the associated exposure risks, in my opinion, it would be acceptable, she judges.
Until then, the aerial circular economy remains doomed to the landfill.
Source : IATA
- Mathieu Prost (View profile)Mathieu ProstFollow