Portland's Curbside Compost Collection is Paying Off

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A look at Portland, Oregon's compost bins, which are part of a greater effort to see a dramatic reduction in waste by 2015.

Portland, Oregon’s great experiment in compost expansion and waste reduction is paying off, an update to the program suggests.

The program, which began in October of last year, reduced the city’s once-weekly garbage pickup to every other week and broadened its curbside compost program citywide. The city says it has since decreased garbage collection by 44 percent. Recycling is up, from 12,119 tons in the first quarter of 2011 to 13,516 tons in the first quarter of this year.

Still, Portland faces the obstacle of providing citizens with education about what can and cannot be composted and recycled, Lisa Libby, planning and sustainability director to Portland Mayor Sam Adams, told Resource Recycling. Less than one percent of the population, she said, has been placing garbage in recycling bins to make up for the lack of weekly garbage pickup. People have also been contaminating compost bins with non-compostable materials. Once they learn what is and isn’t compostable, the issue will resolve itself, she says.

The three bin system is part of Portland’s greater plan to increase recovery of all waste, keeping a goal of 75 percent recovery by 2015. The city also plans to reduce per capita waste below 2005’s levels by 2015.

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