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This page contains a single entry from the blog posted on August 16, 2012 1:09 PM. The previous post in this blog was Portland parks: "Don't forget, we're after your money, too". The next post in this blog is Fluoride in Portland water is a done deal. Many more can be found on the main index page or by looking through the archives.

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Thursday, August 16, 2012

Portland, perfect for people who have no life

A reader sends along an interesting exchange that his wife had with the Portland planning and sustainability bureau yesterday. It started when she posted this on a city web page that invited readers to "Submit a Garbage, Recycling or Composting Question":

This is not a question, but a complaint regarding every other week garbage pickup. As a small family of 3 with one in diapers and 2 dogs, I have never been a fan of the increased time during collection. We had to upgrade the size of our can and therefore have to pay more even though now we are provided with less service.

The smell surrounding the bins and when depositing bags into our garbage receptacle is putrid. This disgusting smell from both our cans and our neighbors wafts into our home. There have been an increasing number of flies and other bugs near our bins. During the summer heat that we've been having, this is just completely unsanitary. We pay money for a sanitation service and I don't feel that it is being adequately provided.

We have been noticing at times that the entire neighborhood reeks of garbage! It is disgusting.

I hope the city strongly considers at least making it an option to return to weekly garbage service.

She got back a remarkable response -- preposterous, really:

RE: City of Portland TrackIT Submission: Office of Sustainable Development Item 618409

Hello M***,

Thank you for contacting Waste Info.

I’m sorry to hear that you’re having problems with fruit flies. I know they can be very annoying. Fruit flies are common in kitchen areas, but there are ways to control them and make your kitchen a less desirable home for them. There are also ways to manage your composting cart outside to deter flies. We did answer questions about fruit flies from a few customers during the summer months of the pilot. So far, we’ve had success in controlling them. Additionally we’ve learned some tips from businesses such as restaurants that keep large amounts of food scraps in their kitchen areas for composting.

Inside the house:

First, keep your kitchen pail tightly closed when you are not using it. You may want to store your pail in a cabinet when you are not actively using it. Also it is important to empty your pail frequently into your Portland Composts! Roll cart. You may choose to use a kitchen pail liner such as newspaper, paper bag or approved compostable bag. This will cut down on some of the mess in the pail. After you dump your food scraps into your composting cart, be sure to rinse and dry kitchen pail before starting to use it again. If fruit flies persist, you may decide to trap them. You can do this by filling a small jar with apple cider vinegar, covering the jar with plastic wrap. Secure the plastic wrap to the jar with a rubber band and poke a few holes in the top of the plastic. Fruit flies will be attracted to the vinegar and once inside the jar, won’t be able to get back out. Remember, fruit flies are attracted to fruit that has gone bad, so if you store fruit in the house, be sure to keep an eye on it and quickly compost any pieces that may have spoiled.

Outside the house:

You can wipe the inside of the cart lid with essential oils such as citronella, clove or tea tree oil, which are natural insect repellents. You may want to consider layering your food waste with yard debris (lasagna style) or adding sheets of newspaper before and after you place food scraps in the cart. Keeping food scraps contained (and less accessible) to fruit flies is easier if you use a kitchen pail liner. If possible, store the cart in the shade. Some residents found, during the pilot, that sprinkling baking soda in their carts helped keep odors down which makes the cart less attractive to flies. Perhaps the most important action is setting out the cart weekly for collection. When the cart is empty you can place a pizza delivery box or newspaper in the bottom to soak up liquid and help ensure that all items fall out of the cart when it is tipped into the truck.

We have lots of tips on our web site about cleaning the kitchen pail and the composting cart including a couple of short instructional videos. You can access these resources at http://www.portlandonline.com/bps/index.cfm?c=47246&a=371147

A helpful hint for the garbage cart outside: first be sure to rinse any food container before placing on the curb. If you eliminate the food source, the flies will cease to gather. I make a habit out of rinsing out cans and food take out containers before placing in the can.

I know change can be difficult. But every step we take to reduce what is being taken to the landfills is a step in the right direction. When the program first started I was very sure that it would not work for me. I wasn’t happy about the every other week garbage pickup, as I have cats. After a month or two, I realized that it was actually working for my family. I was making more conscious efforts to take recyclable items out of the garbage cart, and place in the blue recycle bin. That alone made a huge difference. Once I started taking out food scraps faithfully, we were able to actually reduce our service to every 4 weeks. We’ve had it through this summer, and one of the things I changed to help reduce odor was to scoop the litter box more frequently, double bagging smaller portions, and sprinkling baking soda in the bag before I seal it.

We line our cart with the daily paper, and then a couple times a month my husband hoses out the cart.

We do appreciate hearing from people, whether it’s comments and concerns, or helpful hints.

I hope the information above with help with the pest issues.

Regards,
Annette

Our incredulous correspondent reacts thusly:

-- My wife doesn’t mention fruit flies in the kitchen, but the City does in its definitely un-canned response.

-- I would love to know what “success” they have had in controlling flies around garbage cans with two-week old diapers.

-- Annette’s husband must be very dedicated. If you believe Annette, although they only have their garbage picked up once a month (which must mean her cat litter has been baking for four weeks in the sun), her husband lines the cart with newspaper and sprays the garbage can out a couple of times a month. Really? He lines the garbage can, puts garbage in, takes garbage out, hoses out the garbage can, re-lines the garbage can with newspaper, replaces garbage into the can, puts more garbage in, takes garbage out, hoses out the garbage can, re-re-lines the garbage can with newspapers, re-replaces garbage into the can, and then the garbage is picked up by the City? Wash. Rinse. Repeat. X2. Hilarious if true.

There are a million laughs in Portland, so long as you don't live there.

Comments (36)

And to think, that poor lady has yet to experience the joy of cleaning up dead rats. Luckily, I've been able to enjoy that pursuit ever since the city deemed my neighborhood the perfect choice for its composting pilot program.

Thanks, local government!

Holy smokes-what a gubmint we have!

Ranks right up there with all the endless and interminable "public involvement" meetings filled with lackeys of the 1% who are all on the clock at $100 per hour or better, and in which mere citizens are expected to keep up in their spare time, and the outcome was cooked before the process started, anyway. Then if you don't like the outcome, they tell you to come to more meetings. Insanity.

"Thanks for writing. My advice is that you try to be as virtuous as me and my husband. Did I mention that we don't eat meat, and we don't even own a TV? Yeah, I'm pretty great alright. In summary, try harder."

This should be bronzed as the quintessential City of Portland response.

"Many newborns can be trained to limit their bowel movements to one or two per week."

Unbelievable!! I'd like some of the kool-aid Annette is drinking.

During the summer heat that we've been having, this is just completely unsanitary. We pay money for a sanitation service and I don't feel that it is being adequately provided.

I have been writing about this for some time, who exactly is in charge of the health aspects of our city, Multnomah County Health Department?
Call Jeff Cogen and ask him what he plans to do about this?

Of course, the 1% will be able to pay others to take care of these daily rotten chores. Most likely the people behind this plan don't even live here or if they do, they can get away from the heat and away from the smell and problems.

We line our cart with the daily newspaper every day while putting all recyclables in the blue bin. Inane chatter.

The classic technique of stating a like like it is an obvious truth:

"But every step we take to reduce what is being taken to the landfills is a step in the right direction."

How so? There is no shortage of landfill space. Most of us prefer to have garbage in a landfill rather than at our homes. This is like the growth limits to protect farmland while paying farmers not to grow crops because there is too much supply.

Overall landfill capacity is increasing and operators compete aggressively for garbage to fill them.

A study calculated that at the current rate of waste generation, all of America's garbage for the next 1,000 years would fit into a single landfill space only 120 feet deep and 44 miles square. 98% of the US is uninhabited, there is plenty of room for trash.

I like how they suggest that we need to wash our garbage before we put it in the garbage... I thought water was a scarce limited resource, and you want us to waste it on washing garbage?

Not to mention the extra load that washing garbage puts on the sewer system...

Let's not forget about the snitch culture that the city wanted to impose in tandem with composting:

http://blog.oregonlive.com/portlandcityhall/2012/06/portland_considers_protection.html

Truly we are blessed by the leadership gods.

We are inundated with flies this summer. Our bakyard is unihabitable.

Let me get this straight. Her husband hoses out the garbage bin a "couple times a month" but they are on a 4 week service. He must have to remove the garbage from the bin several times a month to wash the bin and then put the garbage back into the bin..........not buying it.

I hate the flies. They are some new orange kind, too. Anything that produces novel pests is a loser in my book. Yuk.

"I know change can be difficult."

That's the understatement of the year - How long have these clowns been running Portland?

Most likely the people behind this plan don't even live here or if they do, they can get away from the heat and away from the smell and problems.

Increasingly likely, in my opinion. It's as if Portland is viewed more as a problem to be managed, a barn full of dumb beasts to be kept fed and milked, not as a place where people live.

They want to herd us into khrushchyovka while no doubt they'll live in dachas on the outskirts, because they are important people who make important decisions.
They want us to give up our mobility while no doubt they'll have their Volgas, because they are important people who make important decisions.

And the amazing thing is, it's being pitched at and gobbled up by a generation that hasn't a clue.

Pitched at, gobbled up and aggressively promoted by whippersnappers who have bought into all the B.S. with unparalleled enthusiasm and zero skepticism. It's a serious problem.

It is a serious problem as I have also perceived a cult of ones who have apparently been propagandized to accept all the eco-this and that, anything with the word sustainable and other buzz words attached without in depth questioning.

This is more than just another generational gap here that those who have been around awhile are only misunderstanding. Many of us understand the agenda here, and have been around long enough to know propaganda. I have asked before, do they even teach the course in school anymore?

Anon: Welcome to the thread. You fit right in.

In every police state in the world there are people like Annette who side with the state.

In most cases, people like Annette think they are superior to everyone else. Mao, Hitler, Castro, etc. all knew how to exploit this desire to be superior. Looks like Sammy has a little bit of that talent too.

There are too many of these types whose salaries we pay that work for the city.
One would think they are into waging war against the citizens the way they act.
I am sure there are good people that work there as well and are perhaps just as upset with what is going on in our city hall chambers. The "superior" ones work well for the agenda and are sent out to control public meetings should any citizens question too much!

Pitched at, gobbled up and aggressively promoted by whippersnappers who have bought into all the B.S. with unparalleled enthusiasm and zero skepticism. It's a serious problem.

Didn't interbellum Germany have a similar problem?

Do people work for the government, or does the government work for the people?

Those who want to "help the environment" are more than welcome to take their individual steps to reduce their garbage, with no adverse impact to anyone else. But those people who unilaterally force changes on others...why??

These city mouthpieces never directly answer the complaint. The issue is stinky garbage not food debris in the green bin. I think they avoid the real question because there is no glib answer to be given to such an obvious problem.

"But every step we take to reduce what is being taken to the landfills is a step in the right direction."

John, wasn't the main reason cited for starting this "composting" program to reduce methane production in landfills (from rotting food scraps), not to save landfill "space" or the number of landfills? I may be wrong, but seems like I remember something about the new garbage "policy" being tied to air quality/global warming.

And, of course, the response includes the usual, condescending, "I know change can be difficult." That Portland City employees thinks they can speak in such a patronizing way to the people who pay their salaries is outrageous and unacceptable. (Lake Oswego residents are frequently subjected to the same blatant condescending behavior from the current majority on the City Council and their supporters.)

For cat owners, one thing that might help is switching to scoopable, biodegradable cat litter you can flush down the toilet, like "Swheat Scoop" (made from wheat) or "World's Best" (made from corn). They are a little more expensive, but worth every penny because the job is less of a hassle and you don't have bags of stinky cat stuff waiting for garbage pick-up day.

I know, I know, flushing cat litter down the toilet is banned in CA because there is some concern that a parasite (?) sometimes found in cat feces (apparently not removed by sewage treatment plants) is harmful to sea mammals, but I've also read that there is no direct evidence that this is happening due to cat feces as many sea critters have the same parasite.

Anyway, I'll never go back to the old litter (guess I won't be moving to CA, either), so for those of you who are stuggling with the cat litter thing, it might be worth a try.

Just got back in from what should have been a pleasant evening walk with my dog: Tomorrow is garbage pickup day and it smells like a bad neighborhood in Mumbai around here. The stench was truly overpowering.

They wanted to make Portland a "World Class" town and they succeeded -- 3rd world.

Third World class... heh. Think of the extra, pointless work as a ritual of faith -- sorting your bins is like the Greenie edition of performing the Stations of the Cross.

Jack ends his commentary with "...as long as you don't live here". I don't, but I'm not laughing. Even a layperson such as myself knows enough science and history to know how cities succeed and fail, and how epidemics start.

We spent millenia struggling to learn how to live in a reasonably sanitary fashion, and now we're tossing out these advances as if they don't mean anything. But they do -- look at the West Nile epidemic in Texas.

Someday this foolishness will cause a huge problem (probably from the exploding rodent population). I don't imagine that it will even take that long. You can give back centuries of advances real fast, if you try.

I'm not too worried about an exploding rodent problem, I can just shoot them. It's not like PPD will worry about a little more gunfire in NE PDX...

Just got back in from what should have been a pleasant evening walk with my dog: Tomorrow is garbage pickup day and it smells like a bad neighborhood....

How does this stenchy plan work with the idea that they definitely want us to walk more?
Who knows, maybe the bike lobby will actually come in and do us all a favor and move to change this, they seem to have more clout, this might be putting a damper on biking as well.

I feel sorry for the dog too. With their sense of smell this must be horrible.

This looks to be the link to 'submit a question'...in case you're inclined:
http://www.portlandoregon.gov/bps/55480

A question like "what drugs are you on?"


Some of the generational arguments fall a little flat. 20 somethings are not running the show.

We are currently visiting friends in Long Beach CA.
The city is safe, and clean and they have weekly garbage pick up, and recycling, with a once a month! Pick up for stuff like lumber, appliances, and other large items....and it is reasonably priced too!

I no longer live in Portland but, if I did, I wouldn't be too terribly concerned with the city's new (and completely absurd, impractical, short-sighted, etc) waste management program.

I'd simply take my trash down to 1221 SW 4th Ave once a week and leave it in front of the place. Problem = solved.

Some of the generational arguments fall a little flat. 20 somethings are not running the show.

Perhaps not, but there are a lot of 20 somethings in the city. And their naivete is easily exploited by the city's "leadership."

Clinamen, anyone who has ever watched in horror and disgust as their dog rolled around in another dog's sh*t (also, once in SF, in human sh*t!) or the remains of a decaying animal, and subsequently had to bathe the dog to get the crap off, would not be too worried about the odor of garbage bothering their dog. They love stinky stuff!


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Road Work

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