This page contains a single entry from the blog posted on June 26, 2006 9:57 PM. The previous post in this blog was I think you'll understand. The next post in this blog is At the Copa. Many more can be found on the main index page or by looking through the archives.

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Monday, June 26, 2006

Every Monday night

We recyle religiously. Even if it didn't make economic or ecological sense -- and I have some know-it-all friends who'll tell you it doesn't -- we'd still do it. It feels like the right thing to do.

Here in Portland, we're blessed with the opportunity to recycle to the max. A few hours after the garbage men come and take our weekly canload for a ride to the Arlington dump, another truck comes and takes our recyclables to some other place. Paper, glass, metal, even plastic bottles. We take full advantage.

So seriously do Portlanders take the recycling process that the city puts out an occasional newsletter dedicated to the subject. This publication has expanded over the years, and the one that came this week was a four-page newspaper, with all kinds of color illustrations. Mostly it told us what we already knew -- which makes you wonder why we can't opt for an online version of the thing instead of one more paper item to recycle -- but there were a couple of tidbits in there that caught our eye.

First, garbage rates are going up. No kidding -- you think our man Sanitary Dave beams that stuff up to the east side via Star Trek transporter? More money to the oil companies.

Interesting item no. 2: There's a new protocol for glass. Now, the haulers have always wanted the glass separated from everything else -- it's safer that way, and it prevents broken glass from fouling up the recycling of other materials. But starting this week, they're asking that we please leave the glass out in its own hard container, separate from the yellow bins that the waste managers provide to each house. Waste basket, old paint bucket, it doesn't matter, so long as it's not paper. In typical Portland weather (not what we've got going this week), I'm sure many a brown bag has collapsed after an all-night drenching, and sent empty glass bottles and jars crashing to the pavement. Nasty. The new way, that can't happen.

We comply cheerfully. The only blue note in the whole piece is the fact that the newsette now comes from something called the city "Office of Sustainable Development." If you study local government around here, you get an automatic minor in Kafka and Orwell. The thought that the recycling program is coming from the same bureaucrats who are giving this city away to the condo developers is enough to make me want to stop recycling and send all my trash to the landfill. Office of Sustained Blight is more like it.

Comments (21)

Hmm...we didn't get our four page newsletter (and yep, we're also a Sanitary Dave customer - I'm dying to know how those territories get defined; four blocks over, it's Cloudburst land...)

As a result, you've just performed a valuable service. It's too late for this week, but in the future, we'll provide a separate container for our glass as well (who said blogs were all opinion, no fact?)

The newsletter came in the mail, I think.

The boundaries are interesting. We're the last block for Monday night. A block south of us starts Tuesday night.

Big doings a week or two ago -- Dave's main truck broke down, and they didn't get here until around 5 p.m. Excitement!

It would be great if a Portland garbage hauler did a blog. The guys on the trucks especially. It'd be a gas to read their stories.

Garbage...hmmm...enough about that.

What isn't garbage nor recycled is that THE BEAVERS WON THE NCAA BASEBALL TITLE.

Go Beavers, Nat'l CHAMPS...not chumps anymore.

Back to the ever important Portland green topic of the day, (but not green and yellow!!...just green...too bad dux, but this all about orange and black!)

Lot of brown glass there!!

I've always wondered why Portland makes it so damn hard for its citizens to recycle. Over here in the 'Couve we have three big hard bins, one for newsprint, one for mixed paper, and one for glass/plastic. No paper bag sorting, no having to come up with our own containers to recycle.

In LA-la land, the city provides a big blue bin on wheels. If it looks recyclable, huck it in. Truck picks it up (yes, the truck picks it up), and Lars' "illegals" sort it all out at the recycling center.

In other news, does anyone remember when Portland entered you into a prize drawing if you let them p-e-e-k in your garbage to see whether you're recycling or not?

In other, other news, p-e-e-k is a forbidden word in the comments here.

Troutdale has recently started to offer an optional roller cart for recycling, with the benefit that all recyclables except glass & containers of used motor oil can be placed inside -- cardboard, newspaper, scrap paper, metal cans, plastic bottles. They didn't decide to offer it for convenience, but rather to prevent recyclables from blowing around the neighborhood when the Gorge winds pick up!

Now, my aunt & uncle live in Newport Beach, and down there they put everything into a single container -- recyclable or not -- and the city sorts through it (using manual & mechanical means). By doing so, the city is able to show that they're recovering 95% of all recyclable materials (or something like that) and therefore they qualify for monetary grants (I think from the State) that supposedly covers the incremental cost of the city's sorting activities. Bonus points to everyone that's figured out that it's taxpayer funded in the end...

Portland has some of the highest garbage rates in the West because Metro skims a lot off the top so it can pay its planners to plan more light rail and high-density developments throughout the Portland area. So don't blame Dave for high rates.

Meant to add the following link to my last post...


Very interesting read.

I know it's easy to pile on to faceless agency, but I know a couple of folks at the Office of Sustainable Development, and they do a hell of a job. They work extensively with area businesses to reclaim more paper and other recyclables... they also help many low-middle income families and residents of multi-family units weatherize their homes and install efficiency measures. And, to my knowledge, they aren't involved with the big PDC endeavors... It's not fair to conflate their scopes.

"conflate their scopes." Sounds painful, TK. But seriously, I agree that there are good government employees and programs, some truly innovative, in Portland. You realize it after spending a few weeks almost any place else. But as I often say, there is a good ole boy (and girl) problem here, a group of wheeler dealers that have extrordinary influence with more than one government "player" and so, scopes do get conflated at times. We see the phenomenon of "mission creep" and some mission creeps.

Are they the people whom you must ask permission from before you cut down the tree in your yard? The people who will hound you and tax you if you won't disconnect your downspouts? The people who encourage skinny houses and three- and four-story condo boxes in two-story neighborhoods? The people who make you feel guilty if you drive your car, grow grass on your yard, or use water for anything? And what's the "Development" part? If this is the crew from Portland State Urban Planning, you can have them all.

It sounds as though you take pride in recycling, and the OSD helps many businesses do so as well. Instead of smearing them as some snakeoil salesmen wasting our money or 'taking it out on the little guy', why not look at some of the merits of what they're doing.

From their energy division:
"We're doing our part; we've already cut City government's energy bills by nearly $2 million per year, and we have helped weatherize 20,000 apartments and 2,000 low-income homes in the past ten years."

On commercial recycling:
"The commercial sector produces 77% of the total solid waste and recyclable material generated in the City of Portland. That's enough trash to fill the Rose Garden about once a month. Therefore, the City requires Portland's businesses, multifamily complexes, and most of its construction projects to recycle at least 50% of their waste material."

Or, you can just say it has PSU taint on it and it's automatically discredited. This one of those agencies that actually work with the business community to save them money through efficiency and greening measures. What more could anyone want? Sheesh...

Maybe they just need a new name. Because "City of Portland" + "Development" to me = incomptence and probable corruption.

I think the problem of people here seeing Portland through rose-colored glasses and pretending humane nature doesn't apply is bigger than the perceived problem of people wanting too much accountability. Government can always improve, and talking about it is a way to check the tendency toward corruption, which exists everywhere.

That is human nature. Can't seem to type and edit at the same time.

Cynthia and others-

If the reason you come here and comment, presumably, is to have a dialogue and change minds, you're not going to get very far if you paint local government in simplistic terms. Sure, nuanced opinions don't make for exciting punditry, but that's the way things really are. Every city/county government body in the country (world?) has plenty of critics that decry a 'good ol' boys network' and simply waive off every initiative as 'just another example of...'. Likewise, there are plenty of folks who choose to simply stick their heads in the sand and hope for the best.

The fact is, the left-leaning population here in the area is leery of many crusades against smart growth, green building initiatives, land use laws, etc. Why? Because it has become hard to distinguish the arguments that originate from legitimate sources/citizens and talking points that are repeated/perpetuated by special interests and their mouthpieces. Most people are smart enough to realize that the PDC has done some great things, but they're also smart enough to realize that it shouldn't be immune to criticism.

I'm 30, I live in SE, and I'm mostly liberal, so I'm probably in the demographic that gets the most disdain in these forums. I know or have worked with lots of folks in the energy, efficiency, green building and planning industries. Regardless of age, race or upbringing, they all understand that the only way their efforts work or gain credibility is to demonstrate a positive return. They strive for this not because they're greedy or covet power, it's because they know it is the right thing to do, that their efforts don't have to be dumbed-down political punchlines. I guess you can call them hippies if you want, but I think the prototype is probably in his/her 50's...

I don't think that is what I said, TK. And it isn't what i am doing at all. I actually am a graduate of the PSU planning program myself. I MOVED to Portland because of its national reputation as a leader in land use planning. But now I also am a lawyer and have seen how the "smart growth" agenda can ignore some pretty basic constitutional rights. I have commented on this before ad naseum. Not being able to talk about these is hardly what I would call enlightened or nuanced. When you make presumptions about people who challenge you, you discredit yourself, not others. As for a good ole boy network, there absolutely IS one, and I have experience with it that would curl your hair. Major land rip offs using the courts, well documented. The fact that people like to see themselves as "enlightened" istead of paying attention to actual facts and nuances, is turning Portland into an international joke. I suggest you start reading some Oregon history.

Read Al Gore's other book - "Earth in the Balance", it's really good, and it explains how the environment is getting *$)%&k'd up because we don't attach a monetary value to resources like clean air, clean water and wilderness. Recycling IS the right thing to do. I don't really care what name they attach to the department that runs it.

And, TK, if it is hard for you to distinguish arguments, then I suggest you hone your critical thinking skills. You can't assume that just because someone critizes "smart growth' he or she is a right wing fuddy duddy. Go to law school. It is a lot of fun, and even someone like me who doesn't especially like numbers and finance enjoyed JackBog's basic tax class. Let the special interests make their arguments, the way to correct misleading speech is with more speech. . I actually come to this blog to learn as much as anything else. But I also have something to teach and that is mainly that nothing is "all good" , including "smart growth", nws cliches and buzz phrases to the contrary.

Solution: Move to a close in city like Lake Oswego if you don't like Portland. Seriously. There is no changing Portland, even with all the smart/realistic people who see things as they really are and want to improve things.

In L.O., they encourage recycling and provide nice rolling carts where you can comingle your recycling. They pave your roads, provide more than adequate police and fire services, have great parks, excellent schools, great programs for kids and adults, and carefully encourage development that makes sense and isn't simply someones special interest. And, the people have a say in things! They encourage participation in city affairs, and don't treat the citizens as if we are stupid if we think differently.

Portland is a mess, and will continue to be so as it buries it's head in the "progressive" sand. Save yourself!

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