Garbage remains a problem in East Campus after changes to waste collection
Uncollected bags and litter remain a nuisance to many East Campus residents, due in part to city policy changes in waste-collection.
Apr. 13, 2021
A wander through the East Campus neighborhood of Columbia will reveal some common sights: students coming and going, bikes leaning on fences and heaps of trash strewn about the streets and piled in bags at the end of driveways.
The garbage issue can vary from street to street and day to day, between just a few pieces of litter and literal heaps of trash bags. While some of it is due to the nature of college neighborhoods, some students noticed garbage began to pile up on the streets after Columbia effected new guidelines for waste collection this winter.
Beginning on Feb. 1, the city implemented a new waste collection program for solid refuse. The new system is a modified “pay as you throw” program, which requires Columbia residents to leave their waste in larger, city-issued trash bags. Along with the new garbage program, the city also began picking up household recycling every other week after halting recycling collection during the summer of last year.
A few weeks before the changes came into effect, the city sent Columbia households two vouchers, good at almost any grocery store in town, for 26 city-approved garbage bags and 18 recycling bags. Once they have used the vouchers, residents can purchase rolls of five bags for $10.
Columbia Public Information Specialist Matthew Nestor said the new regulations are intended to improve working conditions for the city employees who collect waste by reducing the total number of trash bags and standardizing garbage pickup. He said it would also encourage people to cut down on the amount of trash they produce. He compared it to other utilities, which cost residents in proportion to how much they consume.
“Customers who use more water pay more,” Nestor said in an email. “Customers who use more electricity pay more. So in the same vein, customers who put more trash curbside to be collected will have to pay more.”
For students who didn’t get the memo, this meant their waste sat in front of their houses with a sticky note from the city explaining why it hadn’t been picked up.
“As a student, I’m not really paying attention to those kinds of announcements,” MU alumna Lia Waldrum said. “It’s on the Columbia city website, but if you don’t know it’s there, then you don’t know to look.”
Waldrum, who graduated in December 2020, has lived in East Campus since August of last year, and was alerted to the waste collection changes by her landlord.
MU sophomore Olivia Johnson has resided in East Campus since January, where she lives with five roommates. When the city stopped collecting household trash bags, Johnson said their street was filled with uncollected trash.
“One person down the road from us obviously had too much trash … and they decided to drag it into our yard,” Johnson said. “It busted open, some animals got into it, we had trash all over our yard, all down the road. [The city] never took those bags and we didn’t know why, that’s how we found out [about the new ordinances].”
A second set of trash bag vouchers and a single recycling bag voucher will go out to households in June, but if residents are trying to avoid buying additional bags, the two 26-bag vouchers per five months breaks down to slightly over two bags per week. Some households in East Campus will use up this allotment quickly.
“There’s trash always at the ends of the roads constantly — all the time,” Johnson said.
Though she and Waldrum both acknowledge that the problem has lessened since the beginning of February as students have adjusted to the new rules, litter on the streets, in yards and at the ends of driveways remains a common feature of the neighborhood.
Edited by Emmet Jamieson | email@example.com