The Sedalia Sanitation Department regularly gets high marks from the people by way of the annual Sedalia citizen survey, but satisfaction comes at a cost: the department is losing money regularly. Of course, providers of public services and facilities frequently fail to operate in the black but forge ahead anyhow for the sake of the public.
You might have attended the city council session where the sanitation issue was discussed, or you might just have read Sedalia Democrat reporter Nicole Cooke’s story about it right here in the pages of the Democrat but the truth of the matter is this: there are some tweaks we could make to the sanitation system that might help it climb to an even financial break.
But before we talk about improving the system, we need to talk about improving the habits of some of the people who utilize it. The human species in general produces a whole lot more waste than we should, and the good people of the State Fair City are no different. I’ve seen the piles of garbage that await our refuse transportation specialists and I’ve seen the potential recyclables that are carelessly mixed in. There’s so much cardboard being put out with the regular trash that the sanitation department has to waste their time and resources making regular cardboard deliveries to the recycling center because we’ve failed to do it ourselves.
I’ve seen a trash can filled with a small mountain of garbage and precariously perched on the top was an open delivery pizza box that was still at least half full of pizza. Compost is as easy as putting all of your food waste in a pile and occasionally giving it a good stir. All right, so there might be other, less savory ingredients for a really good compost but it’s still pretty darn easy.
Cutting the frequency of city trash pickup in half is one of the options being considered and I’m in favor of it. In my household after recycling we usually struggle to fill even one trash can with actual garbage in a given week. So we do only take advantage of one of the weekly trash pickups because there’s just not enough trash to do both. I bet this is the case for many Sedalians. There aren’t many cities in Missouri or the country at large that still offer twice-weekly trash pickup.
There’s also talk of putting some sort of limit on the amount of trash that can be picked up. Currently Sedalians can put out all of the trash that they want. I think we should institute at least some sort of limit just to establish the concept, even if it’s quite generous at first. I think that may be part of why a select few choose not to recycle as often as they should: they don’t have to prioritize their trash loads because they can just put it all out there and it will all be taken away. Why go the recycling bins when the “just get rid of it” space is just on the edge of your property? A limit might make people start searching for other things to do with some of their trash, like recycling, reusing or re-purposing it.
And to ease the financial burden we could increase the service charge for trash pickup. Now don’t get me wrong, it’s not good form to increase something just because it seems too low, or just because it’s lower than rates in comparative communities. But the cost of living is always on the rise, and so is the cost of collecting and processing garbage. A modest rate increase is probably justifiable, but that doesn’t mean we should institute an annual increase or strive to price match places like Marshall. I don’t care what those junction jacking jackals pay for their trash service!
Maybe we should keep the base rate the same but start charging more when people choose to take advantage of the sanitation system by putting out multiple large bags for each pickup. Maybe we need to create a tiered system where the people receiving the most trash service pay the highest rates. Bigger bills might also convince them to find ways to reduce their trash output.
Travis McMullen is a longtime Sedalia resident who shares his views on the city through his weekly Democrat column.