Earlier this week, Columbia ran out of city-provided trash bags, which residents are required to use to dispose of their trash.
While the trash bag issue was resolved on Tuesday with shipments of bags finally arriving, residents are frustrated with the lack of solutions and information provided by the city.
Matt Nestor, community relations specialist for the City of Columbia Utilities, said the shortage was due to supply chain issues with the supplier the city uses, WasteZero Inc.
The city is using a modified “pay as you throw away” program to reduce the amount of waste generated by the community and to protect city staff. However, many residents have problems with the program.
Elizabeth Alexander, a Columbia resident since 2015, said the process the city uses for waste is not proactive.
“I shouldn’t have to go all over town looking for a store with approved trash bags. I should be able to use the vouchers provided to me when they suit me,” Alexander said.
The modified pay-as-you-throw program requires city-issued vouchers to purchase city-issued trash bags. Vouchers are mailed to all residential properties in January and June.
The city will not pick up trash in bags other than those provided by the city, and the city’s website tells residents what to do if they run out of bags.
All trash placed on sidewalks must be in city-issued bags with the city logo. Residents can purchase additional bags from the city in rolls of five for $10. Otherwise, it’s $2 per bag.
Additional blue bags for recycling can be obtained from WasteZero Inc. by calling 1-800-866-3954.
As for what happens when the city runs out of bags, Nestor said it hasn’t been an issue before and the city is having conversations with the vendor to find a solution if the problem happens again in the future. but no solution was announced at this time.
“I think the current system is a complete failure. From trash bag shortages, to vouchers that change frequently, to poor communication about changes, it’s all a mess,” Alexander said.