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Council report outlines urgent issues facing Columbia’s recycling, solid waste management


Columbia took part in a comprehensive evaluation of its recycling and waste diversion programs in hopes of helping the city improve its collection operations. The final report contains recommendations by RRT Design & Construction to help achieve this goal.

The Columbia City Council is scheduled to hear this report Monday.

Currently, the city provides waste management services to nearly 51,000 residents including around 36,000 single-family homes. Single-family homes are provided curbside pickup services and multi-family homes are provided designated drop-off locations.

Columbia runs on a dual-stream recycling program, meaning residents separate the fibers from their containers. An example of this would be to remove the paper label from a plastic water bottle.

The report highlights three major issues with Columbia's recycling and waste management. The first issue is the indefinite suspension of the curbside recyclables collection due to a labor shortage. The second issue is that several Drop-off Centers are negatively impacting the recycling program because of the plethora of contaminated loads delivered to the Material Recovery Facility (MRF). The third issue is that the MRF's equipment is no longer performing up to standard.

The city's priority is to attend to the curbside collection crisis.

"Columbia urgently needs to put all available resources toward resuming curbside collection, either biweekly or weekly," the report states.

To do this, the city will need to close and consolidate its Recycling and Drop-off Center locations and reroute its recycling routes so that they are more efficient.

To help solve the city's curbside pickup issue, RRT discussed with Columbia's City Staff and City Council members two options for collecting dual stream recycling. One option would be to provide customers with two carts for fiber and containers. This would potentially reduce the overall labor burden on the emplyees, but would increase truck traffic.

The second option is to provide customers with a split-body cart and be served by a split-body truck. This option would likely require weekly collection and it was determined that the fiber side of the cart would likely be jammed and require the operator to return to MRF while the other side of the cart is empty.

Columbia also needs to decide the appropriate level of capital investment. The two biggest differentiators in the project costs are whether the city wants to accommodate future growth with larger equipment or staffing additional shifts per day.

Article Topic Follows: Columbia
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Grace Pankey


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