The Greening Of Portland

Posted on March 10, 2013 by


About a year and a half ago, then Portland mayor Sammy Adams and his cohorts on the Portland City Council decreed a radical, “green” approach to waste disposal: they sent little plastic slop buckets (made in Canada, naturally) out to virtually every house in the city, and cut garbage pickups to twice a month – with no reduction in rates, of course. Their great, “green and sustainable” idea was that everyone would collect their food waste scraps in the slop bucket, then dump the contents into their yard debris container – which would henceforth be picked up weekly, along with paper and metal recycling, rather than twice monthly.

The city’s dozens of highly-compensated employees at the “Bureau of Planning and Sustainability” bombarded residents with fliers (printed on recycled paper with “sustainable” soy inks, of course) which informed us all that they realize that “change is hard” and offered helpful tips for managing our slop buckets, such as lining them with newspaper, and cleaning the residue out of our yard debris bins (use a hose, and don’t allow the runoff into storm sewers). These know-it-all thirty-somethings were almost as irritating as the mandate itself.

But speaking of irritating…

The yard debris and food waste was trucked to tiny North Plains, conveniently located just outside, the Urban Growth Boundary, where it was all to be composted, along with restaurant and grocery food waste. Unsurprisingly, the resulting stench angered nearby residents, and even people passing by on Highway 26. The operation generated well over a thousand complaints as the “composting” meats, bones, and whatnot rotted, and eventually the state DEQ as well as Washington County officials were drawn into the fray.

The result was that commercial food waste could no longer be accepted at the recycling depot, and its total volume of acceptable waste was capped. Monitoring measures were also instituted in order to ensure that the stink remained under some degree of control.

Thus, the brain-trust at Portland and Metro began casting about for another place to “compost” the commercial food waste. Curiously enough, nobody in the surrounding communities wanted anything to do with the stuff, and apparently there was insufficient room in mayor Sammy’s back yard. But they remained undeterred; they certainly weren’t about to allow kitchen scraps to go into the trash – wouldn’t be “green and sustainable”, after all. And never mind the fact that a lot of Portland residents had been composting waste vegetables and plant debris in their back yards for years without issue; the brain-trust had decided there was a problem, and there was no turning them back.

At length, they hit upon a “green and sustainable” solution: they’re going to truck the stuff nearly 230 miles away to Stanwood, Washington, which is located on Camano Island in Puget Sound, about half-way between Seattle and Vancouver, B.C. The fact that transporting the garbage will consume tremendous amounts of diesel fuel over the 460-mile round trip, and will generate equally tremendous volumes of exhaust has apparently never entered the collective mind of the Portland brain-trust; it appears that the fact that the environmental cost of transport will dwarf any potential environmental benefit derived from their “green and sustainable” composting project has never crossed their mind, as well.

On the bright side, the exhaust will primarily impact Washington’s air-shed, so the Portland air-shed can remain relatively unsullied. The decision may also placate Washington County residents, while affording Portland and Metro yet another excuse to demand construction of a new I-5 bridge over the Columbia River. Their insistence upon extending light rail from Portland into Vancouver, Washington as part of a new bridge might make sense – if they extended the light rail line to Camano Island and loaded the garbage into trains.

cross-posted from MaxRedline

linked by Doug Ross, thanks!