04/29/2015 08:06 EDT | Updated 08/06/2015 04:59 EDT

Empty glass bottles should not be returnable, SAQ says

The SAQ says it does not want to accept empty wine bottles at its stores.

The province's environment ministry is considering making them returnable, so that they can be recycled. It is estimated that almost half of all glass bottles bought in Quebec come from alcohol purchases at the SAQ.

But the liquor board says it would simply cost them too much money.

"It should be something independent from the SAQ. It cannot be the SAQ," said Jean-Vincent Lacroix, spokesman for the SAQ.

Lacroix said the SAQ hired a firm to calculate the cost

"We know that it will be more than $250 million for five years," Lacroix said, adding that another problem would be lack of space in the outlets to collect empty bottles.

The SAQ says there are other solutions, such as independent glass disposal depots or improving curbside glass collection and sorting.

Environmental groups say that if the SAQ is willing to sell bottles to make a profit, then it should be willing to help recycle them.

"The SAQ is in panic mode now because the government is serious in having a deposit system on the wine bottle," said  Karel Menard of the Quebec Association for Ecological Waste Management.

"We shouldn't collect glass into curbside collection. It should be collected into a deposit system, and the SAQ is the first aim in the scheme."

In 2013, a Longueuil facility that prepared about 70 per cent of Quebec's glass for recycling shut its doors. Since then, most of the glass people recycle ends up in landfills.

The government says something needs to be done to boost glass recycling in Quebec.

"It's something that we are analyzing very, very seriously and we want to maximize the way to recover the glass. The system, as it is now, is not working properly," said Finance Minister Carlos Leitao.

The province will unveil its plan in the fall.