Every place in the world must deal with waste. Every community must make decisions about where to send their waste, how to conserve resources, and how best to protect the environment both now and in the future.
See innovative ways to manage waste from the symposium panelists who also presented to Metro Council in September. Read about the potential scenarios to improve waste facilities in greater Portland.
In greater Portland, Metro is looking at what new waste facilities or key investments are needed to reduce waste and improve garbage and recycling services for the region.
At the reuse, recycling and garbage system symposium in September, an international panel of experts shared how they tackle their big waste challenges.
Metro Chief Operating Officer Marissa Madrigal welcomed the panelists and attendees, sharing her excitement while acknowledging the tough decisions to be made.
“We have a big task ahead as we care for and respond to the garbage and recycling needs of our changing community. Climate change is threatening our water resources and increasing the risk of wildfires – all while consumer habits are changing,” Madrigal said. “This dynamic environment calls for our best thinking to meet those challenges head-on.”
Julie Dickinson spoke about the zero waste initiatives in Auckland, New Zealand, including a network of facilities that maximize reuse, repair and recycling opportunities. Auckland also runs a large household item collection service where residents can call for collection once a year. All of the collected items that can be reused go to their reuse network.
Eco-entrepreneur Anna Bergstrom shared the lessons learned from opening the world’s first reuse mall in Eskilstuna, Sweden. The mall serves as both a shopping center housing multiple reuse and repair organization storefronts as well as a depot for people to drop off their reusable goods.
Andrew Doi from Vancouver B.C. shared how the regional government set up a network of recycling and waste centers that collect a range of materials, including those that are covered by extended producer responsibility programs.
Extended producer responsibility means the producers of goods have more responsibility for the disposal of their products. In Oregon, household paint, some electronics and prescription medications are covered by extended producer responsibility programs. Mattresses and packaging will be added to this list in the next few years when Oregon implements new extended producer responsibility programs.
Suzanne Jones spoke about the zero waste communities she’s helped build as the executive director of EcoCycle, one of the nation’s oldest and largest nonprofit recyclers, located in Boulder, Colorado. Jones described a cluster of zero waste facilities, nicknamed “Recycle Row,” that hosts city, county, nonprofit and for-profit entities.
Looking at facility investments in greater Portland
The visionary panel was a prelude to an afternoon workshop where representatives from local governments, haulers, reuse nonprofits and businesses weighed in on future facility investments in greater Portland.
The symposium and workshop were hosted by Metro’s Waste Prevention and Environmental Services department by the Garbage and Recycling System Facilities Plan team. The team has been looking at the region’s aging garbage and recycling infrastructure, assessing where there are gaps and proposing new facilities or services that can address identified problems.
“The garbage and recycling system, facilities, services and gaps in our region are experienced differently. The current distribution of facilities means some people have access to easy services such as household hazardous waste or furniture disposal, while others do not,” said Marta McGuire PhD., director of the Waste Prevention and Environmental Services department.
Metro staff presented four scenarios showing potential future facilities or other investments to modernize the garbage and recycling system:
- Full-service: Metro builds four large transfer stations and two new reuse facilities
- Distributed: Metro builds a network of distributed mid-sized facilities across the three counties
- No-build: Metro increases requirements, invests in private facilities and renovates existing facilities
- Baseline: Metro does not build new facilities or address facility gaps, but maintains current facilities
Participants were asked to evaluate the scenarios, giving their pros and cons of each and to choose which scenario, or which elements of each they preferred. Input from the workshop will help inform Metro Council’s decision on a preferred scenario to develop into a draft plan next year.
Metro Councilors Duncan Hwang, Mary Nolan, Gerrit Rosenthal and Ashton Simpson attended the symposium and listened in on the lively discussions during the workshop. When asked about the event, Nolan spoke of the opportunities to make upstream impacts, reducing the amount of things people purchase and use, which has the greatest potential to reduce climate change.
“Waste management services are the cornerstone of a sustainable future for our community. The symposium highlighted the opportunities to shift our focus upstream and collaborate with manufacturers to reduce waste at its source and embrace reuse models,” Nolan said.
“By fostering innovation and cooperation, we can protect our environment, conserve resources, and build a brighter, cleaner, and more prosperous future for all.”