Nola Recycles 2010 wants to clean up pre-election day street spam and promote a citywide recycling and waste management campaign. It suggests people pick up those signs, turn them inside out, silk-screen a campaign logo on them and plant them in your front yard.
Part guerrilla campaign, part diplomacy exercise, NOLA Recycles 2010 is organizing and, the group hopes, implementing a recycling platform for potential candidates in the 2010 mayor's race. Campaign organizers are asking each candidate to sign, before the election, a commitment to the NOLA Recycles 2010 plan — a six-point recommendation to resume curbside recycling services, enforce illegal dumping, promote recycling hazardous materials and develop programs to recycle demolition, construction and green waste. The plan also calls for a sustainability-focused sanitation coordinator in City Hall, as well as recycling made available within City Hall itself. Organizers recommend that instead of focusing on acquiring funds for these programs, the next mayor considers making efficient synergies within City Hall.
Kicked off in late October at a rally at Bridge Lounge in the Lower Garden District, the campaign gathered about 200 attendees voicing support and ideas, pushing largely for reinstituting a city-provided curbside recycling program, one that's been missing in post-Katrina New Orleans. The campaign has continued with a Web presence using Facebook, Twitter and a recently launched Web site (www.nolarecycles.com).
"We're continuing to build a network of folks who care about this issue and want to participate in the electoral process," says media coordinator Katie Del Guercio. "We want to be loud and clear that recycling is an important issue this election."
At the October rally, Del Guercio says the crowd thought the initial six-point plan for a pilot study on recycling in New Orleans was too conservative. "The response was, 'Forget about the study. Let's move,'" she says. "The enthusiasm is there."
Though the plan tackles sustainable waste management from all angles, the lack of curbside recycling is the campaign's impetus and "most glaring issue," Del Guercio says. Small companies and waste services providers like Phoenix Recycling and SDT Waste & Debris offer the service for a fee, but the lack of a city-provided program "is actually a turnoff to new New Orleanians and old New Orleanians alike," she says. "It just seems so symbolic of the stereotype of New Orleans being a backward place, and that's not the image we want to send to the rest of the world, especially post-Katrina. It's so out of line with where smart, innovative cities are going right now. It's a door opener to get the conversation going about all elements of the six-point plan, the other five of which people might not be as aware of, or perhaps wouldn't have cared as much about without curbside (recycling) being the conversation starter."
The next rallying event, which takes place after candidate qualifying, is 7 p.m. Tuesday, Dec. 15, at Academy Charter School. Participants will plan NOLA Recycles 2010's presence at places candidates will make public appearances, such as town hall meetings, debates and other forums, to continue the sustainability conversation.
"It's not as simple as 'We can't afford curbside, so that's it,'" Del Guercio says. "There needs to be a change in perspective."
Campaign coordinator Darryl Malek Wiley says the group has come to terms with the current administration's inability to restore curbside recycling.
"It's just not going to happen," he says. "To really make it happen, the next mayor needs to have this on his or her radar. We figured with the six-point plan, we might be able to get candidates to read three or four pages, but we wanted to have more information on the white paper. We have a committee working on that."
Liz Davey, environmental coordinator with the Office of Environmental Affairs at Tulane University, is part of the committee drafting the document, which follows the latest reports and studies on the state of recycling and sustainable waste management. Davey says the next administration needs to take a comprehensive look at recycling in post-Katrina New Orleans because it has changed around the country since the city's program ended. Not only have most major cities switched to single-stream recycling (the collection of recyclables in one container in the same trucks used for garbage collection), but the next mayor also will have an option in the New Orleans area to process the materials at Allied Waste Services (801 L & A Road, Metairie). "That means we can collect, it won't be as expensive to buy equipment, and we basically have a manufacturing facility in town for processing recyclables and selling them," Davey says. "That's the most important finding in the area of recycling."
The campaign also will recommend that the next mayor remain vigilant about illegal dumping and provide opportunities for residents to properly dispose of hazardous and green wastes.
"Green waste is a really big part of our trash," she says. "We want to see harmful materials not go to a landfill, but we also want to see materials reused and remade, processed and sold as much as possible to build up a recycling economy. Green waste can have a climate change impact if put in a landfill. It can form methane, and if that's released, it's contributing to climate change in the same way carbon dioxide is."
Daveys and Del Guercio say the campaign won't endorse a candidate or suggest a waste management facility for the city to use, but the group will provide candidates with the options available.
"What we're asking is for the city to issue a request for proposal — ask companies what services they can provide and how much they cost," she says (WHO?). "We're not saying any particular companies."
"We're working on raising money to take out ads in local media that say 'These candidates support it, make conclusions on your own,'" Del Guercio says. "We're not going to endorse any particular candidate, but we'll share information with the electorate about what they have to say."