Columbia hopes to improve its recycling program

Posted on 4 October 2017 at 1:28pm

COLUMBIA- The city is conducting a two-weeks-long recycling survey to try and identify the main problems when it comes to recycling.

The surveys began on Monday with volunteers going out to recycling drop off bins and monitoring the people who use the bins.

Jody Cook is the City of Columbia’s volunteer program specialist and she helped to put the volunteers together.

Cook says with the survey the city wants to collect data on where the material they collect originates from. It’s important for them to learn what type of people use the recycling drop off centers.

The volunteers are completing the survey by observation and then asking two questions. They write down what type of vehicle the person is driving, approximate age, and then they ask the patrons using the city if they live in the city limits and if they have curb side recycling service.

“The data is really important, especially where the material is coming from,” Cook said. “It can help us to better decide how to serve the community and it’s good to know who is using the site.”

Cook said most of the people who use the recycling drop off sites are very organized and have a set system when it comes to recycling. The city wants to develop that routine with more of its residents.

“These people are more informed,” Cook said. “They know what materials to recycle and they have all their materials separated.”

Ben Kreitner is Columbia’s waste minimization coordinator and oversees data for this survey. He thinks this is important to help the city move forward.

“Columbia is trying to set waste diversion goals, and we need to establish a baseline,” Kreitner said. “In order to calculate the baseline, we need to know how much of the material collected from those centers came from within the City.”

The people who are volunteering to complete the surveys are best fit to helping Columbia improve its recycling program.

“The city has a recycling ambassadors program,” Cook said. “Some of these volunteers that are out there doing this are trained recycling ambassadors and they are all very into volunteering.”

Cook said one of the biggest problems in Columbia is people recycling the wrong materials.

“People drive in and just dump the wrong materials,” Cook said. “I’ve seen people dump even a couch or some trash and that needs to change.”

She thinks just having the volunteers is already deterring some of the issues because people see them with their vests and clip boards and then don’t get rid of their trash or other materials that are causing issues.

Cook also mentioned one of the things that could come out of this is to put more recycling bins closer to apartment complexes that lack recycling bins.

The survey’s will run until Saturday, October 14. The city will hope to take the next step after all the data is collected.

 “I want the citizens of Columbia to know how lucky we are to have this much available recycling,” Cook said. “Whether you live curb side or in an apartment, most properties participate in our recycling programs.