So where are all the food scraps going to go?
Amid all the hoopla surrounding Portland's impending switch to bi-weekly garbage pickup and weekly curbside food scrap recycling, little has been said about where all the recycled food scraps, which the haulers currently take 120 miles east to the Arlington landfill, are going to go for composting. They're going to be thrown in with residents' yard debris, and so does that mean that the existing yard debris composters are going to handle them? Or are the scraps going to that new facility in the Cully neighborhood, to which restaurants will reportedly be sending their waste food?
And whose property will the compost be? There is going to be a huge amount of it. Is anybody set up to handle that much new compost? Who's going to make money on the deal, and how much, for how long?
So far, all we can find on these questions is a brief discussion on this page on the mayor's website:
The food scraps are being sent to Pacific Region Compost in Benton County and Nature’s Needs in North Plains. These are commercial composting facilities that use specialized processes to break down organic matter. Compost from these businesses is sold to landscapers and other agricultural users.
Love that passive voice. Sold by whom, and who gets the proceeds?
The Pacific Region compost facility is south of Monmouth and north of Corvallis. It is just south of the border of Polk and Benton Counties, about 60 miles south of Portland City Hall. The North Plains site is just off Highway 26 east of Glencoe Road, about 18 miles west of Portland City Hall, in Washington County.
The Pacific Region facility is run by Allied Waste Services of Corvallis, which is in turn owned by a huge national waste disposal outfit known as Republic Services, Inc., headquartered in Phoenix. Nature's Needs is operated by a San Francisco-based company known as Recology. An employee-owned company, its operations are apparently limited to California, Oregon, and Nevada.
There's a lot of money involved in the new Portland garbage regime. Out in the much-abused Lents neighborhood, a fight is in progress about using a Recology transfer station near I-205 for all the stinky scraps, some of which will have already been sitting for two weeks or more before they get deposited there. And as Willy Week recently reported, there's a boatload of money being thrown around against siting the food scrap transfer operation at that location, with the opposition hiding the source of a lot of the dough. Speculation is that the money's coming from a company related to Allied Waste, which runs the compost facility way down in Monmouth.
It gets crazier. County Commissioner Judy Shiprack is in on it somehow. Remember how she and Fireman Randy tried to sell the Paulson baseball stadium that would have paved over Lents Park? Good times. Now she's got ideas to offer about the propriety of using the transfer station for table slop (she's opposed). It's been suggested that her husband's lobbying firm is pulling that string. What a dynamic duo we have there. In the immortal words of Cary Grant (or was it Larry Storch?), Judy Judy Judy. It's funny that she'd butt in on a city matter while the city's taxpayers are eating her and her husband's worthless $1.8 million IOU.
Anyway, while Portlanders wonder whether they're going to go along with the City Hall arm-twisting or just order up a bigger garbage can, they shouldn't take their eyes off the ball. As usual, big money decisions are being made in back rooms, while a public debate about "green" this and that provides an excellent distraction.