Expected high turnout causes recycling forum location change

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COLUMBIA - Members of the Columbia community are making their presence felt when it comes to looking at ways to improve the future of residential recycling and trash pick up. So much so, the city had to change the location of its public forum on the issue Tuesday evening to make enough room for everyone. 

Sustainability Manager Barbara Buffaloe said each of the first two meetings saw a turnout of 60 to 80 people, a much larger amount than what is usually seen at these public forums. 

"At the first ward meeting last week there were a lot of people there," said Buffaloe. "Some of it was standing-room only because it's an interesting topic."

The conference rooms at city hall were to small to fit everyone, so this public forum will take place at the Columbia Department of Public Health and Human Services on Worley Street from 6-8 p.m.

Buffaloe said many people have come to provide their input on future policies that could help improve Columbia's nationally low recycling rates. 

"I think a lot of people are surprised that we have such a low recycling rate," Buffaloe said. "I have to say, I was surprised too because we're a pretty progressive town as far as environmental issues go."

Columbia's solid waste diversion rate, or the percent of solid waste that doesn't go into the landfill is only 17 percent, or half the national average. 

Buffaloe said one way to fix this would be to implement a pay-as-you-throw curbside system that would charge residents for as much trash as they throw away but not charge extra for recycling the blue bags. 

The city is also asking for residential input on other possible changes, like creating an automated trash and recycling system meant to relieve the physical toll the pickups take on workers. 

City officials will continue to have discussions with residents before implementing any policy changes in the next year.