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Sustainability | Ecotrope

Washington County May Oust Food Scrap Composting

Washington County Commissioners are reportedly ready to vote against a long-term agreement with food scrap composting company Recology, which has generated more than a thousand odor complaints about its Nature’s Needs facility in North Plains.

The Oregonian reports the board will likely grant a one-month extension to the temporary composting agreement tonight to give the company time to change its operations to control odor.

But three of the commissioners say it will be hard to change their minds about keeping the food waste program in North Plains.

That could mean Recology will have to pay to ship food waste farther away in the future. As I’ve reported in the past, the curbside food scrap composting program in Portland reduced garbage by 38 percent in its first year of operation. But composting food scraps is a smelly endeavor. Above, you can see a video of the North Plains site where 60 percent of Portland’s food scraps end up, but alas it can’t convey the smell of the site.

The Washington County Commission voted in 2010 to allow Recology to start accepting food waste at its North Plains composting facility, with an agreement to launch a demonstration project that was supposed to run through December of last year. Last year, the board granted a one-year extension of the project, but it is set to expire Dec. 31.

Tonight, commissioners will vote on a one-month extension that will give Recology a chance to improve its odor control. There are a number of possible conditions to the extension, including a third-party odor monitor, an odor advisory committee, an odor notification system, improved plastic handling at the site, a shift from daytime to nighttime compost pile turning, and redirecting commercial food waste, which makes up 90 percent of the food waste at the site.

A group called “Stop The Stink” is fighting the food waste program and the odors it has caused in North Plains.

As one neighbor told Willamette Week earlier this year:

“The kingdom is shipping the stuff out where the peasants can’t do anything about it,” says Tony Spiering, owner of Valley Machine Service, a high-tech manufacturer located next to Nature’s Needs.

Under the contract with Metro, Recology pays to transport its waste, so sending the food waste somewhere farther away will add to the company’s cost of composting food scraps.

Here’s a step-by-step explanation of how food waste gets from Portland curbs to Nature’s Needs.


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