Lake Charles residents voice concern over lack of curbside recycling

LAKE CHARLES, LA (KPLC) - We always hear about the need for recycling, but do you actually practice it?

While residents in the City of Lake Charles have access to recycling some argue that it’s not the most convenient. This is the case for Amy Simon, a current resident of the city.

“Well I just don’t think it’s very convenient, at all,” Simon said.

Lake Charles doesn’t offer a curbside recycling service.

“You know if we had some curbside type service that would make life a lot easier then I think more people would be willing to recycle,” Simon said.

Simon moved to Lake Charles from Dallas, a city that offers the curbside program.

“Oh I thought it was amazing and I wondered why nobody around here did it," Simon said. "It was so easy. It’s one bin, they pick up the trash they pick up the bin.”

If it’s so easy, why isn’t the practice utilized today? City Administrator John Cardone says it was actually offered previously.

“Back in the 90s, late 90s we tried to implement a curbside recycling program and it worked for awhile,” Cardone said. “Everybody participated. They didn’t have to participate but it was city wide and there was no charge for it.”

There was a point where companies, like Waste Management, paid the city for the recyclable materials.

“Over a period of time the market for the recyclables -- there was no market for it. People weren’t willing to pay for recyclable materials like cardboard. white paper. and plastics. So we were actually having to pay to get rid of the recyclables," Cardone said. "Also, the participation throughout the city wasn’t as promising as we thought it would be.”

The city got rid of it in 1999. Fast forward 20 years and the market for recyclables never came back. This now makes the program more expensive for current residents.

It currently costs the city $80 per ton to properly dispose of the reusable material, which travels to a facility in Beaumont.

Director of Public Works, Jeff Jones, said there’s a lot of man power that goes behind the reusable materials.

“Recycling would have to be with containers with trucks with man power," Jones said. “They would have to establish routes and have those things picked up, the recyclable materials. Most of the time it’s on a weekly basis. It has to go to a recycling facility where actually they take all this material into and sort out what’s not recyclable. So they got another cost that they incur there. And then along with that the material they’re left with they need to find a source or a source of revenue to be able to upstand the recycling business.”

With the City of Lake Charles mentioning the high cost of recycling, 7News spoke with Bess Foret, Lafayette’s environmental quality manager.

“In Lafayette we pay $2.63 a month for recycling," Foret said. That cost was on top of their trash pick up.

“Garbage on the other hand which covers of course trash bulky items and some yard waste pick up, all of which are once a week is about $24 a month," Foret said. "Your curbside vendor does both. If they can incorporate that all in one usually that would lower the cost of the recycling.”

If the city implemented recycling, Cardone said it’s possible that residents would have to pay a residential tax. Cardone said it would be $15-17 for trash pick up alone, something that’s currently funded at no additional cost to residents.

The fee for recycling would be paid on top of that. Jeff Jones said that would be between $2.50 and $7.00.

“If we were to do a curbside recycling yes we could charge the residents a fee to cover the cost of recycling," Cardone said. "The question is how many people are going to participate and are the citizens of Lake Charles willing to pay a fee to pick up the recyclables.”

Residents said they had mixed feelings about paying an extra cost.

“If twenty percent of the households want to recycle and your charging everyone then 80% of the people funding it and are not participating," Cardone said.

The other option is to include it in the city’s budget, but, that means sacrificing something else that’s currently funded.

“We get our funds in our solid waste department from sales tax out of our general fund and so if part of that money is coming out of the sales tax something else that we’re paying for you have to give it up," Cardone said.

Cardone said he recognized the importance of recycling, and wants residents to know that there are outlets to do it.

“We created another plan where we have some permanent sites where people can bring recyclables," Cardone said. "We have a rolling truck that goes to around 5 different locations throughout the city throughout the week where people can drop off recyclables and also we have fixed routes where a truck goes to all the schools and some non-profits and they can drop of their recyclables at those schools and the schools drop them off to us.”

All of these options can be found on the city’s Team Green Page. But Simon says she’d still rather a curbside service.

“Think about how inconvenient it is. Just say cans alone They’re all syrupy and sticky and dripping and you don’t want to put that in your vehicle and take it some where," Simon said. "Just think if you had a separate bin at your house you could just throw it in. How many bottles of waters and cans and things we go through that we could just toss in a recycling bin.”

If you’re like Amy and think the city should consider curbside recycling, realize, your voice can be heard.

“We’d be glad to sit down and explain it to them and if not they’re welcome to contact their council members and we’re willing to meet with them and their council members and decide what path they want to decide to pursue," Cardone said. “We want to grow the recycling program we think it’s good for the community. It’s just how high do you grow it, and what are the people willing to pay.”