Moving-day weekend keeps Columbia garbage collectors busy

Monday, August 2, 2010 | 5:48 p.m. CDT
From left, Billy Palmer and Dillon Rice gather other people's cast-off belongings and throw them into the garbage truck. Because many leases ended July 31, there was far more trash than normal on Monday. "We're only supposed to be on the clock until 4, but we'll be out here until 6, easily," Rice said.

COLUMBIA — This past weekend, old leases ended and new ones began. On Monday, sofas and desks joined trash bins waiting to be picked up at the curb.

“This is the busiest time of year for us, other than the holidays,” said Billy Palmer, who has picked up trash for the city for 38 years.  


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“I have been a ‘sanitation engineer’ for a long time,” Palmer said, grinning about the title, “and as the town continues to build, so does the trash business.

“Back in my day, there were not many houses in the outskirts of town, so not much trash, either. Now, everywhere is just overflowing with the stuff.”

That was the case more than usual on Monday in the wake of the annual housing switch-up as tenants, especially students, moved. Palmer and fellow trash collector Dillon Rice had been picking up garbage in the streets of East Campus since 7:30 a.m.

Richard Wieman, solid waste utility manager for the city, said there are 25 to 30 garbage and recycling trucks on the streets of Columbia every day, rain or shine. And every year, moving dates are anticipated.

"While longer hours for the garbage men, and another trip to the landfill, is to be expected, the only changes that have been made is extra service on weekends for certain residential and apartment complexes," Wieman said.

Each load a garbage truck brings into the landfill weighs about 26,000 pounds. Together, Palmer and Rice pick up two loads on a typical day.

“We are already on our second load, and it is only noon,” Rice said. “During the season of moving, however, we average around three and a half.”

Rice said their hardest days on the job are when they pick up trash in college neighborhoods. 

“Thursday," Rice said, grimacing, "is Bearfield.”

But despite all of the sweat and labor Palmer and Rice put into picking up trash, there is one thing they know they can look forward to at the end of the day — a shower.

“I just hate getting dirty,” Rice said.

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