After successfully decreasing residential waste by an estimated 30 percent during a 2,000 household-strong biweekly compost collection pilot program that kicked off in April 2010, the green-minded Northwest metropolis, a town where even the members of the City Council have compost bins in their offices, is now unrolling the food scrap pickup service city-wide with one big difference: instead of being picked up curbside every other week, single-family households and apartments buildings with four or fewer units will have their green bins emptied every week.
But increasing the volume and frequency of the city’s food scrap collection program — including meat, dairy, and other organic waste items that you normally wouldn’t want to compost at home — isn't without sacrifice. To ensure that the new program doesn’t result in jacked-up garbage rates for a majority of Portlanders, the city has cut back on regular trash pickup from once a week to once every two weeks. And, naturally, many residents aren’t too thrilled about this, especially those that may need to invest in larger trash bins and pay more because of the scaling back.
Still, the city insists that during the pilot program, only a small number of households, about 7 percent, switched to larger trash cans. As part of the curbside switch-up, the rates for servicing plus-sized carts (60 and 90 gallon) will jump by 10 percent while rates for using 20 and 30 gallon cans will stay the same. Portlanders that downsize trash cans will not be charged. Residents will also receive countertop composting pails for transferring food scraps from their kitchens to their bins before the new scheme goes into effect on Oct. 31.
I totally get and applaud the idea behind Portland’s system of penalizing the biggest domestic trash producers while rewarding those who actively compost and, in turn, reduce their waste streams. However, this does seem a touch unfair to larger families that may separate their food scraps but still generate enough household waste to make biweekly trash pick up an inconvenience. Brian Cefola, a Portlander living in the Grant Park neighborhood with his wife and two toddlers tells OregonLive.com: “I'm certain we're going to upgrade to 90 (gallons). Even then it will be difficult."
Since the announcement of the new program, the city’s composting collection hotline has been inundated with calls — an average of 100 calls per day, according to Willamette Week — from “confused, excited, frustrated, and nervous” Portland residents. Commenter reactions on the Willamette Week website are just as varied:
User Jtsimple isn't exactly thrilled:
This is awesome! Well, unless you have a child, a pet, or anything else that creates non-compostable waste. In which case, your garbage rate just doubled. Thanks, Portland overlords! I look forward to the 'improved' hygiene of a city that just lost half of one of its essential services, while continuing to pay as much or more for the privilege of the leftovers. I also look forward to the fruit flies all over my kitchen as I keep some gnarly bucket of rotting melon rinds on the counter. Awesome.
While luckylady is pretty jazzed:
This is amazing! I'm so proud to living in a city that's taking simple, well thought out steps to reduce its waste. My friends all cringe when they throw away things they know can be composted into new soil, but we never had a choice before. I know it seems a little gross, but a little grossness that contributes to perserving where we live and creating less landfills (and more useable soil) is totally worth it. Thanks PDX for stepping up!
Any Portland residents care to chime in with your thoughts? Will you be negatively impacted by the city’s decision to cut back on regular trash pickup from once a week to every other week? As a rental apartment-dwelling New Yorker who receives trash pickup twice a week — and recycling pickup once a week with no composting collection service — I’m having trouble wrapping my head around this one.
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