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UPDATE: Trash issue goes to Columbia voters

Columbia voters will decide whether the city should ban a certain method of hauling trash.

The Columbia City Council voted unanimously Monday night to place the issue of a “roll cart” system on a special March 15, 2016 ballot. The system, which involves placing trash bags in a wheeled bin for curbside pick-up, met public scrutiny this year, as a group of residents turned in a petition to stop the city’s effort to begin using it.

The Solid Waste Advocacy Group turned in a petition with thousands of signatures in September to the city clerk’s office, calling for a roll cart ban. Voters will decide whether to ban the bins.

Several council members, including Mayor Bob McDavid, called the referendum “democracy in action.”

Second Ward Councilman Michael Trapp argued the complaints against roll carts came from their “aesthetic” in the community, but siding with the city staff argument for roll carts that the current trash system takes an extreme physical toll on Solid Waste Division workers.

“I get that, some people think trash bags are ugly,” Trapp said. “Some people think animals strewing trash is ugly. There’s an aesthetic argument. But that pales in comparison to the safety of our workforce.”

Councilman Ian Thomas said he shadowed two crews collecting garbage, and called the experience physically demanding, and sometimes dangerous.

“I don’t feel comfortable, on the basis of that experience, taking off the table a technology that can improve the safety of workers.”

Members of SWAG have suggested lowering the weight limit of trash bags placed curbside from 50 pounds to lessen the physical strain on workers. Opponents of roll carts said the system disadvantages people with physical disabilities, as well as puts an unnecessary cost of service on tax payers to buy new trash trucks and bins.

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