Columbia seeks to reform trash collection methods

A petition would ban the city from buying equipment for automatic trash collection.
Several garbage bags sit next to the curb of a home at 1600 University Ave. in East Campus. The Columbia Public Works Department is hoping to improve trash removal by moving to roll carts and automatic collection. Maneater File Photo

Columbia residents have been trash talking to the city lately — that is, talking about the city’s trash pickup methods.

Throughout the city, trash can be seen bagged on the side of the road daily. The city is hoping to change this method by moving to roll carts and automatic collection. According to a Public Works Department report to Columbia City Council, 82.4 percent of Columbians would support this change.

However, an initiative petition by the citizen group Solid Waste Advocacy Group aims to ban the city from buying trucks and roll carts for trash pickup. On Nov. 2, city council accepted the petition to appear on the ballot in March 2016.

“The city of Columbia has been exploring the transition to automated collections for over three years with several reports and presentations to council,” Public Works Spokesman Steven Sapp said.

Some of the waste management methods the department has explored, according to their website, are the Pay As You Throw trash system, single-stream recycling and Automated Refuse Collection, or roll carts that can be picked up by trucks.

The PAYT system would allow customers to set out two bags at a base rate, and citizens would be required to pay extra for each additional bag. The website shows that currently, all Columbia citizens pay $15.42 a month for trash pickup.

Single-stream recycling would allow all recyclable materials to be collected in one container without being sorted. Columbia’s diversion rate, the amount of waste diverted from landfills, is half the national average.

Columbia native and freshman Makayla Rippey has to leave trash on the curbside at her residence, whereas her parents use a roll cart. She prefers the carts.

“When the bags aren’t in the container they may leak on the ground and attract bugs,” Rippey said. “Also, I just don’t think it looks good having a bunch of trash laying around the streets.”

However, some citizens feel that trash bins looks worse than bags outside.

“The bins would take away curb appeal for our homes,” sophomore Ashlyn West said. “The trash is put out and picked up within a day, but the bins would presumably always sit at the front of the driveway, in front of our house.”

According to the city’s solid waste website, using roll carts would dramatically reduce the cost of workers’ compensation. Workers’ compensation for trash pickup costs an average of over $272,000 a year, according to their website. This is because picking up an average of 900 bags per week, with each bag weighing up to 50 pounds, is strenuous on workers’ bodies. Four out of five solid-waste workers are injured on the job, according to the website, and one worker died as a result of a work-related injury.

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