Sorting out Portland's new Composting Program

October 6, 2011 · by pcriadmin · PCRI

Attention residents: at the end of this month, trash pick-up throughout Portland—including many PCRI homes—will see important changes.  Will these changes impact you:

  • Do you live in single family home or a building with four or fewer units?  YES! Your service will change on October 31.  For more information, keep reading.
  • Do you live in a building with 5 or more units?  No, your service won’t change (at least not yet).

The changes:

Starting October 31, your green Portland Composts! roll cart will be picked up every week instead of every other week and you will be able to put more than just yard waste—things like meat, bones and food scraps—in your green cart.  The blue recycling cart and yellow glass recycling bin will continue to be picked up every week. 

Also (this one’s pretty important): starting October 31, your garbage pick up will change to every other week.  You can find out more about the new schedule and sign up for email reminders HERE.

The green cart: More than yard waste …

The big green roll cart has been an easy place to dispose of yard clippings and leaf debris, but now it can be used for much more: meat and seafood bones and shells, cooked foods and even pizza delivery boxes can be composted with the new program.  For residents who already compost in their own yard, this new program will ensure items that should not be composted in your yard can still go in the green cart.

In the coming weeks, homes which are part of the new program will receive a flyer with more information.  Right before the program starts, you will also receive a kitchen pail in which you can collect your food scraps.  Here’s a minute-and-a-half primer:

There are a few things you still shouldn’t put in your green cart.  Things like paper plates and cups (including the cup from your morning coffee), fast food wrappers and take-out containers have a wax or plastic film that doesn’t break down well.  Pet waste and plastic bags should also be kept out of the green bin (Reuse your plastic bags!  Grocery stores won’t be giving them out after October 15).

Oh, and plastic containers labeled “compostable” … don’t put those in your green or blue cart.  For now, they need to go in the trash.  Why?  It’s a long story, but you can read about it here.

Why is Portland doing this?

The City of Portland is working to reduce the amount of debris that is sent to our landfill.  The Portland Recycles! plan, adopted in 2007, challenges Portlanders to recycle 75 percent of our waste by 2015.  According to the City of Portland website, we already recycle 67% (good job!).  The first phase of the plan included the delivery of the blue and green roll carts and an expanded list of recyclable plastics.  The new composting program is the second phase of that plan.

But why composting?  Food scraps account for almost 30,000 tons of unnecessary garbage every year and nearly 1/3 of Portland’s waste (by weight). Food scraps can be put to better use as compost to improve the health of our soils and gardens.  Composting food scraps reduces waste and creates nutrient-rich compost for fertilizing yards and gardens.

Looking for more?

Want some tips, like how to keep your kitchen pail or green cart from turning yucky?  Check out the video on kitchen pail care or the one on roll cart care.  Still have questions?  Call the city’s curbsite hotline at (503) 823-7202 or visit

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