Resource Recycling News

Compromise reached in composting kerfuffle

In the latest episode in a long-fought battle over where the Portland metro area’s commercial and residential food scraps go, a compromise has been reached — though the fight may not be over.

Ever since the Portland area began sending its food scraps to the Nature’s Needs composting facility in North Plains, a small city northwest of Portland, there has been local push-back on the facility, so much so that it illustrates the difficulty of having a composting facility in a large metro area.

On Jan. 22, in a controversial decision, the Washington County Board of Commissioners voted unanimously to extend the permit for the facility for residential food scraps and yard debris collected from many cities in the Portland metro area, reports Oregon Public Broadcasting’s Ecotrope. Also due to the vote, the composting facility that is owned and operated by Recology Oregon Recovery will no longer accept commercial food scraps from any of the programs in the area, as of April 1.

The commission can also shut the facility down within 30 days if odors persist from residential food scrap composting. Because residents in Portland set out food scraps with yard debris, banning both residential and commercial food scraps would mean the company would have to shut down.

Recology Oregon Recovery will also have to hire a third-party odor monitor for the Nature’s Needs site. As long as there are no odor issues, the facility will continue to accept residential food scraps through the facility’s July 2015 franchise end date.

Commissioners had debated whether to allow a temporary extension of the program or end it outright, reported The Oregonian. The facility has long been the target of local activists, such as the Stop the Stink group, who have waged an organized grievance campaign against Nature’s Needs, notching over 1,250 odor complaints in the last year. Some area politicians side with the group, including the mayor of North Plains, David Hatcher.

“Composting next to a populated area doesn’t work,” Hatcher told Washington County commissioners at last night’s meeting. “I think this experiment has shown that.”

With no local destination for the commercial organic materials to go to, food scraps and yard debris will likely be shipped to another facility in the region. The two largest composting facilities currently are Pacific Region Compost in Corvallis, over 80 miles south, and Cedar Grove Composting in Maple Valley, Washington, outside the Seattle/Tacoma metro area, over 160 miles north.

Currently, ROR has a contract with the Metro regional government to handle commercial organics and, according to a Metro source, that contract is not tied to the firm’s ability to send the materials to Nature’s Needs. The company will have to find a new location and ask Metro for approval once a suitable location is found. Representatives for the company did not return requests for comment at press time.

“I’m very confident it will be worked out in a way that maintains the collection and the composting of the material,” said Bruce Walker, the City of Portland’s solid waste and recycling program manager.

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