Skyrocketing costs doom recycling program

Recycling bins covered in discarded construction debris, furniture and even refrigerators on a regular basis brought on major changes in St. Charles Parish’s recycling program.

Although St. Charles Parish Council members say constituents’ requests for curbside recycling are intensifying, they instead learned a 250 percent rise in hauling cost actually makes it unfeasible, and forced the suspension of the parish’s recycling program.

“Recycling is huge right now,” said at-large Councilwoman Wendy Benedetto. “I get tons of requests. They want curbside [recycling].”

Benedetto said she was going to ask they revisit the parish’s earlier bids on the service, which estimated the service cost at $2.94 a month.

Contract Monitor Chandra Sampey said they could request proposals, but warned the updated rate could come in at $15 a month because of astronomical hauling costs. The parish currently has two drop off recycling bins – one at the East Bank Bridge Park and another at the West Bank Bridge Park. The parish is paying $400 a load to deliver all recyclables to Phoenix-based Republic Services, the area’s largest recycler, at its Baton Rouge site, but that cost is expected to rise to nearly $1,000.

“As of right now, I hate to be bearer of bad news, but I highly recommend that we stop our recycling program temporarily until the problem is debated or resolved,” she said. “It’s not just with us – it’s all over.”

Sampey advised they make the move immediately. The parish will officially suspend recycling on Nov. 1.

Councilman Dick Gibbs, who said he also has been getting considerable requests for recycling, asked Sampey to provide the financial numbers to show to constituents.

“The largest issue that I have to address day in and day out is recycling,” Gibbs said. “We’ve got to try to get across to our constituents that we do have the possibility of doing recycling, but this is what it’s going to cost.”

Gibbs conceded he didn’t see recycling happening at this time, but asked Sampey to provide the financial numbers showing the program’s rising cost for constituents.

She agreed.

“I can tell you that in this region we are one of the first parishes to recommend that we shut down our recycling service,” she said. “It’s not feasible to do. Unfortunately, I am recommending to the council and parish president that we suspend all recycling services in St. Charles Parish at this time until we figure out what they’re going to do.”

In July, Republic Services announced the problem stemmed with China rejecting the world’s garbage – plastics and paper products – in 2018. From there, garbage started backing up in major countries and now the U.S. Many cities in the nation have ended or scaled back recycling programs, Sampey said.

The parish also shut down 21 recycling sites, which had become illegal dumping grounds. East and West bank parks became the two recycling sites with recycling bins, but recyclables will no longer be accepted there next month.

Republic Services New Orleans location stopped accepting recyclables from St. Charles and left the parish with the more costly alternative of having it hauled to Republic’s Baton Rouge site.

She further advised the council that Parish President Larry Cochran asked to explore all alternatives, but found none.

Without acting, she estimated the added cost could easily exceed budget, pushing this year’s cost from $46,700 to more than $75,000.

Public Works Director Clayton “Snookie” Faucheux said there is also a concern that garbage haulers are “just taking this stuff to the dump and making a premium profit. The parish supplemented this cost and now there’s a 250 percent increase.”

Gibbs added, “We’re in a fight that’s way beyond us. It’s out of our control, but they don’t want to hear that.”


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