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BPS News: Mayor proposes Portland-wide, curbside food scrap composting

BPS News



Dan Anderson

Mayor’s Office


Jocelyn Boudreaux

Bureau of Planning and Sustainability


Mayor proposes Portland-wide, curbside food scrap composting

Mayor highlights garbage service changes that move city towards Climate Action Plan goals

Include the Food!


PORTLAND, Ore. -- Portland Mayor Sam Adams today proposed the addition of curbside food scrap composting for Portlanders today following a successful, year-long pilot program. The proposal will go to Portland City Council for a first reading next week and vote Wednesday, August 17.

“Portlanders want curbside composting and the City of Portland is ready to deliver. Each year, thousands of pounds of food scraps needlessly go to landfills when they could be turned into nutrient-rich compost. The 2,000-household pilot was an overwhelming success, and it’s time to take action and bring this easy, common sense composting solution to everyone,” Mayor Sam Adams said.

As soon as this fall, residents will be provided a sealable kitchen counter composting pail, which they will be able to empty into their existing green “Portland Composts!” roll cart, which is only used for yard debris right now.  Other proposed changes to the curbside collection service will include the collection schedule for garbage and the green roll cart. In the proposal, compost will be picked up weekly and garbage every-other-week. This change would allow the green roll carts to be removed more frequently without raising collection prices for most residents.

Many Portlanders already compost some food scraps in their backyards. With the new Curbside Collection Service, many items that should not be composted in backyards, such as meat, bones, dairy, grains, seafood, eggshells, cooked foods and pizza delivery boxes, will be accepted in the green roll cart.

Collection of the blue “Portland Recycles!” roll cart and yellow bin will remain weekly. Changes would affect all single-family households and residents living in buildings with four or fewer units and begin on October 31, pending council approval.

Since May 2010, two thousand Portland households from across four geographically diverse neighborhoods participated in the “Food Scrap Curbside Collection Pilot.” Pilot residents said that including food scraps in the green roll cart with weekly pick up made every-other-week garbage collection manageable. Eighty-seven percent of the pilot households reported being satisfied with the new system and garbage generated in the pilot area dropped by almost a third. What’s more, only seven percent of pilot residents upgraded to a bigger garbage can, and only 60 percent of garbage cans were full on collection day.

“Composting was new to us and at first my family was skeptical that we could make the change to every-other-week garbage collection work,” said Val Thorpe, a pilot resident from the Centennial neighborhood in East Portland. “We were surprised how much of our garbage really was compostable in the green roll cart and we quickly learned to make composting part of our family’s day to day routine. We feel great about turning what was garbage into something valuable that can be used again.”

Composting food scraps reduces waste and creates nutrient-rich compost for fertilizing yards and gardens.  The food scraps and yard debris will be sent to local commercial composting facilities with specialized processes that break down even bones and dairy. The compost is then sold to landscapers and other agricultural users to fertilize the soil, prevent erosion, block weeds, retain water and prevent plant disease.

More than 90 towns and cities in the U.S., including Seattle and San Francisco, have been offering their residents curbside collection of food scraps for several years with great success. In addition, every-other-week garbage collection has been successful for other cities, including Olympia and Renton, Wash., and Nanaimo, British Columbia.

This proposed curbside collection service changes are in line with the City of Portland’s Climate Action Plan goals. City Council adopted it in 2007, challenging Portlanders to recycle 75 percent of their waste by 2015. The addition of food scraps to the green compost roll cart and every-other-week garbage collection are the next steps in implementing the plan. Portland’s current recycling rate is 67 percent.

A small rate increase will take effect for residents with 60-gallon and 90-gallon garbage containers, and customers with monthly garbage pickup will need to select from other service options. With new changes expected to take effect October 31, the City and garbage and recycling companies are planning outreach efforts to inform households of tips for food composting. Additionally, every household will get a kitchen pail delivered to make food scrap composting as easy as possible.

For more information about the proposed service model, please visit


About the City of Portland Bureau of Planning and Sustainability (BPS)
To create and enhance a vibrant city, BPS combines the disciplines of planning and sustainability to advance Portland's diverse and distinct neighborhoods, promote a prosperous and low-carbon economy, and help ensure that people and the natural environment are healthy and integrated into the cityscape. BPS provides a forum for community engagement and education, and is a catalyst for action. With a city full of partners, BPS develops creative and practical solutions on issues as far ranging as comprehensive, neighborhood and environmental planning, urban design, waste reduction and recycling, energy efficiency and solar technologies. This innovative, interdisciplinary approach strengthens Portland's position as an international model of sustainable development practices and commerce.