Columbia could cut the amount of trash being dumped in the landfill by 6,000 tons per year and increase the amount of recycling by 2,000 tons per year if the City Council approves a host of changes to the rules for curbside disposal and collection that will be introduced at the council’s Tuesday night meeting.

Those are the estimates offered in a staff memo on the ordinance, which would be up for a final vote at the council’s Sept. 21 meeting.

Utilities Director Dave Sorrell is proposing several changes to ordinances regarding trash and recycling collection in an attempt to improve working conditions for the solid waste staff. He’s also proposing a $5-per-hour wage increase that would bring most trash collectors’ wages to $22 per hour. The memo to the council says that would cost $354,224 per year.

Sorrell is suggesting the city pay for those raises by raising monthly household trash and recycling bills by 85 cents, which would bring the total monthly bill to $17.37.

The ordinance aims to make collection more manageable by strictly regulating how residents can put out trash for curbside collection. Sorrell first discussed the ideas with the council at a February work session.

The solid waste staff has long advocated for better working conditions and stricter rules. The utility has dealt with increasing vacancies and staffing issues due to poor working conditions and high injury rates. The city has contracts with temporary agencies to fill vacancies, but it is costly. The city spent $504,000 on temporary agencies in fiscal 2019 and is on track to spend about $600,000 this year.

One of the major issues staff has confronted is excessive loose trash. The ordinance will more than double the number of trash bags provided to residents from 50 to 104 bags yearly. The intention is to discourage residents from leaving loose items at the curb. Additional bags could be purchased for $2 each in rolls of five.

Sorrell is also proposing that the city code be amended to require that all refuse be placed at the curb in a bag bearing a city logo. They could weigh no more than 50 pounds. Refuse that is loose, exceeds size limits or is improperly bagged will not be collected.

Another major issue Solid Waste Utility staff have to deal with, according to previous Missourian reporting, is the excessive amount of oversize items placed on curbsides for pickup. Trash collectors frequently have to pick up furniture, mattresses, old carpet and other items too large to be placed in bags.

Presently, collection of oversize items only has to be scheduled 48 hours in advance and is free. Trash crews often pick up such items even without notice. The bill Sorrell proposes would require that collection of oversize items be scheduled at least a week in advance, and requests would have to list the number and type of items a household wants collected.

Residents could schedule the collection of one bulky item each year for free, but the charge for any additional pickups would be $21.50 for one item and $5 for additional items collected the same day.

Similarly, the charge for picking up major appliances would be increased from the current fee of $22.75 to $29.00.

The hope is that curbside recycling collection, which was suspended indefinitely in July because of staffing shortages, would be able to resume if the council approves the changes. Households would get 54 blue bags for recycling each year.

Sorrell is recommending most of the changes take effect Nov. 1. The changes to the number of bags distributed and the requirement that all waste be placed in bags with city logos would be delayed until Feb. 1.

Also Tuesday, the council will hold the second of three public hearings on the proposed $456.9 million fiscal 2021 budget. A final public hearing and a vote on the budget are scheduled for Sept. 21.

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  • City and County reporter. I am currently studying investigative journalism and political science. Reach me at gaap8b@mail.missouri,edu, or in the newsroom at 882-5700.

  • 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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