Portland slop buckets: latest green Holy Grail quest

by Dave Lister

Let me start by saying I love Portland’s curbside recycling program.

Without the ability to throw my plastic jugs, paper bags, scrap metal and newspapers into that blue bin, I would be filling a 60-gallon garbage can every week, rather than a 30-gallon. That being said, Portland’s new plan to justify cutting garbage pickup to every other week by virtue of allowing us to throw our food waste into our yard debris receptacles for weekly pickup is inconvenient, impractical and, frankly, onerous.

During the City Council session on Aug. 17, when the council heard a “second reading” on the proposal (the first having been four years ago), the council waxed eloquently over the city’s newest quest to embrace the Holy Grail of green. City Commissioner Dan Saltzman stated, “We’ve evolved. It’s only appropriate that every five or six years we push ourselves a little harder, and that time is now. I’m eager for the experiment.”

City Commissioner Amanda Fritz insisted that the program had been “well publicized.” She went on to say her office had received many calls and emails indicating residents were “very worried,” but pointed out that her family had been getting along fine with monthly trash pickup for 19 years.

Mayor Sam Adams exhibited excitement over the fact that cheese-encrusted pizza boxes would now go into the compost bin rather than the trash. As a man who seems to delight in surrounding himself with 20-something staff members and maintaining a college-dorm atmosphere in his City Hall office, I’m sure he thinks takeout pizza is a mainstay of everyone’s diet. But in the real world, I don’t think so.

If you don’t know how this program works, let me enlighten you. The city plans to provide every household with a slop bucket to keep on the kitchen counter. You are supposed to scrape your pork chop bones, uneaten potato skins and anything else left on your plate after dinner into your slop bucket.

When your bucket is full, you are to dump it into your green yard debris roll cart. If you’re colorblind, you’ll need a friend or family member to help you make the right can selection. Anything of a nonorganic nature that you can’t put in your blue recycling roll cart, you can continue to put in the garbage.

The compost will be collected weekly, but your regular garbage will be picked up every other week. That means dirty diapers, medical waste from adult care facilities, soiled paper towels and nonrecyclable food packaging will sit in your can for 14 days. That probably won’t be too bad this winter, but just wait until August.

The City Council has proclaimed that the trial program for this system, which included 2,000 households out of Portland’s half a million, was a resounding success. It was so successful, in fact, that 335 of the trial participants responded to a post-trial survey. Of those, 80 percent indicated they were at least “somewhat satisfied” with the program. Now there’s a mandate if I’ve ever seen one.

To his credit, Bruce Walker of Portland’s Office of Sustainable Development agreed to a recent interview with talk radio host Lars Larson to defend the program. Despite the fact that Larson had him all but agree this plan is being forced down people’s throats, Walker insisted the city “was moving forward with this program” and that people would “get used to it.”

And where will the city dump all this putrid slop to let it compost? Lents, of course. Where else? The Cully neighborhood is already full of the duck poop they dredged from the Laurelhurst pond.

Dave Lister is a small-business owner who served on Portland’s Small Business Advisory Council.


  • Bob Clark


    Portland’s version of the green movement, adopted by only a handful of other cities, is really red in its governance.  In stump town, you are not even worthy to have a simple plastic bag.  The plastic bag ordinance could have been much less intrusive by allowing citizens to get a new plastic bag at check out if they returned at least one plastic bag.  The paper bags now being dispatched by grocers in their place are flimsy and tear easily; what’s more paper doesn’t work very well compared to plastic when you are on a bike or walking, expecially in the rain.  What’s also hypocrisy is paper bags require more energy in their manufacture than plastic bags.

    As for the food scrap thing, here again we are suppose to toil an extra ten to fifteen minutes separating out food scraps from our garbage.  Some of us actually have families and already spend an hour to an hour and half cleaning the kitchen each day.  Adding another 15 minutes onto this is beyond the pale.  I feel like Ma_o_ Adams is forcing working stiffs like me into more and more of a soviet union or Maoist type life.  Brings back memories of the old Soviet Union where shoppers wore coats with extra deep pockets because the citizens were not allowed any bags to carry away their groceries.

    It’s nice to know Pizza boxes can be tossed in the green bin.  But you know even here, there are many weeks where our yard debri bin is chalk full of invasive weeds, leaves and other natural occuring debris.

    What’s funny too is the pale for kitchen scraps handed out is rather small.  Also, who wants a grimy pale full of rotting food on the counter; and who wants to have a yard debri bin with the inevitable food goop sloshing down the sides of it, attracting rodents.

    Green is red.  Better free than green.

    The folks running to replace Adams are of the same juvenile green nazi type.  As a result, my family actually went out and bought another house in a rural area to hopefully escape the steady march of the likes of Mao Adams and his crew of green nazis. 

  • Dan Saltzman stated,  “We’ve evolved. …  I’m eager for the experiment.”
    JK: Hey niitwit, go experiment on someone else.

    Bob Clark  As a result, my family actually went out and bought another house in a rural area to hopefully escape the steady march of the likes of Mao Adams and his crew of green nazis.
    JK: There is no escape from the green shirts. We have to defeat them. We have to show that they are crazy, illiterate, fools. It is coming as their center piece, global warming, is coming apart.


  • Nounionforme

    They must cut pickup so as to pay the collectors very, very high wages and full benefits and retirement.
    Great work if you can get it.

  • I was wondering how a professed homosexual who has no family can be put in a position to make decisions about my family. Where does his wealth of experience giving him the wisdom come from. 
    Last time I checked the people involved in a homosexual relationship have no progeny.
    I have a total of seven people I am responsible for. If we all do our best we still generate one can a week. We do our best to recycle all that we can but we still have a full can come pickup day. 
    We do not throw away vast amounts of food. Defiantly nowhere close to a can a week.
    Maybe a 1/2 can every other month.
    You see Sam those of us who are raising families do not buy a lot of food for the express purpose of throwing it away. Except for a few peels and skins from the produce it gets eaten. 
    Whats next we have to start wearing a respirator to capture the carbon dioxide we exhale and take it to a carbon reclamation factory. Fans that bottle the air in the bathroom to capture methane. 
    No I have no fear of homosexuals and as long as they do not do it in the streets they are welcome to indulge in their lifestyle.