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New recycling goal spurs changes, costs

Sustainable Life
by: JIM CLARK, Hauler Chuckie Ferris picks up garbage in the Westmoreland neighborhood the day after Christmas. Changes are coming that will mean more curbside recycling for Portland residents — and slightly higher trash pickup rates.

Beginning this year, Portland's curbside recyclers will be able to recycle more and, the city hopes, throw away less.

Residents will get bigger containers and be able to recycle more types of plastic. In 2009, it's expected that compost will be hauled from the curb.

But some or all of that comes with a price: Upcoming changes will raise recycling collection rates. And city businesses are likely to face a new mandate this year to recycle at least 75 percent of their waste.

The Portland Recycles Plan was announced last May with the aim of increasing the city's recycling rate from its current 63 percent of all waste to 75 percent by 2015.

In August, however, only the changes to the residential side were adopted by the Portland City Council.

Changes to services in the commercial sector as well as for multifamily residences (with more than four units) have yet to be finalized.

Starting this spring, new roll carts will be distributed to all residential customers, one for yard debris and one for recycling.

Residential ratepayers will pay an average $2.60 more per month on their garbage bills to cover the cost of the carts.

All recyclables, with the exception of glass and motor oil, will go unsorted into one roll cart. Plastics recycling will expand to include tubs, buckets and some plant pots.

Glass and motor oil can be placed at the curb in one of the yellow bins that the roll cart essentially will replace.

In Phase Two of the plan, slated to begin in 2009, the other roll cart will hold not only yard debris, but all food scraps and food-soiled paper products.

Food scraps account for nearly a third of the 37 percent of all waste that is not recycled now.

The city's Office of Sustainable Development has been working with businesses on a voluntary basis to help them start composting programs. That waste is being hauled to a composting facility operated by Cedar Grove Composting Inc., southeast of Seattle.

Cedar Grove is looking for a site in Portland to build another facility.

While composting in the business sector is voluntary, city officials are working out new recycling mandates for businesses, to be approved by the council, that would include compost, paper and construction waste.

Businesses generate three-quarters of Portland's waste, according to the Office of Sustainable Development.

Although the business sector has been exceeding the current mandate to recycle at least 50 percent of its waste, it's likely that it will face a new mandate of 75 percent sometime in 2008.

One of the main debates within talks about potential changes to commercial waste hauling has to do with whether to do away with the current open-market system, in which haulers compete for business, and replace it with a franchise system of assigned zones, similar to the residential hauling system.

Plans to clean up hauling trucks, including diesel emissions, also are in the works.

A proposal outlining changes in commercial recycling is expected to be presented to the City Council in March.

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