COLUMBIA - Columbia's "Pay as You Throw" program started bag distribution on Tuesday, Jan. 18.

Bag vouchers can be taken to select locations: Gerbes, Schnucks, Hy-Vee, Columbia, City Hall, Menards and Moser's.

The City will host a contactless voucher exchange event this week, Jan. 19 to 23, at Cosmo Park. Tuesday through Friday will have hours form 10 a.m. to 7 p.m., and Saturday 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Citizens will also be able to exchange their vouchers for the logoed bags there. 

Some residents have not received their vouchers yet, but the city says all of the vouchers have been mailed and residents will receive them in the next several days. 

One resident, Lauren Zettler says the process has been frustrating and inconvenient.

"The process itself is just ridiculous. We're going to have to go through all of this drama for something that in an affluent city, a basic need that an affluent city should be able to provide to us taxpayers. Period."

KOMU 8 News created a map with the distribution sites and where the retailers currently stand, as of 2 p.m. Tuesday, with bag stock.

Customers will receive vouchers for two rolls of 26-count refuse bags and two rolls of 18-count recycling bags in January. In June, customers will receive vouchers for two rolls of 26-count refuse bags and one roll of 18-count recycling bags.

Columbia residents, in total, will receive vouchers equivalent to two bags per week or 104 bags per year. 

The charge for additional bags acts as a usage fee, according to the City. 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.

"This is only going to add additional fees to my budget," Zettler said. "It's already hard enough going through a pandemic and working from home with my four kids home, and this just adds another thing I have to worry about." 

According to the City of Columbia website, the program will create a more equitable system by implementing an additional cost for larger item collection and disposal.  

"Customers have an opportunity to rethink their waste habits by committing to reduction, reuse and composting opportunities," Columbia City Council said of the new program.

The official "Pay as You Throw" program is set to begin Monday, Feb. 1.

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