portland recyclesA little over a year ago, the city of Portland, Oregon began a new collection service for its curbside waste pickup. This includes the hauling of products such as food scraps and yard waste that are separated into their own trash bin alongside the usual refuse and recycling pickup conducted apart from that service. A report has been released that quantifies the amount of curbside residential garbage picked up as well as the number of tons collected from residents for the purposes of composting. Between 2010 and 2011 the amount of tons of residential garbage collected was 94,100 in the Portland area. From 2011 to 2012 after the new service was implemented, the number went down to 58,300 tons. The program also nearly tripled the amount of yard debris and food scraps collected when compared to yard waste from the 2010 to 2011 cycle. The number went from 30,600 tons to 85,400 tons. It was estimated that out of the one thousand homes that were sampled, 84% of these homes were placing their composting cart at the curb, while 78% of those people were throwing their food scraps into the bins. These numbers are printed in a report by the Bureau of Planning and Sustainability.

According to studies of waste composition, Portland residents are recycling about 85% of materials that can be reused with only about 15% in the standard garbage can. The outreach conducted by BPS has consisted of over 275 volunteers with over 25,000 Portland residents contacted and conversed with on the subjects of more responsible waste disposal. There have also been 87 community events and meetings. BPS has also conducted community outreach in the form of door-to-door visits to better inform their customers of how exactly to sort their trash bins. By 2015 the Portland Recycles! Plan hopes to recover 75% of the City’s waste with a long-term goal of 90% recovery by 2030. These plans encompass the standard by-weekly collection of garbage along with the weekly collection of food scraps and yard waste for composting. This helps to avoid much of this refuse being tossed into landfills to sit for years and potentially never be properly broken down.

Other places that are offering these curbside food scrap recycling services are Austin, Texas and King County, Washington (which include the cities of Seattle and Bellevue) as well as various counties and cities across California. Hopefully in the coming years these programs will take off and the typical form of waste container will be phased out in favor of more environmentally-friendly practices. With such positive results in Portland included in a Bureau of Planning and Sustainability study as well as the curbside pickup elsewhere for food scraps and various yard waste, it is hard to believe these services won’t be offered across the country in the very near future.