Columbia seeks community participation combating landfill issues

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COLUMBIA - With an increase in demand for landfill space, the city of Columbia is planning to spend $4.3 million to build an additional landfill cell. This will be the sixth cell in the Hinkson Creek valley in northeast Columbia.

According to the Columbia Public Works - Solid Waste division, the cells at the landfill are the highest point above sea-level in Columbia not counting buildings.

"Each day we are on average receiving about 800 tons of material, and annual period we've received about 172,000 tons of waste out of our facility," the Landfill Superintendent Adam White said. 

Columbia's solid waste diversion rate (otherwise known as rate of recycling materials) is 17%, which is much lower than the national average diversion rate of 34%. 

Recovery Superintendent Nicholas Paul said recycling and diverting more materials from the landfill is a priority goal for the Columbia Material Recovery Facility (MRF).

"The more we recycle, the less space we're gonna need for landfill," Paul said.  

Over the years, the MRF provides tours for churches, elementary schools and middle schools to help people understand how recycling works and its importance. Also, MRF employees often speak to organizations about recycling, including what people should use as trash and what is recyclable. 

Currently, there are several drop-off sites throughout the city for people to drop off their recycling. However, some of the apartments still don't have recycle bins for their residents. 

"We really encourage not just the apartment complexes to get on board of recycling, but also the residents,"Ben Kreitner, the waste minimization coordinator, said. "If the residents are very interested in recycling, they can push that through to their apartment complex managers." 

White said recycling would bring a big benefit for the landfill. 

"It's gonna help us extend the life of the landfill, we have to build new cells less often if we can improve our recycling rates," White said. 

Cell #6 is scheduled to be constructed by 2017.