Columbia group renews push for roll cart waste pick-up

2 months 2 weeks 3 days ago Saturday, July 11 2020 Jul 11, 2020 Saturday, July 11, 2020 7:07:00 PM CDT July 11, 2020 in News
By: Cory Johnson, KOMU 8 Reporter

COLUMBIA - A group of Columbia solid waste customers are pushing for roll carts to replace the current system.

It comes after the city announced last week it suspended curbside recycling pick-up indefinitely while they continually struggle with a shortage of commercial drivers.

The "Columbia MO Citizens for Roll Carts" Facebook group began Friday to advocate for roll carts. Less than 24 hours later, it has 650 members.

One of the organizers, Rachel Proffitt, says the carts would be more effective for the community overall.

"It's a lot safer for our workers, it's a lot lower cost, and we can get it done a lot faster," she said.

Voters struck down the roll carts in 2015 by a margin of 54 percent to 46 percent.

City staff, including then-deputy city manager John Glascock, pushed for the reform citing high workers' compensation rates, high worker turnover and low citywide recycling rates under the current system.

The Solid Waste Advocacy Group pushed back, gathering 3,500 signatures of Columbia residents against the roll cart proposal. Mike Lawler was one of the most outspoken opponents and is still against the change.

"It's just a bad idea that's all. It's not progress, it's the opposite of progress," he said.

Lawler said roll carts are unsanitary and would bring scavangers like racoons to dig through them if they were left curbside for prolonged periods.

"They're an eyesore, a terrible eyesore [and] I got a steep hill, a roll cart, if there's a windstorm, it can roll down the street and there's a traffic hazard," he said.

The city paid out about $500,000 in worker's compensation last year for injuries trash collectors received getting on and off the truck, and hauling bags into the truck. Proffitt said a new system would likely have an automated arm, cutting down on injuries and requiring less workers overall.

Lawler, however, also pointed out it could be a hassle for older people and those with disabilities.

"It's a physical nuisance. I wouldn't want to deal with it. I love it when the truck comes by and the guy throws the black bags in the truck and he's gone 20 seconds later. I'm all set for another week, I don't have to worry about it," he said.

Supporters say the city already provides assistance to some people to bring trash bags to the curb and could continue to do so under a new system. Proffitt added it's not always easy to carry a 20 to 50 pound trash bag either.

"Those that have an issue right now getting stuff to the curb might find it a little bit easier to push or pull a roll car," she said.

Proffitt said many voters were confused by the language on the 2015 ballot and didn't know what they were voting for. The advocacy group missed the deadline to get on the November ballot by petition. They hope to gain support of four of the six city council members as a last resort to get it back in front of voters anyway.

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