Recycling ambassadors training teaches locals to spread awareness

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COLUMBIA - The City of Columbia Volunteer Program and Columbia Public Works hosted recycling volunteer training on Saturday.

The program was first announced in November 2014 and aims to get locals involved in the recycling process through volunteering. Ambassadors will be available to distribute information and answer questions about the recycling and waste programs during public festivals and education events. Saturday's program taught the volunteers specifics of Columbia's recycling program, like why certain items can or can't be recycled, and how to properly dispose of household hazardous waste and e-waste. 

Waste Minimization Supervisor Layli Terrill led the presentation and explained that the value of the recycled material determines if a product can be recycled. She said aluminum cans and cardboard are two of the most valuable, while glass of all kinds is one of the least. She suggests finding a way to reuse items, like glass jars, should be the first goal before recycling. 

Terrill also explained why Columbia has dual stream recycling program, which requires locals to separate their products, instead of a single stream program where items are mixed in one bin. She said dual stream is actually a cleaner system than single stream, and it is also less expensive for the city because Columbia hauls its own trash. While Terrill said studies show single stream recycling can increase the number of people participating by almost 50 percent, she said the city would need some kind of major funding to make that happen in Columbia.

Pat Lang was one of the volunteers at the training session and said recycling is one of her passions.

"I was raised by a very conservative mother and father who used everything they had," Lang said. "They weren't wealthy or anything, so I had a good example in my parents. And I care for the earth. I care for future generations, and I care for the beauty of our earth."

Lang said she can imagine the long-term benefits of educating more member of the community about recycling.

"Columbia seems to be a place where citizens are active and involved," she said. "This is important that we get people on board to recycle so that the city people will have to pay fewer taxes to pay for all of these landfill destinations."

Participants also shared practices they do at home to reduce waste and reuse items.

Ambassadors are required to volunteer a minimum of 12 hours a year after completing training, and can schedule which events they want to work online through the city's website. 

For more information, contact Andrea Shelton at (573) 874-6271.