Most of the garbage generated in greater Portland goes to a landfill about 150 miles east of Portland. The Columbia Ridge Landfill near Arlington, Ore., has received much of the region’s garbage through contracted agreement since the early 1990s. That contract expires at the end of 2019 and discussion about what will happen after is underway.
While landfills will continue to be a final destination for some portion of the region's trash, Metro considered opportunities to use some garbage as a resource instead of simply burying it.
Metro considered technology often referred to as "waste-to energy." A facility less than 50 miles south of Portland converts Marion County's garbage into electricity, and could expand to take more trash. Metro evaluated whether, from an environmental, health and financial standpoint, this might be an option for a portion of greater Portland's garbage.
In 2016, Metro commissioned a health impact assessment that evaluated the costs and impacts of sending 200,000 tons of garbage a year to the facility in Marion County and compared those costs and impacts with sending the same amount of waste to a generic landfill 150 miles east of Portland. A copy of the assessment can be downloaded above.
Based on the results of this assessment, Metro staff recommended that the Metro Council not consider waste-to-energy in the near term because the increased costs of managing garbage in a combustion facility outweighed any potential environmental benefits. The Metro Council discussed this recommendation at a work session in August 2017 and concurred with the staff recommendation.
Metro is currently exploring ways to pull more food scraps out of garbage to make compost or generate energy. Food scraps make up nearly a fifth of the region’s garbage. There is also discussion about whether more recyclable materials can be pulled from trash - after food is removed - with advanced sorting technologies.