The largest recycler in the New Orleans area announcing it will no longer handle household recyclables sent St. Charles Parish officials brainstorming options.
“Most of this stems from the new infrastructure that China has placed on the U.S.,” said Chandra Sampey, the parish’s contract monitoring specialist with Public Works. “A lot of it has to do with what they’re accepting in recyclables.”
In 2018, the country announced it didn’t want to be the “world’s garbage dump” anymore so it slashed by half its recycling of the globe’s plastics and paper products. Soon after, the materials started backing up in countries like Canada, Ireland and Germany, and now the U.S.
Phoenix-based Republic Services, the area’s largest recycler, will continue accepting recyclables from St. Charles Parish’s two large bins in East Bank and West Bank parks, but will not accept curbside recyclables.
Although public perception is these items were being recycled into new products, it was more likely they were simply being sold with regular garbage and buried in landfills or processed into manufacturing materials. The waste has little to no apparent value and, in some cases, is considered a costly, contaminated item posing problems for disposal.
According to Republic Services’ statement, the recycling contamination is a national challenge making up an estimated 30 percent of waste and it’s why the company is reducing its intake of residential recyclables in the New Orleans area.
“There simply are no longer markets in this region for the excessively contaminated recyclables brought to our facility,” says Republic Services.
For St. Charles Parish, Sampey said the rollover effect of China’s cutback could hamper plans to resume curbside recycling.
Residents will be surveyed in August on whether they agree with paying a monthly recycling fee for the service, but losing access to Republic Services in New Orleans for curbside recyclables could make it cost prohibitive, especially if it would mean bringing them to Republic Services’ Baton Rouge site.
“This puts us back to before [Hurricane] Katrina, having to go to Baton Rouge again,” she said. “This will possibly raise the price.”
Sampey said the parish administration wanted to provide the service without imposing a parishwide mandatory charge, which would be unlikely with hauling recyclables to Baton Rouge again. The hope was the two collection sites would serve the need, but it’s so popular the bins are filling up quickly.
St. Charles Parish used Republic Services’ Baton Rouge location prior and could use it again, but the distance would make it a more costly program to operate.
Sampey said she’s been contacted by the Greater New Orleans Foundation, which wants to develop a regional recycling plan that could include the parish.
Houma-based Pelican Waste & Debris, the service provider for the parish since May 2017, has been bringing the recyclables to Republic Services, which saved money on recycling. In January, the parish also eliminated the majority of its 21 recycling sites amid illegal dumping that became so bad residents asked the dumpsters be removed.
The parish has 18,300 residential garbage customers.
Recycling in St. Charles Parish
- In January, the parish’s 21 recycling sites are removed amid reports of illegal dumping while keeping two of them in West and East parks.
- For nearly 12 years (1993 – 2005), the parish offered curbside recycling but Hurricane Katrina ended the main facility in Metairie.
- St. Charles Parish residents were surveyed about the service in April to determine if they’d support a parish-wide charge.