COLUMBIA, Mo. (KMIZ)
Nearly two months into Columbia's "pay as you throw" residential trash collection program, residents are still reporting problems with city-issued bags and limits of how much trash they can dispose of each week.
The program that started Feb. 1 requires all residential waste to be placed in city-logo bags. Residents are provided vouchers for two bags per week with extra bags available for purchase if needed.
Matthew Nestor with City of Columbia Utilities said, "anybody who's using the service more is going to be asked to pay more. Its the same as any large family that uses a lot of water or electric they're going to be paying at a higher rate."
Columbia resident and daycare owner Jennifer Wiesner said she understands that she has more trash and should have to pay more than others, but the limit on only being provided two bags per week is not enough for the average family.
"I think they should make the limit a little bit higher as far as bags per week because there is literally trash everywhere," Wiesner said.
Wisener said in her neighborhood, trash is sitting out for weeks at a time because it is not in the right bags. Recycle bins are overflowing with trash, she said.
Finding additional bags has also been a challenge for Wisener. "We looked for a couple weeks to find bags and now we are almost out again. I'm going to have to pay $2 per bag to dump my trash on top of what I normally pay," Wisener said.
Wisener said the bags are only big enough to hold two regular-size kitchen trash bags. The city requires each bag to weigh no more than 50 pounds.
Nestor said the city is not looking into providing residents with additional free bags. He said on average Columbia households throw away 40 pounds of trash week and each city-logo bag will hold up to 50 pounds.
Columbia resident Josh Vice said he received his vouchers for bags from the city, but when he opened them he found that his bags had been cut.
"They actually had three distinct cuts in them so when we were going to put garbage in the bags, we couldn't put them in that bag. We had to put them in the bag we already had so that the garbage wouldn't fall out," Vice said.
Vice said not only has he had to purchase city bags, but regular bags on top of that. His next pack of bags had cuts as well and the seams were not together to hold the bag in place.
Vice said his wife has called the city about the issue. The city told Vice they would get back to him on a location to go to get free bags after the incident, but that was more than two weeks ago.
Nestor said if someone has bags that are unusable, they can be exchanged at any distributor. He said any of the Gerbes locations, any Mosers locations, the Hy-vee locations, Schnucks, Menards or at city hall.
Bags are being sold at local grocery stores and customers can buy more bags there. Bags will be sold in a roll of five for $10. The utility says the cost is meant to help pay for landfill fees, salaries and vehicle maintenance.
Bulk items also require a scheduled pickup of at least one week in advance.
Wisener said limiting trash has been a struggle for families, especially during the pandemic and being in homes more often. The new system has also been costly for families who are now paying more for less service, she said.
Vice and Wisener each said they support a roll-cart system. They have both lived in cities that operated with roll carts.
Nestor said the Columbia voters voted against roll carts in 2016.
Residents have shown interest in the roll cart system with citizen petition drives to put the issue on a ballot.
Last August, the city council took a vote to put a roll cart issue on the November ballot. That stalled in a three to three tie with councilman Ian Thomas not being present at the meeting.
Under the city charter, the petition needs 3,219 signatures in order to make it onto the ballot in April.
The city said these rule were put into place to "improve working conditions for staff by reducing the potential for excessive volumes of refuse to be placed at the curb for disposal."
The city made the change this year, citing problems with recruiting and maintaining trash collectors because of the demanding work and high number of injuries.