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Metro chooses nation's largest garbage hauler, which is working with Portland sewer authority, to build plant in North Portland.

COURTESY METRO - Food scraps would be collected and processed into energy at a plant proposed by Waste Management near the Portland sewage plant in North Portland, if the parties can agree to a contract. Metro has commenced negotiations to develop a plant in North Portland that converts the region's food scraps into energy.

On Jan. 5, Metro selected Waste Management, the nation's largest garbage company, to build a facility that will work in tandem with the Portland Bureau of Environmental Services, which operates the city's sewage treatment plant.

Waste Management, based in Houston, has developed a technology that uses food scraps to boost the energy created by converting municipal sewage into biogas.

Waste Management will do pre-processing of the food scraps by turning it into a bio-slurry, at the former Wastech facility at 701 N. Hunt St., just east of Interstate 5 and north of Columbia Blvd., said Ken Ray, Metro's spokesman for solid waste matters. That slurry will then get trucked to the city's Columbia Boulevard Wastewaster Treatment Plant at 5001 N. Columbia Blvd.

The slurry will be digested in the sewage plant's anaerobic digester, which is used to process biosolids, fats, oil and grease.

The resulting biogas can be used for energy or vehicle fuel.

Last year, Metro put out a request for private companies to develop a facility to process food scraps, and six companies responded with competitive proposals. Of those, Waste Management and SORT Bioenergy, based in Wilsonville, essentially tied in initial rankings, Ray said.

After oral interviews with those two entities, a Metro panel selected Waste Management, and now is in talks with it and the Bureau of Environmental Services, Ray said.

Negotiations are expected to take a few months. If the parties can't come to an agreement on a contract, Metro would go back to talk with SORT Bioenergy, Ray said.

Some past projects aimed at recycling food scraps have flopped in the Portland area, including a composting site in North Plains that engendered numerous complaints about odor, and an anaerobic digester project on Northeast Columbia Boulevard that never went forward.

There also have been operational and financial problems at the state's lone plant that does process food scraps, J.C. Biomethane in Lane County.

So far, Metro has refused to divulge details of what the various bidders proposed, and doesn't plan to do so until it issues a notice of intent to award a contract, now targeted for late April, Ray said.

A Portland Tribune public records request to obtain details of the six bidders' proposals was rejected by Metro and then the Multnomah County district attorney's office, on appeal.

Metro expects it will approve the final contract administratively, rather than submit it to the elected Metro Council, Ray said.

If any party objects to Metro's decision, they would have seven days to mount an appeal. An appeal could be handled by Tim Collier, Metro's director of finance and regulatory systems, though Collier would have the option of directing the appeal to the elected council, Ray said.

Mandate in the works

To guarantee a steady and ample supply of raw material for an anaerobic digester, Metro is fashioning a mandate to require larger businesses and institutions, such as schools and hospitals, to separate their food waste so that it can be turned into usable energy rather than dumped in the trash and sent to a landfill in Eastern Oregon.

Rotting organic waste is particularly bad for the environment, as it emits methane, a potent greenhouse gas that contributes to global warming.

Metro put out draft language for its proposed code language and administrative rules in the fall, and received 71 pages of public comments.

Final rules are now expected to be submitted to the Metro Council in July, Ray said, after a contract is awarded for the private processing facility.

Initially, local governments, which regulate garbage haulers, would be mandated to change their rules and require local haulers to ready their fleets to take on a larger amount of food scraps for reuse. Then larger producers of food scraps would be mandated to begin recycling, in three phases, starting in March 2020.

The first round would apply to companies that produce more than 1,000 pounds of food scraps a week. Then the requirement would expand to include those producing more than 500 pounds. In the third and final stage, sites producing more than 250 pounds, along with schools, would be included in the mandate.

Steve Law can be reached at 971-204-7866 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.; on Twitter at SteveLawTrib

Find out more

For more details about Metro's plans and to read its draft code amendments and administrative rules: http://bit.ly/2DvqTFr

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