Precious goods go to waste without recycling options

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COLUMBIA - Highly usable recyclable goods like cardboard boxes and aluminum cans sit among piles of trash in dumpsters across the city.

Much of it comes from apartment complexes around Columbia that don't offer recycling.

Columbia resident Krystal Brady said she grew up recycling with her family in Kansas City.

"We would recycle a lot. I grew up in a big family so there was always a lot to take out," said Brady.

But Brady said recycling in Columbia hasn't been as easy as it was when she was younger.

"I was surprised to learn we didn't have recycling where we lived," said Brady.

"Now I take what I want to recycle to a drop off. But it would be nice to not have to drive somewhere to do that," said Brady.

Brady admits this makes her recycle less.

"I still always recycle big cardboard boxes but when it comes to some papers or cans, I just throw those out because getting them all together and taking them somewhere takes a lot," said Brady.

Columbia waste minimization supervisor Layli Terrill said creating recycling options for every complex is difficult.

"The apartment recycling program is now operating at capacity because, right now, we only have 12 bins that are circulated throughout the complexes." said Terrill. "We have many more complexes than that."

Terrill said people who don't have recycling at their complex only have a few choices:

1. Approach the landlord to see what the options are: Is the landlord working to get a recycling bin? Is there really no way to recycle at the complex?

2. Use blue bags and put them by trash bins. Households that pay at least $1,542 a month in rent are eligible for vouchers, which can be redeemed at many stores.

3. Take recyclable goods to one of the drop off sites. This is free to everyone.

Columbia has 10 drop off sites around the city. Nine of the sites are marked in green in the map below. The marker for the site at the Columbia Regional Airport is marked in brown because the site only accepts cardboard recycling, and does not accept glass or plastic recycling.

Terill said she estimates 15% of Columbia's population take advantage of the drop off sites.

The apartment complexes that have permanent recycling bins pay the city to have those on site.

The other apartment complexes rotate recycling bins amongst each other. In this case, the recycling bins are free for the complexes and provided by the city.

There is currently a wait list for apartments who want to be in the recycling program.

Aspen Heights is one complex that has wanted a recycling bin for months but the city hasn't been able to give it one because there isn't enough space in the program.

The Domain in Columbia is the city's newest customer. The complex was able to acquire a recycling bin after University Village and University Heights had theirs taken away. The two complexes lost their bin because they no longer met the minimum number of units required to be a part of the program after University Village burned down February 22.

Terrill said the city is currently acquiring a new recycling bin that will go to the next apartment complexes on the waiting list. These new bins cost the city around $5,200.

The city pays for these bins with grant money.

"I'm happy people want to recycle," said Terrill. "I wish I had enough containers and man power to provide it to everybody but we don't. It's just the facts."

Everything that gets recycled in Columbia goes to the material recovery facility on Peabody Road.

At the facility, detergent bottles, cardboard boxes, and aluminum cans filter through conveyer belts, get sorted, and then shipped and used in other parts of the country.

Terrill said the city has the capacity at the facility to filter more recyclables. So, if and when more bins become present in the city, workers there will be able to keep up.