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Thursday, April 15, 2010

New Portland garbage deal -- pay more, get less?

Portland's starting up its new program of curbside composting of household food waste. Along with this good news comes some bad, however: Eventually pickup of ordinary household garbage is going to be cut back to once every two weeks. The theory, I suppose, is that with the food waste being composted, people's garbage stream is going to be cut in half.

I doubt it.

We've got some neighbors who don't even do much recycling, much less composting. You think they're going to start hauling around their after-dinner slop and cut their garbage in half? I don't.

At our place, we already compost our vegetable waste -- our worm colony eats it all -- and the rest of our food waste isn't half of what's in our garbage can -- not even close. And so when they cut regular garbage pickup frequency in half, we'll have to get a bigger can. And pay more for the privilege, of course.

Along with out-of-control water and sewer bills, we're looking at a noticeable increase in our garbage bill as well. And having garbage lie around twice as long as before. Ain't nothin' but a Portland party.

Comments (32)

Less for more vis-a-vis garbage - what's new?

Back in the 90s before garbage route monopolization, my hauler drove up my drive, picked up my trash, etc., etc. I choose this hauler because of their excellent service. There was no hill fee for living in SW and no fee for not lugging my cans to the curb.

But then the city turned routes into franchise monopolies and everything started costing more with less service.

Hill or terrain fees were (illogically - because Alameda deserves them more than my neighborhood if it's about accessablility) added. Fees for non curbside pick-up were added. I could live with that, but I felt for some of my elderly neighbors.

The once per month option that a friends used was taken off the table. Blah, blah. I don't remember what the justification for this hair brained scheme was but this is just more b.s. in the same line.

Portland, the city that doesn't work for its middle class residents. Go by monopoly.

Maybe folks should try and cut back on all the plastic crap that they think they need but don't really. It certainly would cut back on what ends up in the bellies of albatross. Sad, sad.

The people who make up these rules earn two to five times the median income, cook from scratch 20 times more than median, and don't mind giving up another hour of their week to this hobby. They came up with this rule after analyzing their own garbage.

The items I wish they'd figure out a good answer for are the plastics they still reject and cat litter. Also, why is food waste a bigger priority than batteries and fluorescent bulbs?

Amen Shirley!
And if folks do not compost correctly the rat population will literally explode from all the food waste left lying around. Plague here we come!
I may invest in black ribbon factory or in quarantine signs.

Just what I'd want...Sam Adams in my kitchen, wearing an apron, telling me what I can throw in the garbage and what I need to compost. Unfortunately, this is the kind of stuff that most Poorland voters eat up and this whole scheme will likely land on Sam's list of "accomplishments".

I am concerned about rats also. I don't like the idea of buckets of kitchen waste sitting around the yard. Besides, I don't know where I am going to put another damn rolling bin. They are scattered all over the neighborhood as it is. They look like the tank traps on the Siegfried Line.

The garbage and recyling bills have quietly been going up double digit the last few years. Don't blame it on the haulers. They are forced by the CoP arbitrary franchise rules. It's a CoP quiet cash cow very under the radar. Add it to the unsustainable cost of doing business/ living in good ol' Portland. They learned from the Leonard model...."try and tell us what to do". Thank you "spinmeister" Bruce Walker.

Oh, and Metro adds to the mix with their "fees" to fund Rex et al. Bike paths from garbage and sewage. We cannot afford to live here anymore, but we know how to bike around town. Kinda has a nice ring.

I just changed my service to "ON CALL" in Tigard. To save $10 a month I will have to reques and schedule my garbage pickup on the same day I want the "included" Yard Debris and Recycling. Net savings to me of ~$10 a month. In the past I never seemed to be able coordinate my tree fall with biweekly yard debris day and need to borrow a pickup to go to Grimm's. Now the neighbors won't be able to use my empty yard bin every two weeks and my worms may have to eat cake.

I really don't know anything about composting. Can people who live in apartment buildings do it?

"Maybe folks should try and cut back on all the plastic crap"

How exactly does raising the price of garbage and picking it up less do that?

Sounds like 'rat infestation' to me - next we'll have the Black Plague as City Hall sends us all plummeting back to the Dark Ages.

I don't get the greenhouse savings rhetoric. What's the diff if the food decomposes in your backyard, general landfill, or organic material only landfill? I should think either process produces the so called dreaded "carbon dioxide" gas. It might actually produce less "dreaded" CO 2 gas release if the scraps go to the landfill given the landfills are being equipped with methane burning electric generation. Or maybe, these generators aren't really working as the city bureaucrats sold them as great investment.

One of the representatives on the portland utility review board is high on this pilot project. But I think rats and other rodents may be a real draw back to this program. My family tried composting in our yard back, and even though we worked hard not to get any meat into the material it still managed to attract rats. If you slop this stuff into the yard debris bin, residue is bound to build up and again attract rodents.

The way Adams is talking this is not a pilot program but a permanent change in citywide service.

If it weren't for the residue buildup, I think the program change could work. If it doesn't work, I may be making more trips to the dump to make up for the lost service.

what a bunch of sissies , rats make a
fine source of protein , think of all the happy cats out there. I used to love living in DC with their healthy rat population. Man , these guys were big 5 lbs and 20 inches long. I recall walking my GF back to the car one night after dinner in Georgetown , and this giant rat was sitting next to the car door , looking at us , not in the least afraid of us , and I said "how about a night cap , honey" .....

This type of "Green" CRAP makes me glad we are selling our home in Portland and have already left the state. Here in Reno we HAVE NO BOTTLE OR CAN DEPOSITS and not only do all the drinks cost less, but we are spared the BS nonsense of recycling. Just toss it in the garbage! - No more schlepping bags of empties to Fred Meyer or Winco in hopes of finding a functioning machine. And best of all, we have a much larger garbage can that costs us about 45% of what we were paying those thieves in Portland.

Meanwhile, Metro still trucks the garbage to Arlington, which in of itself is a debacle. We had to bail the trucking company out in the beginning. I am sure it is much less "green" and more expensive than using a train, like Seattle does.

I have chickens. They get all my food scraps, even leftover chicken! What really fills up my garbage can are diapers (no cloth ain't much greener ) two week old diapers in the 100 degree summer sun will have a special aroma.

It's all relative, Dave. A place with zero recycling doesn't sound like heaven to me. I throw my can in a recycling bin with basically no extra effort, and know that it isn't going to sit in a landfill for 100 years.

That said, I'm not very excited about this new food scraps program. Food scraps are much nastier than a bottle or can.

Bob Clark:"I don't get the greenhouse savings rhetoric. What's the diff if the food decomposes in your backyard, general landfill, or organic material only landfill? I should think either process produces the so called dreaded "carbon dioxide" gas. It might actually produce less "dreaded" CO 2 gas release if the scraps go to the landfill given the landfills are being equipped with methane burning electric generation."

ws:I'm not hip with co2 numbers, but it's a simple energy equation. Having the scraps decompose in your backyard does not have to go into a giant plastic bin that gets picked up every week/two weeks by a giant, diesel consuming vehicle.

The difference is in hauling the stuff away. It takes a lot of energy.

And did I mention that at our rental property, the rats ate through!!! the plastic compost bins in a matter of just a couple of days? It was a godawful mess.
It took weeks of professional rat patrol to get rid of them.

In response to several comments:

The haulers are supposed to offer once a month garbage service - that's all I use, and I often don't fill my can. As a Master Recycler, I try not to buy things with a lot of packaging, but I also recycle my plastics - Far West Fibers appear to take everything.

The compost scraps will go into the yard debris cans, and will be picked up weekly. One can always put food scraps in a container in the freezer, then put them out the night before pick-up, especially in hot weather. That's what I do now, and it's not that hard.

And, as to the methane-related questions - I believe the material will come back as compost - at least a couple of retailers carry Cedar Grove compost, and it's made from food/yard debris - they're an outfit up in Washington, around Tacoma or Olympia.

A company called Recology recently purchased Pacific Land Clearing's business - PLC did yard debris, as well as building materials recycling. They have at least two pretty good sized locations in Portland. I believe Recology handles San Francisco's food composting, and I wouldn't be surprised if they don't end up with a local site for food/yard debris composting. This will actually cut the driving - since garbage is currently taken to Arlington, and the compost site should be local.

How about less garbage from City Hall for a change?

Is anyone out there in the target neighborhoods that have to try this now?

I am actually right across the street from the Roseway test area. Heiberg will be the hauler with the Roseway test area - I have Waste Management. I would guess that it was easier to negotiate this with the local haulers than the big corporate boys.

and Mojo - do you want SamRand sitting in your dumpster, even if only for a week ;)

Move to Tigard, Jack! They are laying off employees, paving roads, improving parks, libraries, and schools. At about half the tax rate for a similar sized house. Water and sewer rates are cheaper too! Go by Barbur!

Hey, yeah! I'd make a bundle selling tix to see Tweedle Adums & Tweedle Randee in my dumpster, ump. "They're taking a streetcar named Desire."

An encore

I live in one of the target neighborhoods and my sweetie took the call from the city attempting to round up sample households...we demurred.

I have been composting for over twenty five years now. I have five of the black plastic compost towers that Metro has been flogging for years, plus a funky wooden frame composter for yard debris. That takes care of almost all non-meat/non-grain food debris. The result has been to reduce to a small can (20 gallon vs. 35 gallon) which I can forget to put out and an occasional yard debris can with sticks and twigs.

With the towers, I have never had a problem with rats.

Do I get any reward for this? No.

Recently, I added chickens to the program. Inadvertantly, as I was unaware of the role of chickens in composting. They consume more than the grain waste my household can generate, along with some proteins (meat, cheese, yoghurt).

They have been a source of rat attraction.

I'd just like the City to uphold its part of the bargain about keeping the stinking streets clean of the leaves dropped by the trees they encouraged us (and our neighbors) to plant.

I don't like paying more for other people to do what I already do.

And yes, I remember the days when I was a refuse and recycling collector here in Portland. That was before curbside cans. I'm glad that haulers no longer have to go to the can...that was nuts. I was there when the whole franchising thing came down, picking up trash and recycling in SE Portland. I pushed for limiting haulers operating in any given area to three, or at least two, to give customers a choice of operators.

But nooooo...The dumbasses in Environmental Services demanded that any area be served ONLY by a single hauler. The cited reason? To reduce the number of large trucks (garbage trucks) moving around city streets. That's from where the 'reduction in greenhouse gases' was to come, the reduction in miles driven by diesel vehicles. (Ignoring that they had to turn and ship it up I-84 by truck, thereby pissing away any beneficial reduction in emissions of 'greenhouse gases'.)

Of course, in the process, the City of Portland got into bed with one of the crookedest companies on the east coast. The mob-connected Waste Management Corporation...under indictment in seven states for fraud and price-rigging when Portland entered the contract with them.

I warned folks then that we would come to we are arrivin

The prime actor at the City in putting together the debacle of garbage franchising and the dubious blotch on the Morrow County landscape?

Sue Keil, the present Director of the CoP Office of Transportation.

If you want to focus on any particular person responsible, she is the one. She probably wrote most of the language in the franchising ordinance. I know she wrote most of the language in the contract with the sleazy basterds at Waste Management.

My biggest problem is food-tainted plastics and bonded packaging (plastic and paper bonded, metallic film and plastic, or any other two items bonded together is unredeemable refuse).

Most packaging is unnecessary and a waste. Electronics dweebs are the worst; just look at all that rigid plastic waste that consumer electronics generates!

I'd suggest reducing at the source, but the producers of the crap care more about their bottom line than your garbage bill or the seabirds and marine life of the north Pacific.

On the one hand, I don't think you're gonna stop this juggernaut, as it's the way of the future. Plenty of other cities are already doing this, and as our population grows and we pack more people into settled areas in the Metro area -- and I don't mean just Portland, since the suburbs are the most likely place most new arrivals and new native-born residents are going to eventually settle (bikes and expensive sandwich shops are nice but good schools and jobs are even better) -- the cost of disposing waste is going to rise exponentially. I see one, two, maybe three more generations of relatively unbridled consumerism possible before something (pick your conspiracy) -- China sucking up all the oil, climate change, immigration, Malthusian population growth, running out of landfill space, environmental regulations, etc. -- lowers the boom on our kids and grandkids and huge trash bills, recycling, and composting toilets will be mandatory. Heck, they'll even accept it because it will be all they know. I think we'll look back on this pilot project fondly the same way we wistfully remember the days when you could register your car for only $5.

On the other hand, I do agree with other posters about the unfairness in this particular implementation. Charging the same price for less-frequent pick-up is suspicious. If the city needs that savings to run the program that's frustrating but at least understandable. But given the city's typical behavior, the fix is in somewhere. Probably the savings will get siphoned into the Bike Master Plan, since, you know, we need to make sure bikers are separated a safe distance from the curb so they don't clip the new wheeled compost carts and get hurt.

As someone else suggested, why not an incentive program like a rebate on your garbage bill for composting similar to BES's (too-small) rebate for disconnecting your downspouts? Then people will be motivated to conserve more and compost because it's in their economic self-interest (something even lefties' economist darling, Paul Krugman, advocates.)

When the CoP was screwing up the franchising of garbage, Seattle had just implemented a weigh and pay program for garbage (and that is an excellent and fair way to reduce trash in the can). However, when several folks I know, including me, brought this up with the morons making this decision we were told that that would be way too difficult to implement (meaning Waste Mgt. did not want to deal with it). The weigh and pay still would be fair and induce behavior changes in my opinion but it won't be coming to PDX.

Why is Sam messing with this? I though METRO was repsonsible for the garbage franchise or is this one less thing we get for our $550M contribution/yr to METRO?

There is absolutely nothing sustainable about hauling food waste around town in a gas powered truck.

Portland will remain pseudo-green until it begins paying "rebates" to rate payers who conserve water, sewer, and food waste. This is already being done in many cities around the world, aka, greywater/composting toilets.

Steve - This link is for you and its about the history of garbage in PDX including franchising. I even learned that only single family residences are the target of this particular governmental interference.

From the link above"

"From February 1992 to today, Portland garbage and recycling companies serve “residential” customers in specific city-assigned territories, but they may serve “commercial” customers anywhere in Portland."

Glad to know businesses have special rights in Portland.


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