Residents against trash carts speak out against switch from bags

Thursday, August 16, 2012 | 9:24 p.m. CDT; updated 12:25 a.m. CDT, Friday, August 17, 2012
Richard Shanker, a resident of Columbia and also member of the city's Building Construction Codes Commission, speaks to Columbia citizens at the Columbia Public Library on Thursday. The meeting was held to discuss the new cleanup system and a proposal to replace trash bags with trash bins. Shanker, wearing a trash bag, explains the importance of the trash bags to the attendees of the meeting.

COLUMBIA — About 60 residents gathered at the Columbia Public Library on Thursday to discuss concerns about the city’s proposal to replace the current trash bag system with roll carts that could be picked up by automated collection trucks.

Residents said the city is trying to fix a system that is not broken and were most worried that:


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  • Roll carts could blow down the street after being left outside after trash pickup.
  • They could have too much trash to fit inside a cart or multiple carts.
  • Roll carts would diminish the aesthetic value of their neighborhoods.
  • Roll carts left outside for an extended period could attract burglars by indicating no one is home.
  • Roll carts could become unsanitary.
  • Sanitation workers could lose their jobs.

In a report released by the Public Works Department in April, the city outlined the details of its proposal. The city would purchase 10 automated trucks and 44,000 roll carts for a total cost of $5,860,000, with plans to implement the change in the 2013 fiscal year.

Sharyl Kewley, resident of the Park de Ville neighborhood, said the proposal would cost workers their jobs.

“I thought this country was trying to create jobs,” Kewley said. “I’d rather stick with the black bags and give somebody a job.”

The city's promise to use natural gas trucks instead of the current diesel models as part of the proposal has not persuaded Old Southwest neighborhood resident Michael Lawler.

"I'm all for clean energy, bring in the natural gas trucks and buses, but leave us our black bags," Lawler said.

Attendees called for the matter to be put to a vote, but Frankie Minor, who lives one block from the Columbia Public Library, said lobbying City Council representatives would be more effective.

Richard Shanker, who said he organized the meeting, attempted to gather signatures for a petition against the city's proposal throughout the meeting.

"We have no other recourse tonight than to address our council people," he said.

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Harold Sutton August 16, 2012 | 10:30 p.m.

So if this is supposed to happen in 2103, why is it an issue?

Nobody here today will be around to care!

(Report Comment)
Ellis Smith August 17, 2012 | 5:52 a.m.

I've already posted several times on this issue. The system works well in any residential neighborhood composed of INDIVIDUAL HOUSES; the problem is what to do with the carts in high-density housing (apartments, condos) when the carts are not set out for trash collection. Particularly in Columbia, Missouri, that problem HAS to be addressed!

Also, if trash is to be separated then there must be double or triple the number of carts. Systems I've seen employ single, double or triple carts per household, depending upon mandated trash/yard waste separations. That can amount to a LOT of carts!

Some cart maintenance is necessary. The carts need to be washed out periodically by residents. (If that's too much to ask, forget the system!) I have seen carts blow over and be wind-blown down an icy street. The carts I've seen are surprisingly rugged, but once a lid has warped or even been partially broken then the lid needs to be replaced, as bugs and larger critters can gain access to the cart's interior. In one municipality, for example, if your cart is damaged you call a phone number, leave the cart out where they can inspect it, and they either fix the cart on the spot or issue you a new cart. Of course in a large city they need a crew just to do that.

One point I don't believe has been mentioned so far (even by me) is that where bag collection is used it is not uncommon for trash pickup employees to suffer injuries from lifting and throwing trash bags onto the truck. With the cart and lift system that's not a problem.

Where will the carts sit when not put out on trash pickup day? In a garage? That's done some places, but what if there IS no garage? Which leads us to the point of aesthetics. Will the system, if adopted, spoil the beauty of our fair city? I ain't gonna go there! :)

(Report Comment)
marty feeney August 17, 2012 | 10:55 a.m.

Love Roxana Pop's photo...entire frame is interesting! Has PANACHE!

(Report Comment)
Kevin Gamble August 17, 2012 | 11:39 a.m.

I'm a little torn on this issue. I like the idea of getting rid of trash bags - which take a lot of resources to make, and then immediately become slow-decaying toxic trash themselves - and exploring alternative-fuel vehicles.

But I find myself unenthusiastic about the proposed plans. Our household generates very little trash, so a massive cart would be overkill for us. I've seen other automatic trucks in use with dumpsters, and I'm not a fan of the noise. I like having actual human beings - hopefully receiving some decent benefits - on the job, who in our neighborhood are not only friendly (smiling, waving, and honking the horn for my little son) but also very fast workers. The idea of a mechanized truck stopping and doing the mechanical-lift thing at every single house in our fairly dense neighborhood seems a little silly and disruptive. And difficult, with parked cars lining the street.

What I'd really like to see instead is recycling bins - specifically, the reasonably-sized ones that most major cities have, which can be emptied by human beings. It's ridiculous that our recycling goes into heavy-duty trash bags which create tons of plastic waste in the process. Trash bins and automated collection may be the way to go, but give us recycling bins first.

In our household, we buy and use biodegradable trash bags, which work fine. Could the city put its money into recycling bins and biodegradable trash bags?

(Report Comment)
Ellis Smith August 17, 2012 | 2:02 p.m.

Noise? I wouldn't even consider noise to be a factor in deciding what collection system to use. Maybe that's because I grew up 90 feet from a railroad line and once owned a home where my front yard ended at a major federal highway (Chicago-El Paso). Noise is something you get used to.

The proposed system will work well under certain conditions (neighborhoods with individual homes) but will probably create problems in high density housing situations. Yes, cars parked on the street WILL make things worse. There has to be room to properly set out the carts.

*-Our younger readers may not appreciate the social and/or economic consequences attached to having grown up "on the wrong side of the [railroad] tracks." I grew up on the right (correct) side of the tracks, but ONLY by 90 feet. :)

(Report Comment)

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