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NOLA Struggles To Get Recycling Rates Up Post-Katrina

The Big Easy isn’t having an easy time convincing residents to opt-in to free curb-side recycling.

After the post-Katrina re-introduction of free curb-side recycling, New Orleans recycling rates hover at about 2%, according to a recently published Times-Picayune article.  Since July 2011, only about 22% of New Orleans residents have signed up for city-sponsored service.

Several factors contribute to the less-than-stellar recycling numbers, according to the article.  The main being that N.O. does not offer single stream recycling.  This is a set back when compared to greener cities like San Francisco.  Plus, New Orleans doesn’t collect glass, food scraps or plant matter, which, in a place like San Francisco, usually out-weighs other types of recyclables.

Another problem seems to be the yearly bacchanal known as Mardi Gras.  The celebration is a huge tourist draw, and one that traditionally leaves behind lots of trash.  But there is no curb-side recycling available in the French Quarter, so even if party-goers and residents wanted to recycle, if’s difficult.

Still, even before Hurricane Katrina, there were discussions about discontinuing the program.  Cost was certainly a factor, but lack of participation was the biggest problem.  At that time, recycling estimates for the city were at about 15%.

But considering where the Crescent City was just six short years ago, maybe we should cut them some slack.  Curb-side recycling, like many other city services, has been slow to recover post-Katrina.  It may take some time for residents to reconnect to the idea of recycling.

According to the article, Ryan Berni, a spokesman for New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu, says he believes the key to increasing recycling rates is education, and that the City of New Orleans would continue to increase citizen awareness of the benefits of recycling.

Berni citied a partnership with Coca-Cola, in which the soda giant promotes the New Orleans recycling program in store displays.

The good news is that in the first six weeks of the new program, over 500 tons of trash was diverted from local landfills.  Not monumental, but certainly a good start. Call it a lagniappe –– for the planet.

About Sebrina Zerkus Smith

Professional writer, foodie. Lupus survivor. Loves pugs, wine, days at the beach and good movies. Takes recycling seriously, but not much else. Sebrina Zerkus Smith is a Southern Gal that has been scratching the writer’s itch for nearly 30 years. Her career began in Washington, D.C., in 1987, fresh out of collage and full of ideals. While plying her trade by day on congressional reps and senators, at night she burned the candle writing features for local newspapers and national magazines. She quickly realized that her southern upbringing gave her a unique and humorous voice that resonated with her readers. Eventually, she moved to Los Angeles where she pursued her dream of becoming a novelist and screenwriter. She paid her bills by working as a freelance writer for major marketing projects from studios such as CBS, NBC and Disney. Realizing that the future of writing lay with the internet, she was bitten by the blogging bug back in the 90’s, back before it was even called “blogging.” Then it was still just writing and trying to make a living. Through those early blogging years, Sebrina found passion and purpose. Over the past 10 years she has written articles for clients such as LightCues.com, MatterMore.com, Greenopolis, MacAddict, Yahoo, CNN and more. Today, Sebrina writes about a variety of topics including the Southern Experience, sustainability, clean water, food, gardening, sleep and her obsession with pugs. She is a regular paid contributor to WildOats.com as well as other entities. She now lives in Houston with her husband Jeff and their pug Newton. She hopes one day to complete her opus, Living Is Easy With Eyes Closed.


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