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Recycling services could resume by end of year, but twice-weekly trash pickups will take longer

Ryan Nelsen
Spoiled food sits in bags waiting for removal after Hurricane Ida knocked New Orleans off the power grid for several days.

Recycling collection services in New Orleans should be up and running within the coming months, city officials said Tuesday, but once-a-week garbage pickups are here for longer.

Officials said it is more successful and reliable with collecting residential trash once a week, a program started on Oct. 9 in response to major trash pickup problems during Hurricane Ida recovery, than with twice-weekly pickups but is looking to go back to two collections a week. The city did not give a time frame for when twice-weekly services might return.

However, Mayor LaToya Cantrell's director of communications, Beau Tidwell, said that residents in Service Area 1 could expect recycling collection to return by the end of the year and that Service Area 2 could expect to see recycling return in the first quarter of next year. Service Area 1 consists of neighborhoods west of Esplanade Boulevard and the West Bank, while Service Area 2 consists of New Orleans East, Gentilly, the Marigny and Bywater.

Tidwell said that the city is requesting information from vendors, engineers and other experts to help the city better understand the changes it needs to make to avoid pickup problems in the future.

The City Council passed a measure last month that waived residents' trash collection fees for November. Tidwell said the city would return to the regular monthly fee of $24 included on the Sewerage and Water Board bills for December.

The fact that there is only one collection instead of two does not change the price, Tidwell said, because the service is getting done.

However, there is a measure in Wednesday's City Council meeting from City Council member Jared Brossett to cut residents' sanitation fees in half.

Before Ida, Brossett made a similar move that would have waived residents' fees for August among a myriad of public complaints about the service. The move irked the Cantrell administration, which said it would have to eat a $3 million loss from the move.

The August measure did not pass, but with Hurricane Ida creating an overwhelming backlog of trash pickups, some over a month long, the measure to eliminate fees for November was approved.

Data from the city's website shows that 311 calls for missed trash collections have dropped with the once-a-week program, but there are still trash complaints reported citywide. From July 23 to Aug. 23, the latter date being three days before Ida was named a tropical depression, the city received 1,743 calls regarding missing trash pickups. In November, with the one-day pickup system in place, there were 425 calls.

Trash collection became a more prominent issue for residents just after the initial pandemic lockdown when some sanitation workers went on strike. Workers protested Metro for better protections against COVID-19, a pay raise to $15 an hour and hazard pay for working during the pandemic.

While the strikers were granted raises, both of the city's contracted trash collection agencies have cited a shortage in labor as the reason for non-collections.

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