Land | Ecotrope

In Portland: 44 Percent Less Trash At The Curb

Ecotrope | May 18, 2012 10:07 a.m. | Updated: Feb. 19, 2013 1:31 p.m.

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The amount of garbage hauled from residential curbside bins dropped dramatically after the curbside composting program launched Oct. 31, 2011.

The amount of garbage hauled from residential curbside bins dropped dramatically after the curbside composting program launched Oct. 31, 2011.

The office of Portland Mayor Sam Adams posted this six-month progress report on the city’s new curbside composting program, which started collecting food scraps last Halloween.

The changes are pretty dramatic. According to the city, garbage haulers have reported a 44 percent drop in residential trash at the curb and a 12 percent bump in recycling since the new program started.

“We’re pleased to report that even at this early stage, the numbers look great,” the office reports. “The amount of garbage collected has decreased significantly while composting and recycling is on the rise. Portland has always had one of the best recycling rates in the country and since the introduction of our new curbside collection plan we’ve only gotten better.”

The reduction in trash going to landfills represents 1,800 truckloads so far – or eight miles of trucks.

Based on the first six months of curbside compost collection, the city of Portland projects the amount of compost residents kick to the curb will be three times what it was in 2010 by the end of this year.

Based on the first six months of curbside compost collection, the city of Portland projects the amount of compost residents kick to the curb will be three times what it was in 2010 by the end of this year.

In actual numbers, residential curbside trash dropped from 23,052 tons in the first quarter of 2011 to 12,902 in the first quarter of this year.

The mayor’s office reports “a large increase” in the material collected for composting, though the report didn’t say how much exactly. The city is estimating the compost heap will grow from 30,000 tons in 2010 to 89,000 tons by the end of this year.

Now, for the not so good news: Along with the addition of weekly curbside composting, the city reduced trash pickup to once every two weeks. That could explain an increase in recycling material. But it also led to more garbage being dumped in recycling bins.

The city has mailed out 1,200 letters to homes where trash has been found in the wrong bin. But, the city notes, that’s less than 1 percent of the 140,000 households in the program.

Online responses to the report sound familiar. Some people support the curbside compost program and others really don’t. Here are two examples:

Betsy wrote:

“This is an interesting report. I know our garbage has gone down because we used to fill our bin comfortably every week and now we fill a bin completely every two weeks. I couldn’t tell you what exactly we’re not throwing away. We were already composting and recycling. But I do know that everyone at our house is aware that space in the bin is scarce, and it’s somehow affecting our behavior.

I’ve been lining the food scraps bin with some clipped vegetation or grass clippings to keep the smell down. Not a big deal. I have not seen any mice or rats, but we have cats that like to hunt.”

And, on the flip side, Charlie wrote:

“We had to get a larger garbage can, because composting isn’t that much of our refuse. That cost considerably MORE than in the past and has impacted our budget in an upsetting way.

The garbage can has always been kept in the garage, but I don’t know if we can continue to do that. Because it holds garbage LONGER now, there’s an odor we never had before. Previously we gathered stuff once a week and it was there over night, only.

And the compost bin? AWFUL. I don’t know where we’re going to put it. I can barely open it for the horrible smell (which has made me repeatedly sick). We’ve got flies all the time (I have to keep it outside) and varmints are around constantly. I’m considering cleaning it out and NOT using it ever (if I can stand to clean it).

What will happen as it gets warmer and warmer I can only imagine.”

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