Curbside Composting ?>

Curbside Composting

Last week I was delighted to hear that the Portland City Council approved a curbside composting pilot program that will start Oct. 31. Given the fact that Portland is known for “being green” I personally think it’s long over due, but better late than never.

Unfortunately, the program won’t reach our new apartment (Oh yeah! We found one on 25th and Lovejoy in NW Portland. But that’s another blog post) complex because there are more than four units in our building, but I still think it’s a major decision that will benefit the environment and reduce the amount of waste that goes into the local landfills.

photo courtesy of the article I read in The Oregonian

The article I read in The Oregonian said that all city residents in single-family homes and complexes with four or fewer units will receive a small composting bucket that they can use to put kitchen scraps in. Then, they can simply dump the contents into their regular yard debris cans, which will be picked up every week for collection. And to offset the cost of the program, regular garbage pickup will be reduced to every other week.

Unfortunately, not everyone is as happy as I am about the program. Just about every comment on the story was negative, with people complaining about everything from the bad smell the compost will produce, to problems with rats, to garbage cans overflowing due to reduced pickup.

I completely understand that not everyone is as excited about composting as I am, but frankly, I don’t understand what the fuss is all about. So if you don’t mind, I am going to rant about a few of the complaints I read the most and why I think they aren’t that big of a deal.

Complaint #1: Composting stinks
I don’t understand how putting the food scraps in the yard debris container will smell worse than putting them in the garbage. Garbage stinks, and I don’t hear people complaining that we need to stop collecting garbage. You only have to smell your garbage can when you open it to toss in some trash, and it’s the same for the compost. I have been composting for about 8 months and while it our compost collection bucket does smell a bit, it’s not any worse than the garbage.

Complaint #2: Curbside composting will attract rats 
Again, I don’t really understand this one. The only reason composting attracts rats is when things like meat, dairy (except egg shells) and oily, cooked foods are put in with the regular scraps. So if you’re worried about that, don’t put them in your compost bin. You can always bag them, put them into the freezer and on collection day, toss the contents into the bin. It’s that easy. Also, see my response to complaint #1. If you didn’t have a rat problem when you put your scraps into your garbage can, chances are you won’t have that problem with composting.

Complaint #3: Every other week pickup isn’t often enough
You probably already know what I’m going to say in response to this one: then stop throwing so much stuff away! If you are concerned that you will have too much garbage for every other week pickup, stop and look at the things you are throwing away and figure out how you can throw less of it away. When Josh and I started composting last year we reduced our amount of trash by half, at least. And it’s not only because of the food’s volume, but also because of the smell. When you eliminate the stinky foods from your garbage you don’t have to take the trash out as much.

Complaint #4: It takes too much time
I truly don’t believe this. Sure, it might take a few extra minutes to put your food scraps in a bucket and tote it out to your bin, but you already take out your garbage and your recycling (I hope!) so it can’t affect your day that much. Besides, if you take out your garbage less and your compost bin more, then really it’s not any extra time.

Complaint #5: The City Council made this decision without taking into consideration how residents would feel
I heard this complaint today and it’s probably the complaint that frustrates me the most. Isn’t the purpose of a city counsel to make decisions that will make our cities better places to live? If the council had to get the approval of residents by way of voting, you know it would be drawn out and take even longer than it has, and it would probably never pass. But it wouldn’t pass because it’s a bad idea, it just wouldn’t pass because people are afraid of change, and that’s what frustrates me the most.


I don’t put that question in all caps because I am mad, it’s just because it’s my biggest question in regard to this new program. Why are people so afraid of not being able to throw much stuff away? Why are people afraid of a new program that will help reduce the waste that goes into landfills? Why are people afraid of a stinky bucket? Don’t landfills stink too?

Unfortunately, I think the answer to this question is ignorance. In general, people don’t understand the impact that our consumption has on natural resources, and until they do, I think cities everywhere will have to deal with strong resistance of programs like this.

So here’s what I have to say to the Portland City Council on this decision: Bravo! Please keep making decisions like this one that will make our city even more environmentally-friendly.

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