By Karen Gadbois, The Lens staff writer |

The City of New Orleans could pay millions of dollars in coming months to buy new recycling carts for residents, judging from a bid request issued by the city as part of a deal with the city’s trash haulers to add that service by May 2.

Mayor Mitch Landrieu’s administration did not answer a host of question on the matter, including why this expense was not disclosed sooner or a ballpark expectation for the cost. Late Monday, the administration said it will tap the city’s capital budget to pay for the carts.

In an unexpected devleopment, the service will be offered only upon request of residents, so not everyone would automatically be issued a recycling can, though every customer saw their trash fee doubled this year. Interested residents can now sign up to get a cart here.

The bid specifications seek carts similar to the regular trash containers used by the city’s three trash companies, rather than the small, open bins familiar to residents before Hurricane Katrina. The recycling carts will be 64 gallons, whereas the most common trash cart is 96 gallons.

Unlike the trash carts, which are owned by the haulers and emblazoned with their logos, the recycling cans will be owned by the city.

The most recent house counts  list 66,000 places served by Richard’s Disposal, and 56,000 for Metro Disposal, for a total of 122,000 sites. A quick online check shows retail for the carts are between $60 and $130.

Even if the lowest price is cut in half for a bulk purchase, the total would be $3.6 million. And that’s just for the no-frills model.

The city wants each bin to have a serial number stamped into it, along with a city logo. And the city also wants a price quote on what it would cost to add a radio-frequency identification chip in each cart. That technology would let a nearby scanner read the serial number and track information, such as frequency of usage.

The bid document says that information could be used “perhaps in the future as part of an incentive program.”

Metro and Richard’s cover all of the city except for the French Quarter and the Central Business District, which is handled by SDT Waste and Debris. That company has no plans to add recycling.

Since Jan. 1, customers have been paying twice as much for trash collection than they did last year, rising from $12 to $24 for a residential site. There’s been no change in service in that time.

The bid information says the carts are to be delivered no sooner than April 1 for the May 2 start of recycling pickup.

Uptown resident and small business owner Jarrod Broussard  said he is happy to see the recycling program getting ready to come back, but he is wondering what the city is doing with the “funds accumulated for these services in the months that they aren’t being provided.”

If all residential customers pay the additional $12 for the four months in which there is no recycling, the city could raise nearly $6 million.

Karen Gadbois

Karen Gadbois co-founded The Lens. She now covers New Orleans government issues and writes about land use. With television reporter Lee Zurik she exposed widespread misuse of city recovery funds and led...