COLUMBIA — Take a stroll through East Campus on most Sunday mornings, and one of the first things you’ll notice is trash, bags of beer cans and other refuse tossed out at the curb for city garbage and recycling trucks to pick up.
That wouldn’t be a problem if this were a Wednesday, because that’s when the city comes through and collects the trash. But setting out the trash days ahead of time is a violation of city ordinances. The trash winds up sitting at the curb for days unless someone complains and the city collects it early.
Regular curbside collection of trash in East Campus begins at 7:30 a.m. every Wednesday, and residents are allowed to place garbage and recyclables at the curb after 4 p.m. the day before.
Those who want to report trash left out early can do so electronically at gocolumbiamo.com/PublicWorks/Forms/improperly-placed-materials.php. Or they can call 874-6291.
For an online map of the city's trash and recycling collection days, go to gocolumbiamo.com/PublicWorks/Solidwaste/refusedays.php.
Trash left out days in advance is a problem East Campus residents have dealt with for years. Richard Weiman, manager of the city’s Solid Waste Utility, said that though the problem of trash being put out early isn’t confined entirely to student areas, East Campus is among the worst offenders.
The trash problem is most noticeable following weekends, a common time for parties, which can generate a lot of trash.
Tom O’Sullivan, a resident of East Campus since 1993, said he would like to see students waiting to set out their trash at the right time. The earliest that would be under city ordinance would be 4 p.m. Tuesdays. When trash is set out early, he said, it reflects poorly on the neighborhood and it attracts squirrels and other rodents.
The Solid Waste Division and the Columbia City Council are looking for ways to eliminate the problem. One option is to increase the fees the city charges for picking up trash early.
For each special pickup, those responsible are fined $25 for the first offense and then $45 if it happens again within a year. Although that might seem hefty for a deterrent, the hitch is that the special pickups happen only after a complaint.
Wieman said the extra charges don’t “appear to have any effect.”
Plus, the city is losing money on the special pickups because it costs more to do them than the extra fees recoup.
That’s why the city staff is recommending an ordinance boosting fees for first-time offenders to $50, then raising the cost to $100 for each subsequent infraction. The council discussed the matter briefly Monday night but came to no conclusion.
MU student Morgan Merrifield, an East Campus resident, said she and her roommates have been fined before for early trash pickup, but she thinks “raising the price wouldn’t help, because it's not like it’s intentional.”
On Monday, Second Ward Councilman Chris Janku asked whether it might be a better idea to simply move East Campus trash collections to Monday morning. Assuming most trash is left over from weekend parties, he said, that strategy might be more effective than higher fines.