Since Orleans Parish reinstated its curbside recycling program in 2011, the amount of waste collected for reuse is almost 75 times higher than when the only available option for recycling was hauling trash to a drop-off site, according to data provided by the New Orleans Department of Sanitation.

New Orleanians set aside 6,649 tons of paper, plastic, cardboard and metal cans for recycling last year. That compares with 89 tons of recyclables dropped off at various sites in 2010, when curbside recycling was unavailable.

The 2013 tonnage figure was an 8 percent improvement over 2012, when 6,138 tons of recyclable waste were collected.

The curbside recycling program collects aluminum cans; certain plastic food and beverage containers; steel and ferrous metal food containers and lids; and paper and cardboard products including newspapers, magazines, catalogs and cereal boxes.

Styrofoam, glass, pizza boxes, food-contaminated containers, bubble wrap, 6-pack rings, hazardous materials and household waste are not eligible for recycling.

Curbside recycling was suspended in New Orleans for six years following Hurricane Katrina in 2005 because officials said there was no room for it in the city budget. During that period, city-sponsored recycling consisted of occasional drop-off days at various sites around Orleans Parish.

The curbside recycling program was restored after Mayor Mitch Landrieu negotiated lower prices for the city’s contracts with the three companies that share trash-collection duties in New Orleans: Metro Disposal, Richard’s Disposal and SDT Waste & Debris Services, which is now owned by Progressive Waste Solutions.

In the first year they were able to put their recyclables out for curbside pickup, residents and business operators sorted and saved about 3,600 tons of waste for recycling. The total jumped by 69 percent in 2012.

Last year, Metro collected 2,406 tons of recyclables, a 10.4 percent improvement from 2012. Metro collects the trash in the Lakefront, Gentilly, the Lower 9th Ward, eastern New Orleans and parts of Mid-City.

Richard’s Disposal picked up 4,144 tons of recyclable waste in 2013, up nearly 7 percent from 2012. It also covers parts of Mid-City, as well as Algiers and Uptown.

French Quarter and CBD recyclables are collected by Progressive Waste Solutions. Curbside collection in those neighborhoods wasn’t restarted until this year.

Despite the gains, recycling still is a small part of waste disposal in Orleans Parish. Last year, recyclables made up only about 2.2 percent of the total waste collected in New Orleans. That was a smaller share than in 2012, when recycled objects accounted for 3.4 percent of what was collected.

In the first four months of 2014, the 1,586 tons of recyclables collected accounted for about 3.6 percent of the waste residents placed out for collection.

That comes at a cost to the collecting companies, Metro owner Jimmy Woods said.

“There’s not always a lot of material to pick up, but you still have to run down those streets,” he said. “Pre-Katrina, everybody had a (recycle) cart. Nowadays you might have one or two or three customers on a street.”

Woods said passage of a city ordinance requiring residents to recycle would help resolve that problem, as would more money dedicated to education and outreach about the importance of recycling. The city’s recycling education program was scrubbed after Katrina and hasn’t been relaunched.

As it is, the program lagged last year in signing up new registrants. In 2012, 5,139 households and businesses requested recycling carts. That number fell to 4,029 last year.

“The fact that the city did reinstate recycling is a plus,” Woods said. “But, obviously, you’d like to see more.”

Requests for new carts spiked in the early part of this year, almost doubling in the first quarter of 2014 compared with the first three months of 2013. There were 1,586 recycling cart registrations from January through March of this year, compared with 814 in the same period of 2013.

The increase in new registrations coincided with the return of curbside recycling to the French Quarter and Central Business District in January.

“We are picking up an additional 3 to 4 tons per month since we’ve been running the recyclable route,” Progressive Waste spokeswoman Julie Tufaro said.

Progressive collected about 12 tons of waste from the French Quarter and CBD in the first three months of the year.

Addresses in those neighborhoods had been without recycling service since Hurricane Katrina.