Businesses concerned over dumpster grease

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COLUMBIA - Iron Tiger Tattoo parlor in downtown Columbia mops its floors nearly three times a day. It didn’t use to be this way, but with the recent trash bins put near their store, they’ve had to clean more.

The reason why: people are tracking grease into the store.

Lee Sensintaffar is the manager of Iron Tiger Tattoo and said the store is constantly scrubbing the floors whenever they see grease.

“It’s kind of hard to keep up with,” Sensintaffar said.

This grease and food waste is leaking from the trash bins lined up against Iron Tiger Tattoo’s building when the garbage truck comes to pick up the trash. 

“A river of grease coming out of that alley way down tenth street into the stormwater drains,” Sensintaffar said. “You’re seeing grease. You’re seeing flies. You’re seeing vermin.”

Store owners in the area said this is happening because restaurants are just dumping grease and food waste into the trash bins without a trash bag. Melissa Frier is the manager of Aardvarx, which is right next to the alley.

“It is leaking out of the dumpsters and flowing out of the alley into the front of the alley and down the street and it's causing a lot of a mess,” Frier said.

A City of Columbia ordinance does not require people to put trash in bags. Currently the ordinance says trash should be wrapped in paper. This isn’t a method used by many people anymore. However, the ordinance does say grease should not be put in the trash bins. Instead, restaurants need to hire a private contractor to dispose of the liquid.

“I think the main concern as the manager of this shop is ‘are people going to walk by that?’ Frier said. “The smell of the sight is not great at all, and "are people going to want to walk by that to come into our business?" 

The owners said this problem started happening nearly two months ago. This is around the time when the city replaced a trash compactor with the six trash bins lined up against Iron Tiger Tattoo.

The compactor used to be on private property because it was too large to be put in the alley, which is public land. However, the property owner asked the city to take the compactor away. The compactor was leaking grease, which was then washed into the basement of a business when it rained.

The City of Columbia does not have a firm solution to fix the problem, but listed two possibilities. One solution could be to change the ordinance to make people use trash bags. The Downtown Community Improvement District said they would bring this up to the solid waste commission at a meeting Tuesday, December 19.

Another solution is to educate business owners about the proper way to dispose of trash and grease. The CID held a meeting a month ago to hear what business owners were thinking. Since then, the CID has sent out letters to help educate people on the correct way to get rid of trash.