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Monday, August 8, 2011

Is half of your garbage food scraps?

We've been writing for some time now about the City of Portland's long-term plan to cut regular garbage pickup from once a week to once every two weeks. Part of the package is that the city will allow residents to throw all their food scraps into their yard debris bin along with their yard debris, and have that slop picked up once a week along with the rest of their recycling. But the stuff for the landfill will get picked up only every other week.

Well, apparently, the long term is now, as the Sam Rand Twins are going to start ramming the new program home this week. It's sure to create a lot of heat, but with two lame ducks on the City Council, more impervious than ever to public opposition, the new plan will surely pass. And it's all wrapped up in "green" talk, so the city's legion of creative class baristas will automatically snap to attention and salute.

It will be an interesting call for Nurse Amanda, who's in a tough re-election race. Will she let outraged opponents of the plan speak, or will she dismissively tell them how they should live?

Curiously, just 10 days ago the city was inviting people to hearings in late September on new garbage rules. Now, all of a sudden, the City Council's going to approve the revised program in August. There's the public process that we love so well.

On the merits, the problem for some of us is that we already compost a great deal of our food waste -- not all of it, but a lot of it -- and our garbage can, which is quite full every week, mostly contains items that are neither recyclable nor compost-able. For us, it means that we'll have to get a bigger garbage can and pay our hauler a higher rate. For less frequent garbage service. More money, less service -- forget the Twitter addresses, that should be the city's official motto.

Even those who don't presently compost a thing will probably be faced with the same circumstances as ours. Unless half of your garbage or more is food scraps, or you've already got a bigger can than you need, you're going to need a bigger can come this fall. And if you already fill up your yard debris bin every two weeks, there won't be room for your food scraps and you'll need a new garbage can that's twice as big as your current one.

What's the benefit? They say there'll be fewer garbage trucks on the streets, but with the yard debris trucks doubling their number of runs, that assertion doesn't make sense. There'll be less stuff going into the landfills, and we guess that's a good thing. Plus, some outfit's doubtlessly going to turn the slop into fertilizer and energy. Will profits made in the process be channeled back to cut garbage rates? Ha! Ha! There's your Monday morning funny.

And just think, just two more months before we get to deal with the new city leaf tax again.

Comments (45)

Didn't think much of the trash compactor the previous owner of our house left behind. Now I wish I knew where she lived so I could send her a thank-you note, as we will be using it quite extensively now.

The City of Portland "public hearings" process is largely a farce. I recently attended a time-certain hearing at City Hall where a dozen citizens were prepared to present testimony. Practiced and prepared to present their three minute testimony in a clear and concise way.

As the first three respondents took their seats the Mayor smiled and said, "I've never heard a good three minute argument that wasn't better in two -- GO!" (And, yes, the other side received their full time allotment.)

Amanda was the only member of council who appeared to be paying attention and asked meaningful questions.

Public participation indeed!

Let's see how many food scraps fit in when your yard debris can is full of autumn leaves ...

"Portland, The City that Wreaks"

First, which is it, every other week or twice per month? The story uses those terms interchangeably, but one implies a consistent two week interval and the other implies a three week interval about once per quarter. There are 52, not 48, weeks in a year.

We had all better hope they mean every two weeks. But who knows with these folks?

"Welcome to Portland. You WILL be a better person, dammit! I don't care if we have to send Portland PD into your living room and bend your arm until it breaks, you WILL be a better person! Oh, and enjoy your stay."

So weary of this City Council, and all these "great" ideas. And now circumvention of the public process? No surprise there. Our garbage can is nearly full each week, and this will be another economic hardship. Go away Randy and Sam!!!

I will be buying the largest most powerful garbage disposal unit they have and send everything I can down the drain so that I still have enough room in my garbage can. (Not to mention the yard debris can gets filled a lot already, and I still have one of the over-sized 90 gallon ones.)

Note: I do compost a lot of stuff, and I may start composting more.

My other option is to buy a pack of the "t-shirt" bags from Costco and bring a small bag of garbage to work with me everyday. Hey, then I can cancel my garbage service and save lots of money.

We compost a heck of a lot in our house, but there are lots of folks around--apartment/condo owners, primarily--who simply cannot compost--they don't have the room. My guess is that neighborhood trash cans (at schools and whatnot) are going to be getting a lot of midnight deliveries of garbage and other debris. Yay, unintended consequences!

Two words... rat farm.

This has "unintended consequences" written all over it.

The Tribune article said the city had polled people, and some 87% of people like the new food scrap proposal. This has to be another mis leading statement. You can't get people to agree on even everyday things at much more than 60 to 70% rate. This has got to be one of those disingenous push poll things, or just flat out lie like the Sustainability Office's claim of a Texas sized floating island of plastic bags (called out as false by even Green Peace and OSU environmental research department).

I do most all of my family's kitchen clean up each day, and I am not using this food pale thing. I spend enough time cleaning the kitchen as it is without adding in a new function of separating out food scraps.

Instead I will replace my inactive garbage disposal and use the new garbage disposal unit to reduce volume. I am not going to have a pile of food scraps on my counter, and I am not going to throw rodent attacting meat scraps into my yard debris cart. Fortunately, we usually have significant space left in our regular old garbage can, and yet fully use our yard debris cart.

But this is yet one more reason to evacuate the city of Portland, and hope the rest of the state can counter the green nazi's of the city of Portland and Multnomah county.

Listening to the Bob Miller show this morning, he interviewed a woman who has been in the Test Group. She said at first it was hard to get used to, but not it's not so bad. They just keep their "slop pail" lined with newspaper so it's easy to clean out. And they learned (the hard way) that they have to wrap their raw meat scraps and bones in newspaper as well, to prevent maggots.

We don't subscribe to the Big O any more, so our source of newspaper is rather thin.

We already compost our produce scraps, and we eat most leftovers, so we don't have much food waste.

I guess by eliminating our source of plastic bags first, we won't be tempted to wrap food waste in plastic bags before disposing of it.

One other thing....my husband works for the City. When a disgruntled customer (I mean "voter") calls and gripes to a commisioner's office, that commisioner is immediately on the phone to the bureau, demanding that things get fixed for that customer.

Maybe if enough of us phone the commisioners, they might get a clue??? (I can at least dream, can't I?)

Grumpy and Clark, as you know the rat problem is a big issue, especially in the SW. Many of our neighbors are now at the level of having to hire continuous rat exterminating services. This garbage proposal isn't helping the problem. We frequently see rats coming out of our stormwater manholes rummaging through garbage. Now adding this new element will compound the problem.

I'm sure SamRand have thought it through. I'm hoping Fritz and Saltzman with their educational backgrounds will appropriately apply their knowledge and the public's to the issue and vote this down.

We too already compost all our fruit/vegetable waste. Meats and breads/cerals go in the garbage. Our weekly garbage load is a kitchen garbage bag that is 1/2 - 3/4 full.

Our recycling bin goes out to the curb only when about full.. maybe once every 3 or 4 weeks or so. Weekly recycling pick-up with those big carts seems like a good place to reduce pick-up services with no adverse affect on any households.

Bi-weekly yard debris has been the hardest for us. Between normal yard debris and vegetable garden debris we have a full yard debris can every two weeks except in the deepest part of the winter - and we have an additional can/bag or two every couple months. From looking up and down the street, compostables (yard debris) seem to be the waste volume issue at most houses in our neighborhood.

For our waste situation, I've wanted a bi-weekly trash option because weekly was excessive for us. I'm glad to get weekly compostable pick-up. Weekly pick-up of food scraps in the compost cart seems the same as weekly pick-up of food waste in garbage cans. I'd gladly give-up the weekly recycling pick-up as a cost-reduction.

Typical SamRand. I'm all for people trying to reduce their environmental footprint - if a system (compost, recycling, etc) works for you, great. In fact, I don't even object to the city incentivizing envirnomentally friendly behavior (i.e. 1/2 price on garbage pickup if you leave a compost or recycling tub out on the curb). But for the city of Portland to CUT the garbage service in half and charge the SAME PRICE for that service (sorry for the caps, but it's galling) is theft. Go by Streetcar - straight to bankruptcy court.

but there are lots of folks around--apartment/condo owners, primarily--who simply cannot compost--they don't have the room.

Indeed — but how many of us that live in apartment buildings will even get a chance to use this? I sure as heck don't have a yard debris container or even use regular garbage service. We just throw trash in one dumpster and recycling in a second, and a couple times a week it gets emptied by a TrashCo truck and taken who-knows-where.

I too, would've liked a bi-weekly pickup, but until now the only option was monthly, which wasn't often enough and felt like a ripoff anyways because the rate savings were only 25% for a 75% reduction in service, so I went back to weekly and accepted trash from my friends.

Bi-weekly is probably good enough for most of those who choose to continue living in this sad and stupidly run city, but I seriously doubt you'll see much of any savings at least not for long, you just watch.

Hey, then I can cancel my garbage service and save lots of money.

I think some people have tried that, and the city said you must have service.

"And they learned (the hard way) that they have to wrap their raw meat scraps and bones in newspaper as well, to prevent maggots. "

Michelle, are you suggesting that maggots won't read The Big O? Jus' askin'.

NEPguy. I went through the same thinking when I decided against monthly garbage pick-up - monthly was just too infrequent.

I don't think of reduction in garbage pick-up in the face of doubled compostables pick-up as being a reduction in service. I see the garbage/ compostables/recycling pick-ups as part of a combined waste haulage system. The same amount of stuff will get picked-up from our house in the same number of truck runs under the proposed plan as now. In our case, the move to more compostable pick-up versus trash is a significant increase in service that we can use.

Less compostable waste being hauled to and buried at Arlington is good all around. Less to haul is good because it results in fewer truck loads over that distance. Fewer buried compostables means less waste undergoing anaerobic decomposition, which is stinky and bad for other reasons, too.

If I remember correctly, the start of the recycling program (in the yellow bin days) also had some strident opposition.

Control freaks are at it again.

Hey, then I can cancel my garbage service and save lots of money.

I think some people have tried that, and the city said you must have service.

I thought that it was just rental properties that were required to have service. (Because renters often wouldn't pay, and trash would pile up.)

Does anyone have a link to information on requirements for garbage service for a normal homeowner? Wouldn't requiring garbage service essentially be a tax? (Like people talked about with the leaf clean-up "fee".)

Genuine question...what are people throwing away each week that they need weekly garbage pick up? We're a family of three with monthly pickup, and it works just fine. It'd be different when our son was a baby with the diapers and all. But now, really, we can recycle or compost almost everything except for meat and grains.

How about stinky diapers for one?

I suppose we could suggest that people either a) use cloth diapers exclusively which require LOTS of water (oh boy!) and LOTS of time, b) switch to an expensive diaper server, or c) discourage white-people-with-money-who-try-to-live-by-the-rules from bringing or having children in the city?

OK, I found something here: http://www.portlandonline.com/bds/index.cfm?a=25079&c=28397

The City of Portland has enacted an ordinance requiring that all rental property have weekly garbage service. This service must be subscribed to and paid for by the owner of the property. Owner occupied properties are not required to have weekly garbage service but are required to maintain their property in a clean condition. This ordinance has greatly contributed to the cleanliness of the City of Portland and thereby helped reduce the workload on Inspectors.

So it doesn't look like I am required. But in looking at the code you only get recycling and yard debris pickup with at least monthly garbage service, which they are planning to get rid of right?

...is it, every other week or twice per month? The story uses those terms interchangeably, but one implies a consistent two week interval and the other implies a three week interval about once per quarter.

It would be a big enough problem at our house if we forgot to put the garbage out on pick up day. It would be especially bad if it was one of those three week intervals.

I'm confused. Metro has been promoting composting for years with education and low-cost bins. Are we just supposed to abandon our compost bins? Moreover, many of us who compost do so in order to have the black gold that it becomes to return to our gardens. Why would I ship that off and then have to obtain (ie, "pay for") mulching/soil enriching compost from an outside source?

Also, won't food scraps make our green yard debris bins pretty nasty in very short order, esp. if meat is included? This whole proposal just seems like the answer to a question nobody asked.

And to everyone who plans to get a new garbage disposal, better check the state of your pipes in these old Portland houses...

Doris - For those of us composting produce scraps now there's no reason to stop with food scrap pick-up.

Jon, you are mistaken. The city does not (and I do not believe can) require everyone to have service. My good friend has no service, dropped it long ago with ridiculous hill fees and the lost option of monthly pick-up. She composts (has huge garden and yard) and the rest of it gets taken care of one way or another. I tend to often have extra room and so do other friends who live nearby. I was going to reduce can size but with this I will not be doing that.

Lets all do what they do in the South , dig a hole in your yard and throw it all in , every couple of months you dig a new hole.
[don't you miss the burn barrels]
As for the rats , hey in the South that is dinner , get out your 22 and bag a few. Tastes just like chicken , or was that feral cat , I can't recall.

Ive always thought they'd get more people to recycle if instead of calling it "Recycling" they called it "The Free Garbage"

As in "oh honey don't put that in there, it can go in the FREE garbage"

Like Pam, above, we've gone to once-a-month pickup. We were putting the cart out every three or four weeks, anyway, so why not save a few bucks? So far, so good.

This policy seems to assume that we are all in households with only one or two residents. It infuriates me that we are really not encouraged to reduce, reuse or recycle with any sort of monetary incentive. In our household, we are at the point where we do not need to put out garbage every week. I will not go to once a month pick up at ( a 75% reduction in waste with only a 25% break in fees.) This policy seems anti-family but look at Creepy he certainly has no family.

As when Potter rode with the lawless biking group; I chose to no longer follow the cross walk "suggestions" downtown. Now I fill the empty void in the "garbage can" with yard debris as weekly yard debris service would fit me just fine in honor of Creepy. Maybe we need more choices at a more reasonable monthly fee.

Okay my above post was a bit neanderthal; but.... Better to have pointed out that once again Creepy is going off half cocked with lack of planning/thought given for a items such as a transfer station and whatever problems it transfers to another neighborhood. OR better yet when the plague hits Portland from the increase in rodent population...

Mr Grumpy sez:

"... so I went back to weekly and accepted trash from my friends."

This should be the official motto of the Portland City Council.

Single Senior household....once a month pick up....does not include ... recycling or yard stuff.
So now I will have to pay for weeky ( which will be bi-weekly ) which is a total waste of resources and what little money that is left from week to week.
These "clowns" keep passing "feel good" laws so it looks like they are ACTUALLY doing something .... YEA!

My guess is that the changes will complicate the recyclables going into the blue bins. The city has already acknowledged that residents did a better job of seperation (back when we only had the yellow bins) and the workers on the sorting line do a relatively poor job. It is my understanding that those who purchase the sorted material pay less due to the contamination (i.e., other materail mixed in with newsprint). A significant part of "garbage" is plastic packaging that everything seems to come in now days. When people find they have no more room in their garbage can, it will end up in the blue bins. Illegal? (a) who is going to be checking?, and (b) just be sure to put the plastic in a brown bag first; thanks to another great idea passed by our esteemed city council, I expect to see a plentiful supply of paper bags.

If you would like a WIFF of composting on the level the City is proposing, just take a drive down Sunset Hwy 26 West. As you get closer to North Plains, you will find a gross scent of composting scraps....food....entering your car....worse as you get closer to the exit to enter the NP city limits. Now, imagine that facility down the road and about 10 times larger....Whew.....

I am in the test group and I love it.

And yes, my family of four now sometimes even goes a full month before putting the trash bin on the curb. We are far from a "green" family. We even have a baby in diapers. It just works, that's all.

Sorry if this is not knee-jerk contrarian. I know that is all the rage these days.

Just buy some compostable bags and dump your garbage in the yard debris bin.... its not like they open the bags to see if you're putting trash in em

I have personally seen the rats chew through the plastic compost bins in the Pearl District! Of course those rats are especially well fed...and very large! with all the restaurants there being "green" and putting the compost in bins on the street!

Residents in the city will be receiving an unpleasant history lesson in urban vector control as they see more than just rats in their yards... say hello to an increase in raccoons, skunks, nutria, coyotes, porcupines, maybe bears, and everything else out there in search of an easy meal that have been out of sight and out of mind to city dwellers for decades, if not hundreds of years.

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