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Latest on trash pickup in New Orleans: curbside recycling delayed due to COVID, officials say

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

UPDATE: The weekly recycling pickup that was expected to return — at least for some parts of New Orleans — on Monday will be postponed again, according to an announcement from city officials.

After a four-month hiatus, curbside recycling was set to resume Jan. 3 for Service Area 1, which consists of upriver neighborhoods, Mid-City and Algiers. But officials said Monday due to COVID-19 and staffing shortages, solid waste collections fell behind citywide last Thursday, resulting in employees playing catch-up over the holiday weekend.

"COVID-19 has severely impacted solid waste collections citywide, with more than 30% of drivers unable to work, causing delays to the scheduled New Year's holiday collections," according to a statement from the City of New Orleans. "In light of these severe resource constraints and to ensure crews can catch up, curbside recycling has been delayed one week and will resume next Monday, Jan. 10."

Meanwhile, there’s still no timeline for recycling to return to Service Area 2, which covers downriver neighborhoods, Lakeview, Gentilly and areas east of the Industrial Canal.

Recycling collection has already resumed in the French Quarter and the city’s Downtown Development District and happens every Tuesday.

The city’s service areas are contracted to two different providers. Richard’s Disposal covers Service Area 1 and Metro Service Group cover Service Area 2.

Mayor LaToya Cantrell’s administration plans to rebid the Metro Service Group contract in the first quarter of 2022 and said in Tuesday’s release that recycling will resume once a new contractor is in place.

Trash and recycling pickup has long been unreliable in most New Orleans neighborhoods, but the problem came to a fever pitch in late August after Hurricane Ida hit the city.

For weeks, and in some cases months, residents went without trash and recycling pick-up. As curbside piles grew, and bad smells multiplied, the city asked residents to haul their own trash and a parade was staged in protest.

After Ida, the city announced that both contractors would stop recycling temporarily and that trash would be collected once, rather than twice a week. The once a week trash collection policy is still in place.

Residents should use their city-issued recycling “cart” for curbside pickup and can request a new one by calling 311, according to the city.

The following items are eligible for curbside pickup.

  • Plastics #1 (soda and water bottles)
  • Plastics #2 (milk, juice, shampoo and detergent containers)
  • Newspapers, junk mail, phone books, catalogs, office paper
  • Corrugated cardboard
  • Boxboard (cereal boxes and soft drink boxes)
  • Small aluminum and steel cans

Recyclables should not be placed in plastic bags, the city said. Additional items can be brought to the city’s recycling drop-off on Saturdays from 8 a.m. until 1 p.m.

Aubri Juhasz covers K-12 education, focusing on charter schools, education funding, and other statewide issues. She also helps edit the station’s news coverage.

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