Portlanders who have endured the stench of rotting food and the pinch of every other week trash pickups may take heart from this bit of news: The food scraps collected from curbside bins are coming back to the city as compost for community gardens.
Allen Field of Friends of Portland Community Gardens made arrangements with the commercial compositor Recology to donate some of the rich soil amendment it makes from curbside food waste to 48 community gardens throughout the city.
On Saturday, the McCoy, Pier and Johns community gardens held work parties to use the donated compost. So far, 22 of the city’s 48 community gardens are scheduled to receive compost from Recology. Allen said the donations are closing a loop: Composted food scraps will now be used to grow local food.
“People don’t realize what happens to their food scraps,” he said. “They know it doesn’t go to landfills and that it’s recycled, but most people don’t see the finished product.”
Compost is an important soil amendment in the Northwest, said Allen.
“All the rain we get here turns everything into clay,” he said. “Compost has nitrogen and other nutrients, and it also adds structure to the soil so it doesn’t become clay-like.”
The city of Portland started collecting food scraps in curbside bins in 2011 in a program that has been controversial in part because it also reduced weekly trash pick-up to once every other week. Much of the curbside compost is taken to the Recology commercial composting facility in North Plains, where residents have complained that it stinks up the town.
Allen said the benefits of the compost going into community gardens is a positive side of curbside composting.
“The compost comes from you,” he said. “And it’s beautiful compost.”