The city of Columbia will refrain from collecting recyclables at curbside until further notice, given continued staffing challenges and the declining markets for the materials.

The city’s collection of recyclables has been erratic in recent weeks, in part because some trash and recycling collectors have tested positive for the novel coronavirus. The difficulty in retaining staff, however, is a challenge that has plagued the city for the past few years despite significant wage increases approved by the Columbia City Council.

The city said in a Tuesday news release that the primary staffing challenge is finding and keeping drivers with commercial driver’s licenses.

The suspension of recycling service begins Wednesday, but the city said in the release that households whose trash collections are on Mondays and Tuesdays can leave recyclables out if they’ve already been placed on the curb. They will be collected by the end of the week.

In addition to keeping qualified drivers, the city also has struggled to retain permanent and temporary help in collecting curbside trash and recycling.

“In addition, finding buyers for recyclable materials has become difficult, if not impossible,” the news release said.

City Utilities Director David Sorrell said in the release that suspending recycling service was “a difficult decision as we know how valuable curbside residential recycling is to our customers and has been for many, many years.”

Sorrell encouraged residents to take recyclables to one of the city’s 11 drop-off locations. He said the city is exploring additional drop-off sites, particularly in the northern part of town.

A map of the drop-off locations is available on the city’s website. Here’s a list of where they are:

  • Columbia College Dulany Hall (near Eighth Street and Hickman Avenue).
  • Columbia College Wrightman Building (south end of Pannell Street).
  • The Armory (north parking lot at Seventh Street and Park Avenue).
  • Tenth and Cherry streets (south side of the Cherry Street parking structure).
  • Home Depot, 3215 Clark Lane.
  • Moser’s on Keene, 900 N. Keene St.
  • Moser’s Supermarket, 705 Business Loop 70 W.
  • 3601 S. Providence Road (outer road north of Nifong Boulevard).
  • State Farm Parkway (on Nifong just east of Grindstone Parkway).
  • MU campus (Bluford Hall on Kentucky Avenue).
  • MU campus (Shurz Hall on Ashland Road east of College Avenue).
  • I've been a reporter and editor at Missouri community newspapers for 35 years and joined the Columbia Missourian in 2003. My emphasis at the Missourian is on local government and elections. You can reach me at swaffords@missouri.edu or at 573-884-5366.

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