The City of Columbia Solid Waste Utility announced it wouldn’t be collecting curbside recycling Monday because of a shortage of 22 collectors. The city sent a news release with the information around 1 p.m. Monday.
David Sorrell, assistant director of utilities, said the utility was missing about one-third of the staff needed to conduct all collection services offered. Those who were on hand were reassigned to complete higher-priority services, Sorrell said.
Trash collection, which was not canceled Monday, is prioritized for health and safety reasons, Sorrell said.
“If you start leaving garbage out overnight on the curb, just think about the animals and everything that could get in there and spread that out across the neighborhoods,” Sorrell said. “It could get pretty nasty.”
Sorrell also said there weren’t enough employees with commercial driver’s licenses to drive all curbside routes. He said some collectors had to run a longer day to pick up part of another route.
There are currently nine vacant collection positions on staff. Nine collectors were unavailable Monday because of injury or illness, and four were unavailable for other reasons.
Sorrell said there are currently around 59 budgeted positions and that 26 collectors are needed to run the recycling collection routes. He said the utility uses temporary labor when possible to make up some of the difference.
The utility has been experiencing staff shortages for some time. On June 10, some recycling was not collected because of both a staff shortage and equipment failure, according to prior Missourian reporting. On July 21, the city canceled household hazardous waste collection, citing “severe collection staff shortages,” according to a news release.
“At this time, it is too early to know if it will be possible to run the recycling routes a day behind normal collection schedule or if additional cancellations will be required this week,” according to the news release sent Monday.
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