The new Portland garbage deal
It's garbage and recycling pickup morning on our block, and coincidentally, there's an interesting piece in the O about impending changes to solid waste disposal practices in Portland. According to the story, the ubiquitous yellow bins in which we do curbside recycling are scheduled to disappear, to be replaced by large rolling carts. Under the new system, the need to separate types of recycling would be minimized, and at least one new category of plastic would be added to the list of those suitable for recycling. On the downside, recycling would become mandatory; the monthly bill for garbage pickup would go up by a few dollars to cover the costs of the changes; and there's talk of making garbage pickup a biweekly, rather than a weekly, affair.
We're fairly religious about recycling at our place, and so mechanically, not a lot would change for us on account of the proposed new features. Some plastic things, which we currently schlep to the nearby Wild Oats store, could go out to the curb on Monday nights instead. Today's article says that "yogurt containers" will become curbside-recyclable; by this I assume they mean no. 5 plastic tubs. Great. The other thing we take to Wild Oats every couple of months is our collection of no. 2 plastic bags -- it would be nice if our garbage hauler could recycle those for us as well. Any plastic item with a neck for a twist-cap already already gets recycled at our curb, and of course the plastic water bottles lying in that particular bin these days are soon going back to the store for a deposit, anyway.
The O story emphasizes that under the new system, there would be less need for the consumer to separate out various types of recyclables. That's a surprising assertion, because under the current Portland system, very little separation is required. Assuming we're not talking about used motor oil here, the only separation required right now is that paper items (a broad category) go in one bin, glass in another, and everything else that's recyclable in a third. Under the new system, glass will still have to be separated, and so all that would be eliminated is separating paper from everything else -- to me, a minimal inconvenience.
Ah, but the roll carts would be a wonderful touch. I'd love to have one large covered bin outside into which we could throw all the recycling stuff (except for the glass). As it stands now, we keep everything recyclable inside until the night before garbage day, because otherwise it gets miserably wet, attracts pests, or both. If it could all go promptly outside into one big barrelful as soon as it's outlived its usefulness, that would make life easier. And the 65-gallon capacity they're talking about is a pretty big recycling bin.
There's also talk of having yard debris picked up every week, instead of every other week as is done currently. That one also surprises me. We have a fairly typical Portland yard, and even in peak gardening season, we generate only about 40 to 50 gallons of yard debris a week. We have a 90-gallon big rolling cart that takes care of our needs quite well on an every-other-week schedule. Once all the leaves are picked up in the fall, we generate very little by way of yard debris until spring, and during that time, we could get by with a pickup of, say, once every three weeks, or even once a month. And of course, all that junky infill housing we're letting the developers build in Portland has very little by way of a yard, and so I would think the volume of yard debris in these parts is going down, not up.
But they're also talking about eventually picking up food scraps and food-soiled paper separately from ordinary garbage as well, and this would apparently be done at the same time and in the same bin as the yard debris (ick!). Now, at our house, most unused vegetable matter is currently composted with the help of a large colony of hungry redworms that occupies our composting bin. Only meat and grains wind up in the garbage. I can't imagine that separating the food scraps from everything else is going to be much fun, and it could make for a logjam under the kitchen sink. We're not going to carry each plate out to the yard debris bin to scrape it off after a meal, that's for sure.