There once were several small landfills throughout the Metro region. As those landfills filled up and closed throughout the 1980s and early 1990s – including St. Johns Landfill, which Metro assumed responsibility for in 1980 – the region needed new facilities to take their place.
In the late 1980s, Waste Management purchased a site near Arlington, about 150 miles east of Portland, for the landfill that is now Columbia Ridge Landfill, and invested in its development in exchange for a guaranteed amount of garbage that would be provided to this facility. The bulk of this region’s garbage goes to this landfill or to Riverbend Landfill – also owned by Waste Management – southwest of McMinnville, as required by a contract between Metro and Waste Management in place since 1990. That contract expires at the end of 2019.
The end of 2019 may seem like it is far way, but new alternatives for managing garbage take time to develop, and if there are to be significant changes in how we manage our garbage in the future, we need to explore and consider other possibilities now.
Last July, as part of the Solid Waste Roadmap, the Metro Council directed its staff to consider five options for managing the region’s garbage after 2019:
- Landfills: Continuing to send garbage to landfills where methane is extracted from the decaying waste
- Combustion: Burning garbage to create heat and electricity
- Gasification: Heating garbage at very high temperatures to create gases and break down into simple compounds that can be used for electricity generation or other chemical processes
- Anaerobic digestion: Using bacteria to break down biodegradable material, without oxygen, to produce methane and carbon dioxide for electricity, natural gas or other fuels
- Refuse-derived fuels: Developing new fuels from garbage for use in power plants and for other industrial purposes
What comes next
Later this spring the Metro Council will receive information on these five approaches and ask its staff to focus on two or three approaches (or combinations of these approaches) that are likely to be most feasible and beneficial for the region to implement after 2019. By the end of this year, the Metro Council will settle on one or more preferred arrangements for managing the region’s garbage in 2020 and beyond.