Portland Struggles with Trash in Recycling Bins since Decrease in Garbage Pick-up

by | May 15, 2013

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Portland, Ore., city officials are offering citizens upgrades to larger trash containers in order to help them adjust to the every-other-week garbage pick-up that was implemented a year-and-a-half ago. Since the city shifted from every week to every other week pick-up, it has struggled with the problem of people placing trash in their recycling bins, including 120 pounds of dirty diapers a day, reports NPR. The problem is improving: at first, 90 pounds of dirty diapers per day were landing at Far West Fibers’ processing center.

The city made the shift to having garbage picked up every other week when it began encouraging citizens to recycle and compost their household waste; recycle and compost bins are still picked up weekly. In the year following the change, the amount of garbage collected at curbside dropped by 38 percent, but the city noted that it had to send 3,000 letters to households that were putting trash in their recycling bins.

Portland developed the Portland Composts! Program in early 2005. The program requires every garbage and recycling company that offers commercial service to offer composting collection – or to sub-contract with a company that does. Business participation is voluntary. In 2012, almost 900 accounts were participating in the Portland Composts! Program, up from 700 in 2011, according to the City of Portland website.

Manhattan is another city that is expanding its composting program, now allowing apartment dwellers to compost their organic trash. The first building to join the program is The Durst Organization’s Helena, a “green” building on 11th Ave. and West 57th Street, writes Crain’s New York Business. Tenants will receive air-tight composting bins, and the compostable material will be collected during normal trash pick-up. The Organics Collection Program will come to other residential buildings as other landlords and management companies come aboard.

Until now, Manhattan’s composting program required New Yorkers to save their compost and then deliver it themselves to composting piles located in public parks in their neighborhoods.

In 2010, Americans generated about 250 million tons of trash and about 25 percent of it was food scraps and yard trimmings, according to the EPA.

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