Field Report: Composting Lessons from Portland

corr_portland_matt_trash As a part of last week's Biocycle West Coast Conference, I went on a tour of Metro's Central Solid Waste Transfer Station in Portland Oregon, operated by Recology Oregon Recovery, Inc. The facility receives source separated food and yard waste from commercial and residential sources and there is a separate processing area for each incoming feedstock, where incoming materials are screened prior to being loaded on trucks to go to Recology composting facilities.

By switching residents to food waste collection once a week, and moving garbage collection from once per week to every other week, the City of Portland was able to implement residential food waste collection without raising costs for more than 70% of residents. While they don't have results yet, the new program with residential food waste collection and every-other-week garbage is tracking closely with a successful pilot that ran for 18 months leading up to the city-wide rollout.

corr_portand_food_waste_pileIn the pilot, a surprising thing happened -- the total amount of garbage collected decreased by 30%. The reductions observed were twice what one would expect from simply separating the food waste from the rest of the trash. It appears that having less convenient garbage collection caused residents to either produce less waste or increase the amount they were recycling.

"The new curbside collection service is an ambitious program change, but we knew that Portlanders would be up for the challenge," says Arianne Sperry, City of Portland Recycles! Coordinator for the Bureau of Planning and Sustainability. "It takes time to adjust to change, and it's still too early to say for sure, but most folks seem to be figuring out how to make it work for their households."

corr_portland_trash_falcolnEarly results for the citywide rollout trend in this same direction and are quite promising. We look forward to keeping tabs on this going forward.

One of the members of the recycling team at the transfer station is Judah, a Peregrine falcon who flies around the perimeter of the transfer station to keep the seagulls at bay. It was great to see Judah and falconer Kort Clayton in action. The two make a great team, and it appears that Judah has adapted well to his urban home.