COLUMBIA – Trash and recycling workers urged Columbia City Council during Monday night’s meeting to consider the staffing shortages and financial concerns they see in their line of work.
Over the years, households could place almost anything on their curb for pickup.
Columbia Waste Utility Manager Steve Hunt said Columbia residents are allowed to set out as much garbage as they want.
“They can set out multiple sofas, multiple mattresses, multiple bags of leaves, and then our staff will then collect all that in the truck,” Hunt said.
That will no longer be the case moving forward after council approved the requirement for residents to schedule bulky item collection at least one week in advance.
Residents will be charged $21.50 per pickup for the first item and $5 per additional item during the same pickup. Every household will get one free bulky-item pickup each year.
Other approved changes include:
- Requiring all trash and recyclables to be placed curbside in city-provided bags that are stamped with city logos. Residents will get 104 trash bags annually, double the 52 bags they get now. Additional bags will be available in rolls of 5 for $2 per bag.
- Requiring that residents pay $17.37 monthly for curbside trash and recycling pickup, an increase of 85 cents per month. Curbside recycling has been suspended since July because of staffing shortages. The change means the city will resume distributing blue bags for recycling.
- Approving a $5 “add-pay” wage increase for solid waste workers, which will apply only when they are actually doing the physical work of collecting trash on routes.
- Charging a fee for special pickup of unlawfully placed material of $72.13 per container, plus $55 per ton of refuse and $1.15 per minute it takes to load the container.
- Employing a code enforcement specialist to focus on addressing unlawfully placed material and illegal dumping.
Recycling hasn’t been picked up at all the last few months because of staff shortages. Households are still charged, however, because trash and recycling collection are combined into one cost.
“We do not have the cost of recycling broken out from the cost of refuse collection. Right now, we have those two collections lumped into the same bucket,” Hunt said.
Hunt hopes these changes, especially the wage increase, will help recruit and retain workers and allow curbside recycling pickup to resume.
The collection changes will go into effect on Nov. 1. Households have until Feb. 1 before the requirement of using city provided bags is enforced.