Residents in the city of Lafayette have begun getting yellow tags on their recycling bins notifying them if they’re placing non-recyclables in the carts. Republic Services, the company that has Lafayette’s curbside recycling program contract, hired temporary workers to ride along with drivers — the trucks are automated and require just a driver — to check bins, according to Lisa Mahoney, recycling supervisor for Lafayette Consolidated Government, who adds that not all of the routes have been audited yet. Residents who run afoul of recycling guidelines will get one courtesy pickup of their carts. After that, Republic will notify them that their cart cannot be picked up until it is cleared of non-recyclables — tough love for a city that is trying but hasn’t perfected curbside recycling.
Non-recyclables enumerated on the tags Republic is distributing to violators include yard waste, glass, bagged recyclables, food waste, clothing, plastic shopping bags (which are made of acceptable No. 2 plastic but gum up the sorting machines; many supermarkets have recycling bins for their plastic bags), hoses and other items that tangle, and large items like wood and plastic furniture. But it’s the yard and food waste, according to Mahoney, that are the main culprits.
“If we could get the yard waste and the food waste out of our loads we could be much more successful at being able to recycle most of the items,” she tells The Independent.
Mahoney attributes part of the uptick in contaminated recycling carts to the similarity between the recycling bins, with their light blue lids, and the trash bins, which are a darker blue throughout. But she points out that recycling in Lafayette used to be limited to residents who actually wanted to participate and acknowledges that the city could have done a better job educating residents about the program: “When we transitioned to Republic as our new recycling provider, we rolled out bins for everyone whereas in the past our program was designed for if you were interested in participating you had to request a bin,” Mahoney explains. “We sent one postcard out, which wasn’t enough, to kind of educate the population that ‘these are recycling bins, this is what you place in it.’ So, I think we needed to do a lot more of an education outreach. People getting the new cart, they might not understand what it’s for; they might not have gotten the postcard, and so they’re going to use it as a second trash can. So I think it’s a combination of both — the fact that it does look very similar [to the trash cart] and it was rolled out to everyone just with one little postcard.”