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Columbia cancels curbside recycling for Wednesday due to staffing shortage


The City of Columbia Solid Waste Utility canceled residential curbside recycling for Wednesday due to "severe staffing shortages," according to a press release from the City. 

The release states customers who have placed their recycling on the curb will have their recycling picked up with the regular trash collection.

The statement also says that Solid Waste management will evaluate staff availability before making a decision regarding recycling collections the rest of the week.

Matt Nestor, a spokesman for the Columbia Utilities Department, says five members of the temporary agency the city uses -- as well as six members of their staff -- called off. The extra 11 people short forced the city to focus on trash collection only until they could get the staffing issues worked out.

The city tells ABC 17 that staffing shortages have been something they have been dealing with for seven or eight years now. Currently, 25% of the city's residential curbside positions are vacant. Because of this the city relies on temporary staffing agencies to make up for these vacancies.

Normally, residential curbside recycling is collected every other week on the customers’ regularly scheduled refuse pickup day.

Weeks are divided into two zones: a Green Triangle route and a Blue Circle route.

The City’s website states given the dangerous and physically demanding nature of curbside collecting positions, recruiting employees has been challenging. Currently, 25% of the City’s residential curbside positions are vacant. They have relied on temporary staffing agencies to make up for these vacancies. 

The City says that roughly 35,500 residential curbside customers are serviced each week. The city uses eight trucks per day, Monday-Friday. Each truck manually collects approximately 890 homes per day.

Columbia has nine recycling drop-off centers throughout the city, however, the City is urging the public to help keep them clean.

"We don't have the staff to do extra maintenance to keep those areas clean so please don't leave your recycling materials on the ground," Nestor said. "Just be respectful and make it easier for everyone involved."

In 2020, curbside pickup for recycling in Columbia was temporarily suspended due to staffing shortages brought on by COVID-19. In February 2021, the city reintroduced recycling pickup on a biweekly schedule. They currently have no plans of returning to a weekly pickup schedule any time soon despite making the move to automated collection for trash.

"We are still going to be short handed," Nestor said. "We still need to look at increasing staff, making some new hires to make any promises on the future of recycling collection."

The City has been taking public input to discuss and assess the future of recycling in the city. Residents gave their input at a recent open-house meeting and online. The results of the public input will be presented at a meeting on Tuesday.

One of the aspects that the city is looking into is adding recycling to the roll-cart program.

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Mitchell Kaminski

Mitchell Kaminski is from Wheaton, Illinois. He earned a degree in sports communication and journalism from Bradley University. He has done radio play-by-play and co-hosts a Chicago White Sox podcast.


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