Simply Resourceful

Simple ways to be more conscious about how we use our resources.

City of Portland Residential Composting Program

Contrary to what many people think, the City or Portland is not a very green city, but compared to most, we have made some great strides in the right direction.  Along with banning plastic bags, the city has now expanded its composting program to include all residents.  Since 2007, businesses have been piloting the program, and now as of October 31, 2011, all residential homes with fewer than 4 units are mandated to participate.  Several years ago I implemented this compost program at three schools in the district I work at, but unfortunately it's still more expensive to pick up compost compared to garbage so the program has not been implemented district-wide.  Schools also use biodegradable bags for lining trash cans.  The bags cost $.80 each!!  The unique part of this program is that all food products are accepted including meat, bones, dairy, and bread along with vegetable and fruit scraps.  Some food soiled cardboard and paper products are also accepted including napkins and pizza boxes.  My family doesn't eat much meat so we won't be adding much of anything to our compost roll cart since I compost food scraps in the backyard pile and we rarely waste food.  Although, cake scraps left on attendee's plates from my son's birthday party went into the compost roll cart.  With weekly compost pickup at the curb, those with weekly garbage service in the past will now have every-other-week garbage service.

I have heard a lot of people him and haw about "another thing to remember to do," but I think it's great!  Residents are being forced to recycle and compost because their garbage is getting picked up less frequently.  If anything, folks will become more aware how much food they are throwing out and reconsider their purchasing decisions with excess packaging.  I have talked with friends who have weekly garbage pick ups. They are worried they will have stinky garbage piling up in their homes because of fewer pickups.  Several friends have come to me with recycling and bulk purchasing questions.  It's great to see people look at the fine print and make some lifestyle changes.  One friend was ecstatic about the compost program because, "Now the entire family will have to get on-board with recycling!!"

Where does all of the food waste go you may ask?  It is taken to Nature's Needs, a compost facility in North Plains, OR.  The compost facility is located 27 miles from my house, whereas the Arlington landfill is 150 miles away.  A commercial compost facility grinds up the food and yard debris scraps, super-heats it to kill potential harmful bacteria, and then sells it to local nurseries and residents as finished compost.  Instead of food and yard debris emitting methane gas into the atmosphere just sitting in a landfill, it is now being turned into nutrient-rich compost for local gardens and parks.

Each resident is given a compost bucket like this one to place in their kitchen for food scrap collection.  This bucket is then emptied into their green yard debris roll cart to be placed at the curb for pickup.

This is the tray dumping line at one of the elementary schools I work at where they compost all food scraps.  Students pour excess milk into a bucket, recycle the milk carton, throw away plastic and foil in the garbage can, and then toss all food scraps into the green bin.  Posters hanging from a PVC pipe show what to put into each receptacle.

Here's our backyard set-up:  We have a 20 gallon garbage can that is picked up once/month, a green yard debris & compost roll cart picked up about every 3 months, and a blue recycling roll cart picked up once/month.


Christopher Beeson November 17, 2011 at 5:28 PM  

I think promoting recycling by reducing trash service is a good thing!

Our small town used to only provide a very tiny recycling container and each week when we filled it up and ran out of room, our extra recycling materials went into the trash can.

This year the city took the little recycling containers away and gave us big blue ones on wheels like in your picture.

We continuously fill it to the top each week, and now we don't have to put our extra recyclables in the trash each week.

P.S> I had to chuckle when you said your green yard cart is only picked up every three months...we have a retired couple down the street from us who cuts their grass each week, and always has about 10 yard waste bags full of leaves and clippings for collection. They'd never it make it three months! haha :)

jenn merfee-t November 21, 2011 at 4:43 PM  

I love composting at home as well. Those foods only travel 12 feet instead of miles in a truck, the cost is unbeatable, and the compost makes beautiful soil for next year's crop. I am thrilled about Portland is using this composting program started in other cities like Seattle and hope the city continues to put work towards being the green city it claims to be. When reading your post, I also thought, "Someone didn't finish their birthday cake?!" You could blog about that delicious chocolate swirl rocket ship cake!

Holly November 24, 2011 at 8:02 PM  

Hi Chris,

I will never understand why people collect those grass trimmings. I remember hearing something about bugs being in clipped grass which is why some people remove them. Whatever...I have never received bites in all the years that I played in the grass. I've also been told that leaving grass clippings in the yard helps shade the soil to reduce irrigating. I probably have the most weeds in my yard on my street, but oh well----weeds, bald patches, there are more important things to focus on than a putting-green lawn. To each is own, right?

About this blog

A weekly update on our adventures of trying to be more self-sufficient by using resources wisely. We explore a variety of topics that most broadly fit in the "Homesteading" category, i.e. beekeeping, organic gardening, edible landscaping/fruit forest, food preservation/canning, woodworking, soap-making, and environmental stewardship.

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