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Columbia City Council looks over results from recycling and waste diversion study

Columbia, Mo (KMIZ)

The Columbia City Council met on Monday night and -- once again -- recycling was one of the topics discussed. 

One of the items council’s pre-meeting included the results of a Recycling and Waste Diversion Study. The project includes data collection, responding to recommendations and technical documents for waste projects.

Waste collection has been a hot-button issue in Columbia over the past several years. In May, the city suspended recycling collection due to understaffing. It was expected to begin again in June, but was extended. A date for curbside recycling to begin again has not been set.

“You know there have been issues around trash collection and recycling collection some of that has to do with what we are facing in terms of staffing issues,” Ward 4 Councilman Nick Foster said. 

The City's curbside collection study, which was set to find out what percentage of households routinely put material at the curb, was stopped after the collection was suspended in the middle of the study. 

However, in the two weeks before the study was halted, the City found that the number of curbside set-outs was smaller than they anticipated, according to the report. It also learned that many people use the drop-off center on their off week or as needed so counting curbside set-outs is not the best indicator of participation in the recycling program. 

Another goal of the data collection was to evaluate the quality and the contents of the recyclables delivered to the recycling facility.

“We also have problems with the contamination rate in that people are trying to put stuff into the recycling bags or the recycling bins that don’t belong there,” Carolyn Amparan, of the Missouri Sierra Club, said.

The study found that 82% of residential container recycling -- which includes bottles, cans and jugs -- was correct recycling while 18% was incorrect recycling. 

It also found that 95% of residential paper recycling was correct recycling. According to the City’s PowerPoint, the high quality of residential curbside material supports the theory that contamination and residues at the Materials Recovery Facility primarily come from the drop-off centers and/or commercial recycling bins. As a result, the recycling program is losing quality tons to the aging MRF. 

The most-lost recyclable was cardboard. 

The City also took steps to engage members of the community with a survey on its BeHeard website, and open house in March, and meetings with City Council members. 

“I’m encouraged that they actually had this study done and that the study included looking at new materials,” Amparan said.

Columbia could be looking to increase the materials that can be recycled based on what other communities allow such as old wooden pallets, carpets, mattresses, and foam.

The City estimates that as much as $2 million worth of recyclables are thrown away in a year. To improve curbside collection the project team is currently talking about a method to “dual-stream curbside recyclables using a cart and a single-body truck.” 

Another proposal was eliminating the city-issued blue bag and allowing citizens to recycle using any type of blue bag they have. but the city will have to take a closer look at the data before any decisions on waste collection are made.

The City could also be looking at a possible replacement for the recycling facility, something Ward 1 City Councilman Nick Foster says will be a challenge because of the cost.

“I don’t know that we’re unsuccessful, I think we are successful now. we can be more successful. We have a very motivated citizenry. People want to recycle and make the effort to do so.”

Article Topic Follows: Columbia City Government

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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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