The Barataria-Terrebonne National Estuary Program (BTNEP) hosted a trip to visit The Recycling Foundation in Baton Rouge on June 11.
Chris Babin and Wendy Loupe represented Lafourche Parish Government's Solid Waste Department and participated in the tour.
Babin serves as the department's Sanitation Foreman, while Loupe is the Solid Waste Deputy Coordinator.
The waste products recycled by Lafourche residents are brought to the Baton Rouge facility.
There are currently four drop-off bins strategically located in the northern, central and southern portions of Lafourche Parish. Last year alone, the parish sent 520 tons of co-mingled recyclables to The Recycling Center in Baton Rouge.
“I always wondered how all of our recycled materials we put together in one bin are sorted,” Babin said. During the tour, Babin found out there is a greater reliance on workers than machinery when it comes to the sorting process.
“It is a somewhat dangerous job. They showed us several knives that were picked off the conveyor belt system, which is not slow moving. Workers are required to wear Kevlar gloves,” Babin said.
Babin said everyone in attendance learned how plastic bags cause issues clogging up the machinery and how those type of bags are actually sorted out of the system and sent to a landfill.
They also learned paper glued together causes problems since it is chopped up in water to make a slurry mixture.
Excessive glue creates issues as well as paper with a waxy coating.
“A few glued items mixed together is not a big issue, but if they get an abundance at one time it may cause issues.
They may actually have to cut off the binding. The rule of thumb is to recycle papers that are stapled instead of glued,” Babin said.
One further insight Babin acquired by going on the trip was discovering why glass isn't recycled at the Baton Rouge facility, despite the fact it is recyclable.
“According to our tour guide, glass is actually not harmful to the environment; it is made from sand and eventually will be broken back down back into sand,” Babin added. “It is not cost-effective to recycle being that sand is an abundant resource. Recycling facilities may actually lose money recycling glass just from the cost of shipping alone. They only receive $50/ton for recycled glass. It costs them $25/ton to ship. This doesn't pay for the labor and operation it takes to produce a ton of glass (which also has to be sorted according to color: clear, brown and green) not counting the wear and tear the broken glass takes on the equipment.”
To learn more about The Recycling Foundation and Lafourche Parish Government's Sanitation Department, visit either recyclingfoundation.com or lafourchegov.org and click on the link in the top rotator box. Once you arrive at the Solid Waste page, you can find valuable online forms as well as a complete listing of the all the recycling drop-off bins throughout the parish.