City Saves $1 Million By Outsourcing Trash/Recycle Bag Vouchers
COLUMBIA - Five to seven business days, that's how long Columbia residents have to wait for city recycle bag vouchers to arrive in their mail if they request them. That's because the bags don't come from Columbia.
The entire system is outsourced to WasteZero, a company based in South Carolina.
"WasteZero handles the database of customers. They distribute the vouchers, they assist with shipment of the vouchers, they assist with shipment of the bags and subcontract the delivery of the bags to the store that sell them," Steve Sapp of Columbia Public Works said.
The method is confusing to some residents.
"It's the city, we pay for city trash service. Outsourcing is kind of weird to me especially because it's not even close," said Dianna Prost, who lives off Creasy Springs Rd.
Residents are limited to 75 black refuse bags every year based on an average per household. Vouchers for those bags are delivered three times a year. However, Columbians can get an unlimited number of vouchers for recycling bags, and that's where the wait time comes in.
Chief Operating Officer of WasteZero, Gary Tyson, said when residents request vouchers for more bags the company has to send them through the U.S. Postal Service.
"With the U.S. mail comes certain time challenges, but it's the most cost effective way for us to mail out our vouchers. It's a trade off."
The City of Columbia has used this system for six years. Before outsourcing the work Solid Waste Utility Manager, Cynthia Mitchell, said the city wasted a lot of money.
"We just delivered the bags to every yard, very wasteful. We had a lot of thefts go on with the bags being out there and a lot of people didn't need that many. "
Mitchell said the city has saved more than $1 million during the past six years since switching to WasteZero. However, saving the money does add an extra step for residents who have concerns.
"If our customers are having trouble we ask them to reach out to WasteZero. If they can't get their problems solved with WasteZero we certainly want to help," Sapp said.
Prost thinks that's part of the problem. "I think that's kind of the city's way of not getting issues brought to them, they outsource," she said.
If residents don't want to wait for the trash or recycle bags, the city will pick up trash sitting on the curb in any type of bag.