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Report says Portlanders using curbside compost pickup

Critics persist, but system is raising recycling rate


Changes to Portland’s trash and recycling pickups led to a 38 percent drop in garbage pickups during the past year, according to a new city report.

Starting Halloween 2011, Portland added curbside pickup of food scraps, expanded to weekly pickup of yard debris, and reduced garbage pickups to every two weeks. In the subsequent 12-month period, haulers picked up 58,300 tons of garbage from residential customers, down from 94,100 tons the prior 12-month period.

Clearly much of the diverted garbage went into the green yard debris and food scrap carts.

During the same period, 85,400 tons of compostable waste was picked up from residents’ curbsides, including kitchen scraps and yard debris. That was nearly three times the 30,600 tons picked up in the prior 12 months.

Portland took a lot of criticism from residents when it made the changes last year, particularly for eliminating weekly garbage pickups. But it appears that’s a minority view.

The annual Community Survey by the city auditor, released in October, found that 25 percent of respondents rated the city’s garbage/recycling service as very good, 41 percent as good; and 20 percent were neutral. Another 8 percent rated the system as bad, and 6 percent rated it very bad.

Still, the city found it necessary earlier this year to send 3,000 notices to homes, warning that people were putting the wrong materials in their carts. That winds up contaminating potential recyclables. Contamination remains an issue, the new report found.

A city survey this fall found that about 78 percent of residents were using the system for food waste, even while factoring in those who didn’t put green carts out at their curbs.

Residents complaining about less-frequent garbage pickups have the ability to switch to larger carts. However, only 2 percent of customers have requested that — about the same share that moved to smaller cans or less-frequent monthly service.

An October study found that Portland residents are recycling 85 percent of the materials that can be recycled curbside, and putting 15 percent into their garbage cans.

Over all, including residential, commercial and other sites, the entire city of Portland is now keeping 70 percent of its waste out of the landfill.

The city has a goal of boosting that to 75 percent by 2015, and 90 percent by 2030.