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West Linn businesses may soon have option to compost

Last spring, the city of West Linn explored the option of offering curbside composting as part of its waste collection program. After learning about the costs and potential implications involved with the process, the city council put the idea on hold.

However, during its Sept. 6 work session, the council heard an update about composting from West Linn Refuse and Recycling.

'We have some significant updates to talk about,' said Steve Donovan, a consultant for West Linn Refuse and Recycling, to the council.

During the last update, the city of Portland was running a pilot curbside composting program. Since then, Portland has decided to go full-force with it by the end of October.

When it goes into effect, Portlanders will get week ly compost pickup and their regular trash pickup will move to every other week. Because of these changes, the city is experiencing a lot of backlash, according to Donovan.

Taking a wait-and-see stance, West Linn Refuse and Recycling and the city of West Linn are not pursuing public composting just yet.

Instead, West Linn Refuse and Recycling is starting smaller by offering voluntary commercial composting.

In the process of gearing up right now, the company is expecting to go full force with its commercial composting campaign Oct. 1.

Preparing for the campaign, West Linn Refuse and Recycling is currently buying equipment, such as a special truck for hauling compost and special leak-proof containers.

'We are scaling up right now,' Donovan said.

The target customers for the commercial composting are restaurants, institutions such as schools and hospitals and grocery stores.

Donovan said the company would provide the leak-proof containers and tailor pickups to accommodate business schedules.

He said the rates would be 95 percent of the current commercial solid waste collection.

Not all businesses will be attracted to the program. The costs associated with training and the additional labor to sort and separate the trash, recycling and composting may negate the cost savings of garbage removal.

'The labor costs could outweigh the cost of throwing out garbage,' he said.

Donovan said the businesses most likely to participate are those who already are committed to reducing their carbon footprint. He mentioned companies like Burgerville and McMenamin's, which already have environmentally friendly initiatives.

'We will seek you out as a customer for this composting service,' Donovan said. 'The commercial program will let us gain experience.'

More cities are interested in increasing composting, as it puts less waste into landfills, produces less greenhouse gas and makes a beneficial end product.

However, right now, with gas prices so high and the composting facilities so few and far between, the expense and environmental effects of hauling the compost may negate the benefits.

'A better economy is what's going to drive this bus,' Donovan said. 'We don't think we'll get a lot of participation early on.'

'I'm very excited you came to us with this next step,' said Council Member Jody Carson. 'Hopefully others will follow suit. I think it's definitely a worthwhile endeavor.'

Donovan said he would return to the city council again next spring with another update on the commercial composting program.