Metro predicts that by the end of 2017, the amount of garbage and recycling generated in greater Portland will rise to levels not seen in more than a decade. But, Metro officials say, the steady growth in waste in the region since about 2010 is slowing. The numbers were released last week in Metro’s annual solid waste forecast.
“If you were to characterize this forecast with one word, it would be moderate,” said Metro analyst Joel Sherman. In the coming year and a half, he says, “growth should be much slower.”
The forecast provides estimates of what will be discarded – and how much – in the upcoming fiscal year, which runs July 1, 2018, to June 30, 2019. The estimates reflect everything expected to be thrown away in greater Portland before anything is reused, recycled, composted or used to make energy.
About the term "solid waste"
"Solid waste" is a term for what most people call "garbage and recycling," or just "garbage." The term is used throughout state law and local government charter language, and then gets carried over into department names, report titles, and projects - as in the solid waste forecast.
The numbers inform a variety of factors related to the management of the garbage and recycling system, from how waste is allocated across the facilities that handle the stuff to budget decisions that ensure system costs are covered.
Specifically, the forecast is used to set the tonnage charges and transaction fees at Metro Central and Metro South transfer stations, which affect the cost to both individual customers bringing in a truckload of stuff and haulers who collect garbage and compostable waste from residents and businesses. The forecast also informs fees and taxes, paid in part through everyone’s garbage and recycling collection bills.
“Growth in tons (of waste) should be very moderate and so as long as other system costs remain at similar levels, it should have a very moderate impact on fees and taxes,” said Sherman.
Fees and taxes on waste fund some general functions at Metro. In addition, an understanding of the type and quantity of the stuff thrown away in the region also informs ongoing efforts to reduce and prevent waste.
Housing and employment growth relate to waste trends
The forecast is developed in part by looking at trends in jobs, housing, population and other economic factors that have historically tracked with trends in waste. Generally, a strong economy means less unemployment and more building. These factors tend to translate into more waste, resulting from an increase in purchases of consumer goods, as well as in construction waste.
Those numbers dipped after the last recession and stayed low in 2009 and 2010, but have been growing since then. “It’s been pretty steady tonnage growth since the recession,” said Sherman. “Both the economy and tonnage have been growing.”
But, Sherman says, that growth is expected to slow. As employment, housing prices and new construction taper, so will the amounts and types of waste generated in greater Portland.
Metro’s 2018-19 solid waste forecast estimates that the total annual waste in greater Portland will hit and exceed the pre-recession peak (set in 2006, at 2.64 million tons) by the end 2017 and grow slowly up to an estimated 2.81 million tons by 2019 – the most waste ever generated in the Portland metropolitan area.
Forecasted waste includes garbage, construction and demolition debris, recyclables and food scraps. Of that total, about 1.37 million tons of garbage is forecasted to go to landfills by the end of 2019. The remaining 1.44 million tons, about 51 percent, is expected to be recycled or composted.
Metro also predicts some modest growth in the amount of waste diverted from landfills, as combined yard debris and food scraps collection programs become available in more communities and as the Metro Council considers a food scraps collection requirement for certain businesses starting in 2019.
Next March, the Metro Council is scheduled to adjust the fees and taxes on garbage generated within Metro’s jurisdictional boundary, as well as the rates for garbage, food scraps, yard debris and other materials brought to Metro transfer stations, based in part on the information contained in this forecast.
Learn more in a webinar Nov. 20
Metro will conduct at webinar about the 2018-19 solid waste forecast on Monday, Nov. 20 at 10 a.m. Metro staff will present the assumptions behind the forecast and some highlights and answer questions from participants. To join the webinar, follow the instructions in the event listing on Metro's calendar.
Read the solid waste forecast