It has been a little over half a year since joining the City of Portland Bureau of Planning and Sustainability (BPS), I continue to get adjusted, and continue to learn every day. The City of Portland is the largest city in the state of Oregon, as of 2010 roughly 600,000 people live in the city. Portland is internationally recognized for leading in sustainability and addressing climate change, its climate action plan was recognized as best in the world in 2016.
Last year, the Portland City Council approved a hauler tonnage fee that would generate funds for the expansion of the Public Trash Program. The program collects garbage in high use public places, but it is only present in some areas of the city, some neighborhoods have the resources to fund their own.
Yet, there are a number of business areas where the program can really benefit communities, specifically areas where there is a high concentration of vulnerable communities/people of color. East Portland, more commonly known as the area past 82nd avenue, is where the majority of communities of color live in the City of Portland.
Beginning April 2017, the value of redeemable items will increase from 5 cents to 10 cents. Aluminum cans and glass bottles are considered ‘redeemable items’ in Oregon, individuals collect the items to supplement their income, and often the main source of income. Access to redeemable items in a trashcan is an important consideration, we must allow individuals that want to recycle to be able to do just that, and it is also revenue for low-income populations.
However, the individuals recycling cans are not the only ones having to worry about the ergonomic conditions of their workplace, truck drivers are faced with challenges also. The style of each can design bring benefits and barriers that are often overlooked, such as the physical risk one must take to empty out a 65-gallon container, often resulting in a cost to the city to cover accidents or injuries. This is another consideration for the expansion of the program.
Literature tells us that projects are most successful when community engagement, participation, and supervision are successful. In order for the expansion of the program to be successful, it will have to have the community own it, since after all the streets belong to the people. This is why another consideration for the expansion of the program will be attributes that allow the community to take ownership, and customize it to their interest and needs.
Last, but certainly not least, BPS is not the only provider of garbage public service. Examples of neighborhood associations, the regional transit system, the Bureau of Parks and Recreation, or a private business taking the initiative to sponsor their own garbage programs are found around the city. Overlapping with such services is also another factor to consider.
I look forward to updating everyone on what the next steps look like, but certainly, it is not as simple as placing cans on the ground, for those streets belong to the residents. There are many elements to balance, from social, environmental, and economic aspects. Until then, feel free to check out the cans we are testing out they can be found at the food carts in the downtown area.