New Orleans residents will no longer be able to recycle certain plastics, milk cartons or plastic bags at the curb or at the drop-off center, the city announced Friday.

Mayor LaToya Cantrell’s administration said that while curbside recycling will continue, rising costs and the fallout from a sweeping policy change in China have forced it to stop taking five of the seven categories of previously recyclable plastic.

City contractors picking up curbside will still collect steel and aluminum cans; water and soda bottles; milk, juice, detergent and shampoo containers; and newspapers, junk mail, phone books, catalogs, office paper, cardboard and boxboard items such as cereal and soft drink boxes.

Items that will no longer be collected at the curb or accepted at the drop-off center on Elysian Fields Avenue are plastic containers labeled 3 through 7 in the triangular designations on the bottom of the items.

They include: PVC plastics, such as reusable water bottles and salad dressing bottles; LDPE plastic bottles, which often include honey or mustard; polypropylene containers, including yogurt containers, syrup and medicine bottles, straws and caps; and polystyrene materials, which include CD cases and plastic cups and plates.

Plastic bags and waxboard items such as juice boxes and milk cartons also will not be accepted.

While the excluded items announced Friday won't be accepted at the drop-off center either, that facility will continue to take in a wider range of items including glass, television sets, household cleaners, electronic waste, batteries and Mardi Gras beads, on the usual schedule.

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The changes come in the wake of news that Republic Services will no longer take household recyclables at its sorting facility in Metairie. The company, which will still sort commercial recycling there, blamed China's decision to impose tougher standards on how much contamination it will accept in the recycled materials it buys from U.S. suppliers.

China had bought as much as 40 percent of the U.S. recycling stream, which was often contaminated by items that cannot be recycled, and the loss of that market has left the industry scrambling nationwide.

Metro Disposal, which will now be taking household recyclables to Marrero, was the only one of the city's three garbage contractors directly affected by Republic's decision to stop taking in household recycling. But the changes to the program apply to curbside collections throughout the city.

"Although alternative arrangements were successfully completed, the suspension by Republic Services highlighted the current recycling situation on the national, regional and local level," the city said in a news release.

Bob Ramelli of Ramelli Contractors, which handles recycling in the French Quarter and the Downtown Development District, said he met with the city as it ironed out an across-the-board solution.

He said plastics labeled 3 through 7 are difficult for end users to recycle and often end up in the contamination pile. He said focusing on the more easily recycled items will help cut down on contamination rates. 

Ramelli also handles recycling for Kenner, and he said he expects to have conversations with city officials there about following a similar path.

In Jefferson Parish, the parish's trash hauler, Waste Connections, will continue to collect recyclables through the end of June while a longer-term solution is worked out. Waste Connections was the other local contractor that used the Republic facility for its curbside recycling hauls.

Republic has a sorting facility in Baton Rouge that takes residential recycling items, and there are others in the area, but everyone is experiencing higher costs amid the shakeout.

“We must all do our part to reduce contamination to assist collection, processing and manufacturing companies until new and expanded markets are developed,” said Ramsey Green, Cantrell’s deputy chief administrative officer. “Although contamination from our area has not exceeded generally acceptable levels, it can be reduced further. It is our hope that these actions (announced Friday) will assist in extending the life of the city’s recycling programs.”


Follow Chad Calder on Twitter, @Chad_Calder.