COLUMBIA — Further steps to try to improve recycling in Columbia have been approved.
On Monday night, the City Council heard about a pilot program that would replace recycling bags with reusable plastic bins. The Public Works Department will test whether the switch will boost recycling and cut down on the number of contaminants.
The pilot program will cover two experimental pick up routes chosen by the Solid Waste Division.
Two Friday pick up routes in neighborhoods north of Interstate 70 — including most of Parkade and parts of the Hunter's Gate and Vanderveen neighborhoods — were recommended to the council. Solid Waste Utility Manager Richard Weiman said the routes were chosen based on geographic location and recycling participation in the past.
The two routes are next to each other, and each contains areas of both high and low recycling participation. These factors will help measure whether reusable plastic bins affect the amount of recycling in the area.
John Glascock, director of Public Works Department, said the pilot program should start in early March, after notifying affected residents and speaking to neighborhood associations.
Over the past year and a half, the council has approved $30,400 in grants and matching money to buy enough 18-gallon bins for about 1,800 homes. Each affected residence will receive one blue bin for food and beverage containers and one green bin for paper products.
Even though the receptacle is changing, the rules for recycling in Columbia will not.
"If someone doesn't want to use them, we won't force them to," Glascock said after the meeting.
“The bag and bin now serve an interchangeable purpose,” Weiman said. If the pilot program is successful, the Public Works Department will consider changing to bins citywide.
The department plans to assess the program in about a year. Glascock said several different sizes of bins may be offered at that time.