Council hears debate on composting plan

Portland City Council gives approval to residential composting program.

The Portland City Council on Wednesday will consider launching a city-wide residential food composting service.

The Portland City Council on Wednesday held its first hearing on a plan to roll out food scrap composting city-wide.

The council is expected to formally approve the plan at its meeting next Wednesday.

If passed, starting Oct. 31, two-gallon food scrap bins will be provided to Portland's 145,000 households free of charge. Households are to place the food scraps in the green yard debris roll carts, which will now be collected weekly.

Regular garbage, however, will now be collected bi-weekly.

The city's Bureau of Planning and Sustainability hopes that customers won’t need weekly garbage pick up once they mix food waste with yard waste. The program will accept meat, bread, dairy and other food scraps that can’t be composted in a backyard pile.

The council hearing Wednesday follows a year-long pilot project involving 2,000 households. About half the food that could have been put in garbage was instead put into the compost.

At that level, the city expects to send 80,000 tons of material a year to two waste facilities, including the controversial Recology Inc. processing site in North Plains and the other operated by Allied Waste Services in Benton County.

The debate, however, wasn't without issue.

Some neighborhood organizations complained about insufficient time to weigh in on such a sweeping change. An official with the Portland Bureau of Planning and Sustainability, however, said the composting program was first proposed in 2007 as a component of the city's comprehensive Portland Recycles! Plan that runs through 2015.

Commissioner Randy Leonard acknowledged concern that the ordinance would remove monthly garbage service as an option. Next week the council will consider an amendment to the program that would add a monthly garbage service option as well as a rate incentive for residents who choose the monthly service.

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