Council considers having citizens 'pay as they throw'

Friday, June 5, 2009 | 12:01 a.m. CDT; updated 9:11 a.m. CDT, Friday, June 5, 2009

COLUMBIA - The idea of charging city refuse customers based on the amount of garbage they leave on the curb has resurfaced once again.

A report reviewed by the Columbia City Council on Monday from Public Works Director John Glascock explained that residents would be charged a base fee for a certain number of bags and an additional fee for extra bags.

According to the Environmental Protection Agency's Web site, more than 7,000 communities across the country use some form of pay-as-you-throw approach.

Columbia garbage customers currently pay a base fee of $14.42 per month for trash collection. Recycling pickup and lawn clippings collection would remain free under a pay-as-you-throw approach, the report stated.

The program would help sustain the environment and economy by promoting recycling and reducing the production of refuse, as well as the potential to generate additional funds that could be used to finance the waste management and recycling systems in the community, according to the report.

This isn’t the first time the council has heard about pay-as-you-throw. Sixth Ward Councilwoman Barbara Hoppe requested a report on itin September 2006 from the city's Solid Waste Division. No previous action was taken by the council, Hoppe said, because the city has not provided a full report or analysis of such a program.


The report reviewed by the council on Monday was requested by First Ward Councilman Paul Sturtz, said City Clerk Sheela Amin. At the meeting, Sturtz said a pay-as-you-throw program in Olympia, Wash., was so successful that trash pickup moved from a weekly to biweekly schedule. He also said that recycling increased, on average, 17 percent nationwide in communities with a pay-as-you-throw approach.

City Manager Bill Watkins told the council that waste management staff is afraid that moving to a pay-as-you-throw approach would lead to illegal dumping of waste in public places.

Second Ward Councilman Jason Thornhill said he owns a building with business partners where illegal dumping already occurs.

“We inherit a couch and appliances almost weekly,” he said.


Third Ward Councilman Karl Skalasaid the council’s evaluation of the project was not data driven and no investigation had been done. Skala suggested, however, that the program might warrant further investigation.

Fourth Ward Councilman Jerry Wade said the council has too many issues at the present time and would like to hold off on further discussion of it until October.

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Charles Dudley Jr June 5, 2009 | 4:58 a.m.

Why don't they do what most cities this size do and require all home/rental/small business owners to pay a one time fee and provide a extra large size curb side trash can and if anything is extra outside of that container then charge them accordingly.

They are quite easy to just tip up over the back of the garbage truck and saves the hazards of picking up those bags.

It works in other cities so why not Columbia?

Oh that's right because the good ole boy coalition has always done it this way.

(Report Comment)
Tom O'Sullivan June 5, 2009 | 8:07 a.m.

How is the city going to determine whose trash is whose in the big rental areas? In East Campus, you have 20 bags setting out front of a building with four separate apartments. Also, what would stop somebody from placing their trash at the curb NEXT DOOR or ACROSS THE STREET so they wouldn't be charged? I think if they have to raise the flat rate, that's the way to go. Pay as You Throw sounds like it has too many potential problems.

(Report Comment)
Mark Foecking June 5, 2009 | 8:16 a.m.

Chuck wrote:

"Why don't they do what most cities this size do and require all home/rental/small business owners to pay a one time fee and provide a extra large size curb side trash can and if anything is extra outside of that container then charge them accordingly."

Often, cities that have this type of arrangement will tip the containers mechanically, which requires trucks that have the lifts. They can't be retrofitted on the trucks that we have, so going this route would require the city to buy new trucks also. Bad time for this sort of thing.

Back injuries among refuse collectors are very common, and a huge liability for their employers. The advantage of the bags is they can only be so heavy, or they break. Cans can hold a lot more weight, increasing the injury risk for the collectors.


(Report Comment)
John Schultz June 5, 2009 | 9:51 a.m.

If the city is so gung-ho on "trash reform" perhaps it should investigate allowing private haulers to service the city once again. As a county resident, I have a choice of at least two vendors for my business, and the price I pay now (billed every three months) is pretty competitive with the price the city charges.

(Report Comment)
Matt Y June 5, 2009 | 10:33 a.m.

It's ideas like this that make me think that politicians don't know any real human beings. People who are afraid they'll be charged additional fees are just going to start throwing their personal trash in the dumpsters of local businesses. Then you've got another problem on your hand.

Really, how big of a problem is this?

(Report Comment)
Christopher Foote June 5, 2009 | 11:18 a.m.

I think it is a very good idea, as it makes people aware of the amount of trash they generate. It provides an incentive for people to produce less trash, which is a good thing. The city ultimately pays based on the tonnage, it therefore makes sense to charge people based on individual usage. Plus it has a track record of success, what's not to like?

(Report Comment)
John Schultz June 5, 2009 | 12:31 p.m.

I doubt the city pays by tonnage since it is their landfill, correct?

(Report Comment)
Christopher Foote June 5, 2009 | 2:36 p.m.

The amount of money the city spends on trash removal, (the maintenance cost of the landfill as well as the delivery of trash, and future waste infrastructure projects) is based on tonnage. I was using "pays" as a synonym for "spends".
What's the libertarian position on this issue, besides having a private contractor do it? I would think you would support fees based on usage, as a flat fee results in those that use less trash subsidizing those that have an excessive amount.

(Report Comment)
John Schultz June 5, 2009 | 3:59 p.m.

The Libertarian position would probably be to privatize the city hauling, and absent that pay based on usage. Most Libertarians believe in less government services and solutions, although some people (like me) think some matters such as roads, sewers, water, etc. are possibly more efficient when provided by the government.

(Report Comment)
Sarah Jo Alban June 5, 2009 | 5:58 p.m.

Is this simply a proposition floating around for feedback, or are council members trying to correct an existing problem? I understand the potential benefits--and concerns--inherent with the switch, but what inciting factor instigated the proposition?

Also, I wonder: Would the switch significantly affect apartment complexes' pick-up? We have a lot of those in this town.

(Report Comment)

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