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Columbia, Mo. Releases Waste Data Collection Results Following Suspension of Recycling Program

Columbia, Mo. is searching for waste management solutions following the suspension of its curbside recycling program in May. The city, along with RRT Design & Construction, began data collection before the program's halt, but not before learning that the number of curbside containers was lower than expected.

Waste360 Staff

July 18, 2023

2 Min Read
Workers Sort Recycling
Jim West / Alamy Stock Photo

Columbia, Mo. is searching for waste management solutions following the suspension of its curbside recycling program in May.

The city, along with RRT Design & Construction, began data collection before the program's halt, but not before learning that the number of curbside containers was lower than expected.

"We learned that many people use the drop-off center on their 'off week' or as needed," noted Kate Vasquez, Planning & Advisory Services director, RRT Design & Construction, in a presentation of the results.  "This meant counting curbside set-outs would likely not be the whole picture of participation."

Data collection involved a materials recovery facility (MRF) contamination study, waste composition study, curbside collection study as well as stakeholder engagement.

While materials collected from residential bins were of high quality, those utilizing drop-off centers and commercial recycling contributed to the most contamination in the waste stream.

Columbia's MRF is aging, leading to the lose of quality tonnage. Waste diversion efforts, once adjusted, could divert another 1,345 tons from landfill. This could be achieved with service changes and improving route efficiencies.

Recommendations included enhancing efforts to find end markets for recyclable materials currently not accepted in the city, such as mattresses.

"Some will be straightforward to implement, requiring little more than education, space, a container, and a contract," Vasquez said. "Others will involve new operations, capital investment, and sophisticated marketing— but we are benchmarking best practices across the U.S. and in the Midwest."

In order to improve Columbia's recycling program, "renewed and vigorous outreach" is needed. The city must also consider the use of "slot boxes" for commercial customers. 

Other recommendations included:

  • Placing restricted-opening containers at drop-off centers; evaluate viability of phasing out one of more if/when weekly service can resume.

  • Expanding current HHW service schedule. •\

  • Discontinuing plastic bags for yard waste, promote yard waste drop off center.

  •  Exploring food scrap drop-off at the local farmer’s market and educational offerings.

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