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As students move in and out, trash collection becomes headache for workers
 Jeffrey Zide  / 

Johnny Clippard is frustrated. As a trash collector for the city for the past four years, he’s fed up with having to clear items that often go beyond a household’s normal trash. He’s hoisting couches, chairs, window blinds, rolls of carpet, old appliances, broken glass, metal rods and thorn bushes into the back of his garbage truck.

The problem grows far worse during this time of year, when college students are moving in and out of apartments and leave the city’s trash collectors with all the stuff they don’t want to take with them. It can make for a tough time, especially when you consider that Clippard and other refuse workers have to make up to 950 stops in a single day. The city trash utility’s policies place no limit on the amount of waste people can set at the curb.

“I feel in my heart, that they (the city) really don’t care about us,” Clippard said.

You can learn a lot by following a city garbage crew around for a few hours. Clippard was a busy man on Monday morning, when he was doing not only his normal duties but also training Isaiah Williams, who is new to the job. While running his route, Clippard clung to a railing on the passenger side of his trash truck, jumping off and onto the truck in front of every house.

Jeffrey Zide / 

Jeffrey Zide/Missourian


Johnny Clippard collects piles of trash Monday along his route that starts in the Valley View neighborhood of northwest Columbia. Clippard has grown frustrated with the large amount of trash some people are setting at the curb, as well as broken and busted garbage bags. He said he believes trash collectors should be paid much better. He plans to leave the job when he reaches five years as a trash collector in June. “I don’t want anyone who replaces me to go through what I’ve gone through,” Clippard said.

Clippard’s Monday route starts in the Valley View neighborhood of northwest Columbia and includes 700 stops. In just his first half-hour he had to deal with several large pick-ups, garbage bags that easily exceeded the 50-pound limit and others that were overstuffed and broken. Clippard said it was a pretty normal Monday. Some days can be far more difficult.

Clippard’s frustration is two-fold. He said Columbia’s trash workers aren’t paid nearly enough given how hard they work and the dangers they face. He also said he believes residents who think it’s OK to dump just about anything at the curb are being disrespectful.

In certain areas during the summer months, especially East Campus, the pile-ups are a real problem for trash workers. Clippard said he has hundreds of pictures documenting the situation. He vented in a now-deleted message he posted to the Facebook group called “You know you’re from Columbia Mo when...” The post prompted hundreds of comments.

Jeffrey Zide / 

Jeffrey Zide/Missourian


A pile of carpets and trash bags are set out on the curb for a special pickup

A pile of carpets and trash bags sit by the curb in the Valley View subdivision awaiting trash collectors Monday. Residents are allowed two special pickups on their trash day, which they can request through the city website. Special pickups are items too large to fit in a regular trash bag. Refuse worker Johnny Clippard says there often are far more special pickups than what has been officially requested.

“The city of Columbia treat their refuse (workers) like the trash they get $scraps$ to pick up. Don’t they know without us Columbia would be a bio hazardard (sic). We’re worth way much more than were paid... I say you know from Columbia when you show no respect for your refuse collectors.”

A photo with the post showed a stack of mattresses and box springs in a house’s driveway along with piles of loose trash and a mountain of busted boxes full of refuse such as toilet paper, cat litter and hangers.

Clippard said he deleted the post because he was threatened by one of the commenters.

Patricia Weisenfelder, a spokesperson for city utilities, said in an email to the Missourian that “every year around this time there is an increase of materials placed out for collection due to the high volume of turnover in rental properties. During move out, large amounts of materials are set out for collection which adds time and stress to an already time consuming and physical job.”

Weisenfelder, however, said the challenges aren’t new or unique to Columbia. She noted that the city of Lawrence, Kansas, the home of the University of Kansas, was posting pictures of similar problems on Twitter.

Clippard also said the problem in Columbia isn’t limited to East Campus or other neighborhoods near MU. It happens all over Columbia. He recalled large pileups on Nikki Way in southwest Columbia.

City officials are trying to help, at least when it comes to trash collectors’ wages. The Columbia City Council last year boosted trash collectors minimum wage to $15 an hour. And Interim City Manager John Glascock is pitching minimum trash collector pay of $17 an hour, and $18.70 for senior trash collectors in his proposed budget for fiscal 2020.

The dangers of picking up trash have been well documented. Columbia has paid or is scheduled to pay nearly $500,000 in workers compensation claims in fiscal 2019 alone.

Jeffrey Zide / 

Jeffrey Zide/Missouri


Johnny Clippard rides on the side of his trash truck

Johnny Clippard rides on the side of his trash truck Monday.

Clippard himself has filed three such claims in his four years on the job, seeking compensation for injuries to his hip, back, shoulder and ankle. He said that he’s suffered far more injuries but that he often has to push through because the utility is short on help.

That was the case Tuesday morning when Clippard hurt his ankle again. Unlike the morning before, Tuesday was a mess, he said.

Weisenfelder said in an email that there is a chance of injury “anytime workers are dealing with large, unorganized piles of materials.”

City regulations state that “all material for collection must be in a bag, disposable containers, or securely bound bundles not greater than four feet in length, two feet in diameter, and shall not exceed fifty pounds total weight each.”

“When large furniture or other unbagged materials exceeding this criteria are in play, the chances of injury could increase,” Weisenfelder said.

Jeffrey Zide / Jeffrey Zide 

Johnny Clippard moves a chair and bags of trash off the curb and into his garbage truck Monday. One of the challenges in Clippard's job is having to handle items with his bare hands because they aren't in bags.

Large items such as beds, tables, chairs and some electronics are considered special pickups, and residents are supposed to notify the trash utility in advance if they have the need for one. Too often, though, they fail to do so. Clippard said he was scheduled for just two special pickups on one of his routes last week, but instead there were 20.

There is a no extra fee for oversized items or special pickups, nor is there a fine if residents fail to notify the city in advance, Weisenfelder said. She noted there is no policy in place in terms of refuse workers picking up unscheduled special items.

The relatively low pay and significant dangers trash collectors face contributes to the consistent number of job vacancies the utility has had over the years. The city used to fill the gaps through temporary employment agencies, but they will no longer send people to collect trash.

As of June 24, Weisenfelder said, the city had 59 refuse workers and nine vacancies.

Clippard said he only planned to collect trash for five years, and he plans to leave the job by next June.

“I don’t want anyone who will replace me to go through what I’ve had to go through,” Clippard said.

Supervising editor is Scott Swafford.

U.N. climate report: Change land use to avoid a hungry future

GENEVA — Human-caused climate change is dramatically degrading the Earth’s land and the way people use the land is making global warming worse, a new United Nations scientific report says. That creates a vicious cycle which is already making food more expensive, scarcer and less nutritious.

“The cycle is accelerating,” said NASA climate scientist Cynthia Rosenzweig, a co-author of the report. “The threat of climate change affecting people’s food on their dinner table is increasing.”

But if people change the way they eat, grow food and manage forests, it could help save the planet from a far warmer future, scientists said.

Earth’s land masses, which are only 30% of the globe, are warming twice as fast as the planet as a whole. While heat-trapping gases are causing problems in the atmosphere, the land has been less talked about as part of climate change. A special report, written by more than 100 scientists and unanimously approved by diplomats from nations around the world Thursday at a meeting in Geneva, proposed possible fixes and made more dire warnings.

“The way we use land is both part of the problem and also part of the solution,” said Valerie Masson-Delmotte, a French climate scientist who co-chairs one of the panel’s working groups. “Sustainable land management can help secure a future that is comfortable.”

Scientists at Thursday’s news conference emphasized both the seriousness of the problem and the need to make societal changes soon.

“We don’t want a message of despair,” said science panel official Jim Skea, a professor at Imperial College London. “We want to get across the message that every action makes a difference.”

Still the stark message hit home hard for some of the authors.

“I’ve lost a lot of sleep about what the science is saying. As a person, it’s pretty scary,” Koko Warner, a manager in the U.N. Climate Change secretariat who helped write a report chapter on risk management and decision-making, told The Associated Press after the report was presented at the World Meteorological Organization headquarters in Geneva. “We need to act urgently.”

The report said climate change already has worsened land degradation, caused deserts to grow, permafrost to thaw and made forests more vulnerable to drought, fire, pests and disease. That’s happened even as much of the globe has gotten greener because of extra carbon dioxide in the air. Climate change has also added to the forces that have reduced the number of species on Earth.

“Climate change is really slamming the land,” said World Resources Institute researcher Kelly Levin, who wasn’t part of the study.

And the future could be worse.

“The stability of food supply is projected to decrease as the magnitude and frequency of extreme weather events that disrupt food chains increases,” the report said.

In the worst-case scenario, food security problems change from moderate to high risk with just a few more tenths of a degree of warming from now. They go from high to “very high” risk with just another 1.8 degrees of warming from now.

“The potential risk of multi-breadbasket failure is increasing,” NASA’s Rosenzweig said. “Just to give examples, the crop yields were effected in Europe just in the last two weeks.”

Scientists had long thought one of the few benefits of higher levels of carbon dioxide, the major heat-trapping gas, was that it made plants grow more and the world greener, Rosenzweig said. But numerous studies show that the high levels of carbon dioxide reduce protein and nutrients in many crops.

For example, high levels of carbon in the air in experiments show wheat has 6% to 13% less protein, 4% to 7% less zinc and 5% to 8% less iron, she said.

But better farming practices — such as no-till agricultural and better targeted fertilizer applications — have the potential to fight global warming too, reducing carbon pollution up to 18% of current emissions levels by 2050, the report said.

If people change their diets, reducing red meat and increasing plant-based foods, such as fruits, vegetables and seeds, the world can save as much as another 15% of current emissions by mid-century. It would also make people more healthy, Rosenzweig said.

The science panel said they aren’t telling people what to eat because that’s a personal choice.

Still, Hans-Otto Pörtner, a panel leader from Germany who said he lost weight and felt better after reducing his meat consumption, told a reporter that if she ate less ribs and more vegetables “that’s a good decision and you will help the planet reduce greenhouse gas emissions.”

Reducing food waste can fight climate change even more. The report said that between 2010 and 2016, global food waste accounted for 8% to 10% of heat-trapping emissions.

“Currently 25% to 30% of total food produced is lost or wasted,” the report said. Fixing that would free up millions of square miles of land.

With just another 0.9 degrees of warming, which could happen in the next 10 to 30 years, the risk of unstable food supplies, wildfire damage, thawing permafrost and water shortages in dry areas “are projected to be high,” the report said.

At another 1.8 degrees of warming from now, which could happen in about 50 years, it said those risks “are projected to be very high.”

Most scenarios predict the world’s tropical regions will have “unprecedented climatic conditions by the mid-to-late 21st century,” the report noted.

Agriculture and forestry together account for about 23% of the heat-trapping gases that are warming the Earth, slightly less than from cars, trucks, boats and planes. Add in transporting food, energy costs, packaging and that grows to 37%, the report said.

But the land is also a great carbon “sink,” which sucks heat-trapping gases out of the air.

From about 2007 to 2016, agriculture and forestry every year put 5.7 billion tons of carbon dioxide into the air, but pulled 12.3 billion tons of it out.

“This additional gift from nature is limited. It’s not going to continue forever,” said study co-author Luis Verchot, a scientist at the International Center for Tropical Agriculture in Colombia. “If we continue to degrade ecosystems, if we continue to convert natural ecosystems, we continue to deforest and we continue to destroy our soils, we’re going to lose this natural subsidy.”

Overall land emissions are increasing, especially because of cutting down forests in the Amazon in places such as Brazil, Colombia and Peru, Verchot said.

Recent forest management changes in Brazil “contradicts all the messages that are coming out of the report,” Pörtner said.

Saying “our current way of living and our economic system risks our future and the future of our children,” Germany’s environment minister, Svenja Schulze, questioned whether it makes sense for a country like Germany to import large amounts of soy from Latin America, where forests are being destroyed to plant the crop, to feed unsustainable numbers of livestock in Germany.

“We ought to recognize that we have profound limits on the amount of land available and we have to be careful about how we utilize it,” said Stanford University environmental sciences chief Chris Field, who wasn’t part of the report.

Monkey business: MU acquires colobus coat
 Sarah Everett  / 

For 15 years or more, a boxy, black fur coat hung in the MERS Goodwill office in St. Louis.

It was jet-black and heavy, with long strands of what was originally thought to be gorilla fur. The shoulders were large and square, emblematic of late 1930s haute couture.

Monkey fur coats were made popular by Italian fashion designer Elsa Schiaparelli and were only for wealthier clientele. In the Depression era, fur coats sold for around $200-300.

“It was a status symbol,” said Jean Parsons, curator of MU’s Missouri Historic Costume and Textile Collection.

Today, the coat, which is actually made of colobus fur, would be worth thousands, if it were legal to sell.

Today, Parsons said, “for some people it might be a status symbol, and for some people it might be the other way around. They consider it a horrible thing to be wearing it.”

A colobus is a black monkey, found in central African forests, with a white fringe around its face and along its back. Some types of colobus monkeys are endangered, according to the St. Louis Zoo.

Goodwill could not legally sell the coat, so its staff reached out to the St. Louis Zoo, which was not interested, and then the Missouri Historic Costume and Textile Collection, part of the Department of Textile and Apparel Management within the College of Human Environmental Sciences.

The college will include the coat, the second colobus coat in its collection, in exhibits and instruction. In 2018, the other colobus coat was included in an exhibit called “Endangered: Fauna and Fashion.”

“The exhibit was all the ways that we use animal products in clothing, from wool to silk to fur,” Parsons said.

It’s tough to know much about the people who donate clothing to the collection besides, perhaps, socioeconomic status. Even then, it’s uncertain, Parsons said.

“Even if we have family information, we don’t know who purchased it, sometimes,” Parsons said. “We don’t know where it was purchased, often, unless there’s a store label in it.”

The colobus coat donated by Goodwill does not have a label, but the other colobus coat does. It reads: “Original Bencha Model: Gold Coast Monkey.”

It would have been sold at a department store or high-end fur dealer, Parsons said. Back then, Parsons said, fur dealers were common, and people would pay to keep their coats in cold storage for the summer. Some people still do today.

Extreme temperatures dry out the leather behind the hairs and damage the fibers. There can also be pest damage, but the Department of Textile and Apparel Management is careful about combatting that.

The colobus coat will join other mid and late-30s fashion items in the department’s collection: long and clingy, bias-cut dresses, dresses with batwing sleeves and broad shoulders and narrow suits, and hats and gloves.

Almost every student in the program — about 80 to 100 students per semester — will get to see the furs as part of a required textile history class.

Judge hears arguments in rural clinic license case
 Tom Coulter  / 

A mid-Missouri health clinic offering midwife services primarily to surrounding Mennonite and Amish communities will remain open while Circuit Judge Jon Beetem awaits proposed judgments from both parties after a Thursday morning trial in Cole County.

The trial was the culmination of a 2 1/2-year-old case in which the state is arguing Susan Wilson, a midwife running a medical clinic near Versailles, is operating a birthing center without a license.

Roughly three-quarters of her clinic’s patients come from surrounding Mennonite and Amish communities. About 30 people from those communities, many towing babies delivered by Wilson, packed the courtroom for the trial.

Birthing centers are a type of ambulatory surgical center by law, so any establishment operating primarily for the purpose of performing surgical procedures, or childbirths, requires a license. But Wilson argues that her clinic, A Mother’s Heart, does not fit that definition.

William Koebel, a licensing administrator for the Department of Health and Senior Services, testified in Thursday morning’s trial that his department’s regulations define any clinic where births are planned to occur as a birthing center.

Wilson said her clinic follows the “51% rule,” which states a clinic is not a birthing center if medical services unrelated to childbirth generate more than half of its revenue. Koebel said that rule only applies to ambulatory surgical centers that provide surgical procedures.

klsykn / Kate Seaman 

Susan Wilson was given this necklace about four years ago as a gift from a client following the delivery of a child. Her work did not stop because of the trial, Wilson helped successfully deliver two babies before sunrise Thursday.

“I’ve always been of the understanding that the 51% rule did not apply to birthing centers,” Koebel said during the trial.

After Koebel’s testimony, Assistant Attorney General Timothy Duggan argued DHSS has rule-making authority that authorizes it to treat birthing centers differently.

“The rule is not inconsistent with the statute at all,” Duggan said.

Several people at the trial said they came to support Wilson, who has been a certified midwife for 10 years. Chester Misener, whose three youngest children were delivered by Wilson, said the clinic between Versailles and Russellville meets a critical need.

“It’s remarkable that this is the State of Missouri versus Susan Wilson, but I don’t see anybody from the state of Missouri who’s here to complain,” Misener said. “Everybody is here to support her. I don’t see victims in this. I don’t understand why this is even a case.”

Misener’s wife, Carrie, said she’d just learned about the case last week.

“My initial reaction was just concern that there seemed to be a will to put an end to something that had helped so many people and that wasn’t doing any harm,” she said. “People ought to have the liberty to choose to have their children in this way.”

Following testimony from Koebel, Wilson and a few clinic staff, Beetem gave both parties 30 days to submit proposed judgments. He will then pick one of the judgments and amend it as his final ruling.

In the meantime, A Mother’s Heart will remain open. Wilson estimated she delivers between 80 and 100 babies each year at the clinic.

The trial didn’t stop Wilson from her midwife duties, as she delivered two babies before sunrise Thursday.

“I love what I do,” she said after the trial.

klsykn / 

Kate Seaman/Missourian


Lawyer Gaylin Carver, left, talks with Susan Wilson about the trial that day and actions moving forward if the judge were to rule against the clinic Thursday at Cole County Courthouse. The case has been in the works for two and a half years. After Thursday’s testimonies, the judge has given each side 30 days to submit proposed judgments from which he will select and adjust for the final ruling.

Missouri has roughly eight other clinics like Wilson’s that offer midwife services but are not registered birth centers. Carver said a separate case would probably have to be brought to halt each clinic’s operations, even if the judge rules against Wilson’s clinic.

“I feel like the case law and the statute is on our side, so I’m not sure how we lose,” she said.

If they do lose, Carver said they would likely appeal the decision.

Midwifery has been allowed in Missouri since the Missouri Supreme Court upheld a law legalizing it in 2008.

Supervising editor is Katherine Reed.