Gretna — After years of torpidity because of Hurricane Katrina, Jefferson Parish’s efforts to go green are picking up steam as several municipalities have joined with the parish administration to ramp up recycling efforts.
Recycling programs have begun or are in the works in all of Jefferson Parish’s municipalities except for Grand Isle, with most cities utilizing drop-off sites for recyclable materials.
In addition, the parish restarted its own curbside recycling program this summer after a seven-year layoff caused by the hurricane, said Katherine Costanza, the parish’s assistant director of environmental affairs.
All of the programs are accepting a wider range of recyclable products than were allowed prior to the storm.
“The program that we have now is vastly expanded from what we had pre-Katrina,” Costanza said.
The burst in recycling efforts is partially due to cities figuring out a way to avoid the thorny issue of leveling a fee on residents for a service most of them don’t use. Prior to Katrina, recycling participation among residents in most cities was less than 25 percent.
However, all residents often were forced to pay a monthly fee for the service, which was typically less than $2 a month. Under the new deals, cities have been able to get recycling dumpsters provided at no extra cost through their existing garbage collection contracts as long as they provide the sites.
Westwego Mayor Johnny Shaddinger said after the storm, most residents made it clear that they weren’t interested in a recycling fee, but there was still a core group of residents who wanted the service.
That’s why Westwego negotiated with its garbage collection company, IESI Inc., a subsidiary of Progressive Waste Solutions, to establish a recyclable drop-off center for residents near Westwego’s City Hall. Shaddinger said Westwego’s program began in April, several months after the parish’s service got restarted.
“We just wanted to offer this service to our residents,” Shaddinger said.
Gretna Councilman Vincent Cox III came up with a similar plan for Gretna residents and set up a drop-off site near a fire station on Gretna Boulevard. Cox said that when local governments didn’t offer the service, there were some residents willing to pay private companies to recycle, so it was obvious there were people who really appreciated the service.
The city has collected more than 13 tons, or 26,000 pounds, of recyclable material since beginning the program in August. Gretna’s recycling site has been so well received the city is looking to set up another drop-off site north of the West Bank Expressway.
“The response has been unbelievable,” Cox said. “I think this is the perfect option for the people who care enough to recycle.”
In fact, Cox said Gretna is planning to add recycling bins at two of its city parks through a partnership with a private company. Under that deal, the company would provide the bins and handle collections in exchange for the right to sell advertising space.
Gretna would receive payments based on how much recyclable material was deposited, Cox said.
The city of Kenner announced two new recycling drop-off locations through its contract with Ramelli Waste, and Harahan is setting up a site as well.
The town of Jean Lafitte does recycling through Jefferson Parish’s contract.
Costanza said that several municipalities consulted with the parish before restarting their programs to get info on the best way to proceed. Jefferson Parish also avoided the monthly fee arrangement by paying for recycling through surplus funds, and later through the existing millage dedicated to garbage disposal. The parish spends about $2.1 million annually on the service, which runs until 2017, and is actually less than what the service cost prior to Katrina, Costanza said.
“We’re really excited to bring it back,” she said.