The City of Columbia is implementing a Pay As You Throw (PAYT) model of residential curbside refuse collection in order to improve working conditions for City staff and to encourage waste reduction, reuse and recycling. While weekly residential collection of refuse will remain the same, these new regulations will reduce the potential for large volumes of refuse and large bulky items being placed at the curb for collection. The guidelines continue a refocus in solid waste collection proposed by staff and approved by the City Council in September. In November, the Solid Waste Utility stopped picking up items that were not in garbage bags and began charging forbulky-item pickup.
Some of the many benefits of Pay As You Throw include:
This program is intended to create a more equitable system. Traditionally, residential curbside waste collection has been funded through a flat monthly fee, meaning all customers paid the same rate regardless of how much refuse they generated and placed at the curb for disposal. Under the new program, all customers will continue to pay a flat monthly fee that covers the cost of service. Those who dispose of larger amounts of refuse will pay additional fees for collection and disposal. This is similar to other utilities such as water, electric and sewer that have higher charges for customers who consume more of the services.
This program is intended to improve the working conditions for the staff that collects the refuse by reducing the potential for excessive volumes of refuse to be placed at the curb for disposal.
Columbia’s model encourages waste reduction, reuse, recycling and backyard composting. It is anticipated that the Pay As You Throw program will result in a reduction of curbside refuse of up to approximately 6,000 tons annually.
This program is in alignment with goals included in the City’s Climate Action and Adaptation Plan to divert the volume of material being placed into the City’s landfill.
These changes to refuse collection are being implemented in conjunction with the Solid Waste Utility resumption of curbside recycling collection. Curbside recycling collection will return on an every-other-week basis. Residents will receive a mailer to confirm their scheduled weeks for recycling collection.
Customers have an opportunity to rethink their waste habits by committing to reduction, reuse and composting opportunities. Information on upcoming composting and waste reduction online workshops can be found on the Office of Neighborhood Services website. There are also weekly tips posted on social media.
See below for answers on some of the more common questions about Columbia’s residential refuse collection:
How will Pay As You Throw work in Columbia?
Beginning February 1, all material placed on the curb for Solid Waste collection must be in official City refuse bags with a City of Columbia logo. Residents will receive vouchers for a total of 104 refuse bags each year with extra bags available at vendors for a fee.
Each household with curbside collection service will receive two vouchers for refuse bags and two vouchers for recycling bags in January. In June, each household will receive an additional two refuse bag vouchers and one recycling bag voucher. Each refuse voucher can be redeemed for a 26-count roll of refuse bags, a total of 104 bags per year. Each recycling voucher can be exchanged for an 18-count of recycling bags for a total of 54 bags per year. There is no limit to the number of refuse bags that customers can place curbside for pickup each week as long as they are official City bags.
Each bag left curbside for pickup should weigh less than 50 pounds. According to department calculations, Solid Waste picks up approximately 40 pounds of refuse per household per week, so many customers will not be financially impacted by the change.
How will this affect my rates?
According to department calculations, Solid Waste picks up approximately 40 pounds of refuse per household per week, so many customers will not be financially impacted by the change.
Single-family residents with curbside collection will continue to pay the regular residential fee of $17.37 per month. That includes vouchers for refuse and recycling bags. Through the voucher program, customers will be provided 104 refuse bags and 54 recycling bags per year.
If a resident exceeds the yearly allotment of refuse bags, the resident will have to buy bags at the cost of $10 per five-bag roll.
The $2-per-bag fee covers the Solid Waste Utility’s cost to collect and dispose of the refuse. The breakdown is as follows:
Landfill disposal fee: $1.37
Vehicle maintenance and employee salary: $0.33
Cost of the bag: $0.30
A customer in need of additional recycling bags can contact WasteZero, Inc. (800.866.3954), and a voucher for an 18-count roll of bags will be mailed at no cost.
What do I do if I still haven't gotten my vouchers?
Can residents with curbside collection still use other refuse bags?
Crews will pick up only the official City bags beginning February 1, so customers will need to place their smaller bags inside the official City bag. Each customer will be provided 104 bags per year, which will have a capacity of 33 gallons (the same size as the current bags). Bags placed at the curb need to weigh 50 pounds or less.
If a customer’s curbside refuse does not fit the criteria under the new regulations, that customer will be notified via a sticker.
Can residents exchange older vouchers or an old roll of bags for a roll of the new bags?
No. Through the Pay As You Throw program, the City encourages customers to rethink their waste habits and produce less refuse going to the landfills. By grandfathering in previous versions of bags and vouchers, the customers lose that incentive.
We do encourage you to not throw your existing bags in the refuse. These can be donated to a charitable organization, church, gym, local business, family that lives in another community, etc. The bags are still useful and should not go to waste.
When will customers get the vouchers?
Customers should receive their first packet of vouchers around January 15. In January, customers will receive vouchers for two rolls of 26-count refuse bags and two rolls of 18-count recycling bags. In June, customers will receive vouchers for two rolls of 26-count refuse bags and one roll of 18-count recycling bags.
In total, each customer will receive 104 refuse bags and 54 recycling bags per year.
Customers new to the City will receive a “starter pack” of six official City logo refuse bags and two blue recycling bags when they set up new services at UCS. If the customer signs up in person, UCS will provides the starter pack at that time. If the customer signs up online, UCS will mail the starter pack to the customer. The new customers will then receive vouchers via mail within two weeks.
How are vouchers being distributed in the utilities that are in the landlord's name?
Vouchers are sent to the service address regardless of who is paying for the utilities.
Where can I redeem my vouchers?
Vouchers can be taken to the Columbia locations of Gerbes, Hy-Vee, Menards, Moser’s and Schnucks. Vouchers can also be redeemed at Utility Customer Services at City Hall. Westlake Ace Hardware is no longer a distributor of the City refuse and recycle bags.
Will there be an opportunity for contactless voucher exchange?
The public health of our community is always a top priority for the City of Columbia. The City will host a contactless drive-through event January 19-23 at Cosmo Park off Business Loop 70 W. Citizens will be able to exchange their vouchers for the logoed bags there.
The schedule for the drive-through event will be:
Tuesday, Jan. 19: 10 a.m. to 7 p.m.
Wednesday, Jan. 20: 10 a.m. to 7 p.m.
Thursday, Jan. 21: 10 a.m. to 7 p.m.
Friday, Jan. 22: 10 a.m. to 7 p.m.
Saturday, Jan. 23: 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Why are extra refuse bags not provided for free?
The charge for additional bags acts as a usage fee — customers throwing away more garbage will pay a higher rate. This will get Solid Waste on par with other Utilities, such as Water and Electric.
The $2-per-bag fee will cover extra costs, including the landfill disposal fee, employee salaries and vehicle operation and maintenance costs.
How do I reduce my costs?
This program provides an incentive to City of Columbia residents to reduce, reuse and recycle. Less refuse will reduce the number of PAYT bags needed.
Reduce: Look for products that use less packaging. Borrow, rent or share items used infrequently, such as party decorations, tools and furniture.
Reuse: Keep products out of the refuse by continuing to find uses for them. Buy reusable items instead of disposable ones. Donate items you don’t want or no longer need.
Recycle:According to the EPA, recycling one ton of office paper can save the energy equivalent of consuming 322 gallons of gasoline. Recycling 10 plastic bottles saves enough energy to power a laptop for 25 hours.
Compost: Organic material can be added to the soil to help plants grow. According to the EPA, food scraps and yard waste make upmore than 30% of what is thrown away. Making compost keeps these materials out of landfills.
How common are Pay As You Throw programs?
Pay As You Throw is a program in more 7,100 communities throughout the United States and has been statistically found to be one of the most cost-effective methods to reduce refuse disposal. Reducing landfill waste is a priority action of the Climate Action & Adaptation Plan.
WasteZero, which oversees the City of Columbia program, has worked with more than 400 communitiesopens PDF file over the past 25 years, reducing the amount of refuse thrown in landfills by7.1 million tons, saving more than $1.7 billion and reducing greenhouse gas emission by 16.5 million metric tons.