Curbside Food Scrap Composting Coming to Portland, Ore.?

The Portland, Oregon city council will vote August 17 on a proposal to extend curbside pickup of compostable food scraps to all households in the city. Currently, about 2000 households are in a pilot food scrap pickup program, and according to the mayor’s office, 87 percent of those households are satisfied with the system.

Under the current waste disposal system, each household has a garbage can (size varies), a blue recycling roll cart, and a green yard debris roll cart. Garbage and recycling are picked up weekly (unless the resident has made other arrangements) and yard debris is picked up every other week. Food scraps are not permitted in the yard debris bin.

The new system would give every household a two-gallon food scrap-collection container for the kitchen. Food scraps would then be dumped into the green roll cart along with the yard debris. The yard debris and food scraps would be picked up every week, while garbage collection would decrease to every other week. Recycling pickup would still be weekly.

There is some opposition to the program. The Oregonian‘s editorial board, for instance, calls the program coercive, and suggests that yard debris bins will become stinky and fly-ridden. However, pilot program participants and people in other cities say this just isn’t the case. Commenters on a news story said “I’ve been part of the pilot program for the last year and haven’t had any major issues. Rats, mice, raccoons and other vermin haven’t gotten into it,” and “We have been doing this is Salem for about 1 1/2 years. We have not had any issue with vermin or pests.”

Opponents are also concerned about costs to residents. Garbage collections fees are slated to go up for households using larger can sizes, while the frequency of trash pickup (except for recycling and compostables) would go down.

Some question why a household would need this program if they are already composting at home. Although many people compost fruit and vegetable scraps and yard debris, the curbside program would accept food scraps of all types, including meat and dairy products, grains, used paper napkins, and cardboard pizza boxes (did you know that pizza boxes are not recyclable?). Many of these items are not suitable for typical backyard composting systems. Scraps from the curbside program will go to a commercial composting facility.

If the proposal is approved by the city council on August 17, the new system would begin by the end of October.


Mayor’s Office, City of Portland, “FAQ: Portland-wide food scrap composting proposal,” Mayor Sam Adams, Portland, Oregon, USA

The Oregonian Editorial Board, “Trashing a big success story,” OregonLive

Art Edwards, “Public debates Portland composting plan,”

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