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Columbia recycling suspension could lead to overflows at drop-off spots


Columbia’s nine recycling drop-off centers could soon feel the strain of the city canceling curbside recycling pickup. 

The city announced on Wednesday that it would be temporarily canceling curbside recycling for the next month, due to an ongoing staffing shortage. 

As a result, many of the recycling centers around town could overflow, as they have in the past when residential pickup was suspended. The centers will remain open during the temporary cancellation, however overflowing bins have in the past made maintaining them harder for the city. 

“If there’s a lot of bags and boxes and stuff piled around the bins then it takes our collection crew, it can take them a couple of hours, two, three hours to clean that up before they can even service the bins, and that just delays the collection on down the line," said Matt Nestor, a spokesperson for the City of Columbia Utilities. “It’s a domino effect.”

The City of Columbia does not allow for private recycling pickup. All collections must go through the city.

Ward 5 Councilman Don Waterman told ABC 17 News, he's not sure the city would consider privatizing recycling pick up.

“I don't know the feeling is among the council and or the city. I know as far as privatizing the entire trash collection, it is not looked upon favorably at this point."

Nestor added that as of now it’s business as usual as far as how many times these centers get serviced. However, that could change depending on staffing. The city's first priority is picking up trash. 

The overflows of recycling centers could be a public health issue if people are not cleaning their rinsed-out recyclable materials properly. 

“Paper, cardboard, should be clean enough where it’s not going to attract pest rodents, bugs, that kind of thing," Nestor said. "If we are seeing a lot of trash dumped in there or the recycling material is not cleaned out properly, you know you got a bunch of jelly sitting in the bottom of the jar, then you can see the pest come in.

“I can’t say it’s not going to cause a problem because it could cause a problem. But if material is treated properly then it’s not going to create a health hazard.” 

Columbia has been dealing with overflows at recycling centers for years. Back in 2020 when the city had 11 recycling centers it was an issue.

In 2021, the City of Columbia approved a new recycling drop-off center in Cosmo Park. This came after curbside pickup was once again halted, forcing overflows across the city's existing centers.

Article Topic Follows: Columbia

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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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