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City move to curbside composting going smoothly, despite complaints

Portlanders trying to figure out new garbage pickup system

Some Portlanders are still miffed about losing weekly garbage pickup, but the shift to curbside composting of food scraps appears to be going relatively well, says Bruce Walker, solid waste and recyling program manager for the Portland Bureau of Planning and Sustainability.

'There was some anxiousness from the community that this was a big change,' Walker says. On the first day of the new service, on Halloween, the city fielded 400 phone calls and emails.

Despite that high volume of calls, people seem to be coping, he says.

'The tenor of calls has changed dramatically since the program was first announced,' Walker said Tuesday, after the first full day of the changes. Initially, the city was hearing from many callers who just wanted to say 'I don't like it,' Walker says. Now the calls are shifting to questions about how to make the new service work for them.

Starting Oct. 31, garbage haulers in the city of Portland began collecting kitchen scraps in the green carts that had been reserved for yard debris. At the same time, haulers started collecting regular garbage every other week instead of weekly, but also expanded pickup of the yard debris/compost carts to weekly instead of every other week.

While many people are put out by losing weekly garbage pickup, others like having yard debris picked up weekly, especially in the fall when leaves and branches can take up a lot of volume in the green carts.

Walker advises people having trouble adjusting to the reduced garbage service to give it some time before they order a larger and more expensive garbage can. Residents can, for instance, put out an extra can or plastic bag of trash on their regular garbage pickup day, for a $5 extra fee.

Walker also has some advice for residents complaining about having smelly food waste pile up in their kitchen, waiting to be dumped into their green carts.

'If it's something that might produce odor, go take it outside,' Walker says. 'You can take it outside every day, or as frequently as you did when it was in the garbage can under your sink.'

For those people worried about the mess in their city-supplied plastic compost buckets, the city supplied discounts for liners. But if they don't want to spend the money, they can use line the bucket with newspaper, Walker says. 'It composts just fine.'