Did you know there are now more than 90 U.S. cities with curbside composting programs? San Francisco was the first in 1996, setting a precedent for others to follow, including Boulder, Seattle and my fair city of Portland!
Each city has a slightly different approach to composting, ranging from optional to mandatory participation. After running a pilot program, Portland initiated its official curbside composting rules
on October 31st, 2011.
All single family homes and complexes with four units or less were automatically signed up. We all received these little kitchen pails to collect food waste, and these are then dumped into the yard debris bin outside. (Yes, Portland has separate bins for trash, mixed recycling, glass recycling, and yard debris/compost.)
As excited as I am about this program, I’m not sure how successful mandatory participation is turning out to be. The city reduced trash pick up from once a week to once every other week. I believe the purpose was to force participants to be vigilant with our recycling and composting.
As it turns out, families with more than one child in disposable diapers and a smaller (cheaper) garbage bin simply cannot wait two weeks for their trash pick up. It costs $7 extra dollars a month to switch from the 32-gallon to the 60-gallon garbage bin.
As a result, there has been a 50% increase of garbage in recycling bins. The diapers that make up a large part of that percentage are a major health hazard for workers at the recycling facility.
Portland also estimates that it costs about $1 million to set up a composting program, and says most of that money is spent on educating citizens about how it works. Clearly, more work needs to be done in that department.
Even though there are some major issues that have yet to be sussed out, I’m extremely proud that more local governments are willing to take on the dirty work of figuring out curbside composting.
Does your city have recycling and yard debris pick-up? If so, can you imagine adding a curbside composting program?
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