New Orleans needs to acknowledge its environmental issues

The city of New Orleans needs to start taking the environment seriously. So far, the city has failed to reduce its carbon footprint or promote higher environmental standards for its citizens.Let’s take a look at recycling.

Let’s take a look at recycling. New Orleans recycles much less than the average big city, only focusing on plastic bottles, cardboard, some paper and waxed cartons like those used for milk.

By only recycling the bare minimum, New Orleans completely ignores other, much more harmful and common materials like glass bottles and plastic rings. Glass bottles are unsettlingly common in the streets of New Orleans due to its open-container laws. Plastic rings carry an even larger risk to the city and the more than 3 million acres of wetlands around the greater metropolitan area. In addition to harming wildlife, plastic rings can form “fatbergs” that damage sewer lines.  It is unclear whether this oversight is due to blatant ignorance or down-right incompetence.

It’s unfortunate that New Orleans doesn’t take environmental policy more seriously, because few cities are more directly affected by poor environmental policies. New Orleans is surrounded by wetlands – one of the most threatened biomes in the country. We have an inherent interest in keeping litter out of our rivers in order to protect ecosystems tied to the Mississippi Delta. New Orleans is also heavily impacted by climate change and will continue to experience rising temperatures until climate policy is taken seriously.

Sadly, these critical facts are being overlooked. None of these issues are likely to be fixed any time soon, because the city is struggling to address more obvious concerns. Although the city has existed for over 300 years and the area is home to more than 1.25 million people, New Orleans still struggles to provide its citizens with fundamental needs like sewerage and water. New Orleans infrastructure is crumbling, literally in some cases. Even the basic services we actually have failed to run properly, most clearly seen in our public transit system that cannot stick to a regular schedule despite being on tracks.

Though there are glimmers of hope, like former Mayor Mitch Landrieu’s plan to reduce New Orleans’ carbon footprint, it does not seem likely that our environmental problems will be addressed any time soon, because New Orleans is lost in a sea of other issues. While there are many problems that need to be fixed, it is also crucial that the “smaller” concerns don’t go ignored, because the silent issues are what can truly drown a city, and we are already two feet below sea level.