After leaving its small premises to settle in a 10,000 ft2 space, Éco-Réno became RÉCO, a renovation center focused on the reuse of materials.
Founded in 2002 by the Society for Environmental Development of Rosemont (SODER), the Éco-Réno store was well known to renovators who were passionate about heritage. Weakened by the pandemic, the social economy company, which was located on Avenue Papineau, was acquired by Architecture sans frontières Québec in 2021. This transaction allows the non-profit organization, two years later, to realize its vision: create a social economy enterprise centered on a materials center, like the existing hardware stores, with the difference that the supply comes from donations which are resold to finance the project.
“It’s a profound transformation of the business model with a supply of donations only and opening up to donations of new discarded materials,” explained the general director of Architecture sans frontières Québec, Bruno Demers, last Monday during the official inauguration, in Ahuntsic-Cartierville, of the new materials center which now bears the name RÉCO.
“Éco-Réno becomes something else, something bigger and qualitatively different. We must free ourselves from the perception that customers have of Éco-Réno, that is, a small store, mainly for architectural antiques,” explained Bruno Demers.
Like these recessed lights, model 2022, unsold by the manufacturer. “If we hadn’t taken them back, 11,000 units would have been thrown in the trash,” underlined RECO’s sales and operations director, Sylvain Lessard, during a guided tour of the new space. In one corner sit a batch of windows of different colors and sizes, most of them new: order errors from a manufacturer.
By making a donation to RÉCO, businesses and individuals who wish to do so can obtain a tax-deductible charitable receipt for the value of their material donations ($500 and more), a way to partially offset the additional costs that may be caused by deconstruction and handling. There are currently no other financial incentives or obligations regarding the reuse of materials in the construction sector. In its transition plan Building a Greener Quebec, published in September 2022, the FTQ-Construction recommended in particular the establishment of financial incentives to encourage the use of recycled materials and the adoption of a tax measure on the quantity of waste produced during the construction site and sent to landfill.
“At the moment, there are no subsidies for avoiding construction waste like there are for energy-efficient renovation, for example,” laments Bruno Demers.
In order to be able to accept more donations, the company will have to take on the challenge of expanding its customer base. “What is most difficult currently is convincing customers to reuse,” says Sylvain Lessard. It’s a different way of consuming. People come looking for a door that must have a specific size. Reuse is not that. It takes a bit of arm juice. We do a lot more education than sales. »
In certain cases, the customer must agree to waive a warranty on the product. However, argues Mr. Lessard, since the price paid is lower and the sales are tax-free, many are ready to accept it.
RECO becomes the first member of the Quebec Hardware and Construction Materials Association (AQMAT) to make room for reuse. Its president, Richard Darveau, hopes the company will inspire its members who operate in a “conservative and wasteful” industry. “In clothing and groceries, we are opening up to the circular economy, but in the materials sector, we are not at the back of the pack, we are not even on the playing field, a- he declared. We’re still waiting to get pushed. » Mr. Darveau says he would like to see RÉCO set up in different municipalities in Quebec or to see traditional hardware stores dedicate part of their space to the recovery and resale of used materials.
“Once we have established our model, we will have interest in opening elsewhere, perhaps in other boroughs, other cities,” said Sylvain Lessard.
RECO has a digital inventory of its stocks, which will be made available soon on its website.
Present at the press conference, Canada’s Minister of Environment and Climate Change, Steven Guilbeault, himself an Éco-Réno client, expressed the wish to see this type of project flourish across the country. “The construction sector is the largest consumer of raw materials in the world. It alone generates a third of solid waste in Canada, or more than 4 million tonnes per year. Projections show that the quantity of this waste is expected to continue to increase if we do not quickly implement more circular economy initiatives like this. »