On a recent rainy morning, mostly trucks and a few cars pull up to Metro Central transfer station. The first stop for each driver is the scalehouse, where the vehicle is weighed and a staff person chats with each driver to get a sense of where in the facility to send them. “What have you got for us today?”
Prep your load and pay less
Proper prep can save you time or even a few bucks. Before your trip to a Metro transfer station or hazardous waste facility, call 503-234-3000 or check the Metro website.
Neighbors on nextdoor.com looking to bundle their loads with others list a range of items ready for their final resting place: A truck canopy ruined in a wind storm. A pile of wood and metal strips that used to be a bed frame. Five Styrofoam containers. A large, tightly rolled rug, ruined in the process of puppy potty training. A rickety barbecue grill.
Whether you haul only your stuff or bring a neighbor's stuff too, it’s important to know what you are bringing to a Metro transfer station (Metro operates two: one in Northwest Portland and one in Oregon City). Here are some tips about how to arrange your load so that disposal is easier, safer and cheaper.
Sort and separate
When things go to the “dump” it doesn’t mean they go to the landfill. At Metro transfer stations a lot of material is separated and sent for recycling.
You can facilitate this process by packing similar items together. Wood in one spot, yard debris in another, garbage all together. This makes drop-off easier. Spotters at the transfer station will show you where to go.
Wood and yard debris will be sent to processors to be made into paper, fuel, compost or fertilizer. The garbage you bring goes through a sort line where workers pull out materials that can be recycled. The ruined canopy, disintegrating bed and rusty barbecue will all be funneled to a second life.
One important category of trash that may need special handling is construction, remodeling and demolition debris. The floor you ripped out of your bathroom, certain roofing materials, and a range of other building materials that may contain asbestos requires paper proof that it doesn’t – or your load will be turned away.
Follow the steps for construction debris that may contain asbestos
It pays to recycle
The transfer station accepts many items that are recyclable free of charge. If you bring them in a mixed load, you get a discount. Check the list of recyclables toward the bottom of the Metro Central web page and pack those together at one end or on top of your load so that they’re easy to find at the transfer station. You get $3 off your disposal charge if your recyclables weigh less than 100 pounds, $6 if they weigh more.
Cover and secure your load
Now that you have your load safely packed and separated, there’s one last step before setting off for the transfer station.
Cover your load securely using a tarp or some other means. “It’s a question of being a good neighbor and a good citizen,” says Matt Tracy, Metro’s principal transfer station operations planner. “You don’t want stuff flying off onto the freeway as you make your way over here.”
Also, you pay less when your load is safely covered and secured.
Hazardous waste goes to a facility next to the transfer station
If you have garbage that could hurt people, animals or the environment, it qualifies as hazardous waste. Common hazardous items include pesticides, paint, batteries, cleaning products, electronics, fluorescent bulbs, antifreeze, fuels, glues, mercury thermometers, and used syringes.
Hazardous waste must be disposed of separately at one of Metro’s hazardous waste facilities. These are located at the transfer stations but have shorter operating hours, so check before you go. Unlike the transfer station, the hazardous waste facilities are not open on Sundays.
The first thing to know is not to mix this stuff with other garbage. When these things end up in the regular landfill, heavy metals and other harmful chemicals can end up in the rivers, air and ground water. When dumped as garbage at the transfer station, chemicals can leak or start fires, endangering workers.
And just like a trip to the transfer station, the first question you’ll need to answer is “What do you have in your load?”
More tips for transporting hazardous waste
“Please, please don’t throw everything into a black trash bag and then bring it to us,” says Metro hazardous waste technician Amanda Pole. “We can’t see what’s in there.” Things tumble around, knock against each other, they might leak, spill or lose their lids and start off-gassing in your car. She also recommends putting leaky containers in Ziploc bags.
If you have substances that are not in original containers, label them if you’re certain of the contents. Don’t guess. Mystery substances go to the lab at the facility and are tested to determine correct and safe disposal methods.
Make sure sharps – needles – are in an approved container.
And never pour different substances into one container. Results could be dangerous.
And once you get to the hazardous waste facility, “Please stay in your car with the engine off,” says Pole.
“We’ll do all the unloading.”
Find out what happens to hazardous waste