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.