Troutdale revisits business recycling program
In an effort to comply with Metro requirements established in 2008 and avoid having further Metro funds withheld from the city, Troutdale is finally taking steps to start a city-wide business recycling program.
At the Tuesday, June 25, City Council meeting, Troutdale Environmental Specialist Ryan Largura presented a first reading of an ordinance that would reverse the city's course by implementing such a program.
"I'm here to revisit a topic that had come up years ago," he said.
Troutdale is the only municipality in the regional government's jurisdiction that did not adopt a Metro program, established in September 2008, requiring businesses to separate recycling from garbage. Each of the 24 municipalities is responsible for enforcing its own restrictions, which Metro required to be in place by February 2009.
In 2011, two years after the requirement went into effect, the Troutdale council voted against a program mandating that businesses separate paper, plastic and glass from garbage, going against the Metro requirement.
Because Troutdale hasn't complied with the ordinance, Metro has withheld money from the city since 2010, said a memo written by Largura. Metro increased its enforcement action in 2016, and over the five-year period, withheld approximately $6,000 to $9,000 from the city each year, for a total of more than $83,000.
Metro has sent letters to the city warning it may take further action, including withholding more funding, not awarding discretionary money, and requesting broader enforcement through state government.
Troutdale City Councilor David Ripma said the council initially voted the ordinance down because of strong vocal opposition from citizens and business owners.
"We questioned if the money Metro was offering was going to cover the city's staff time expense," Ripma said. "I had forgotten, quite frankly, that we're in noncompliance."
Largura said the restoration of Metro's withheld funding will cover any expenses needed to initiate the program, including buying recycling bins for organizations that need them.
In 2011, Ripma noted that councilors were primarily concerned about how Metro was implementing the initiative.
"Those of us who voted no before wasn't because we were against recycling — recycling was occurring anyway — (but it was) set up in what looked like a very bureaucratic way, or the businesses perceived it that way," he said. "That's sort of my apology for why we're in this situation."
City Manager Ray Young said a recycling program is less of a burden to business owners now than it was a decade ago because recycling has become more commonplace.
Councilor Glenn White asked if any of the 23 cities that adopted a business recycling program have fined organizations within their jurisdiction for not complying with the ordinances.
Largura noted he hasn't heard of that happening.
"For example, the city of Gresham does a lot of education and outreach," Largura said. "They try to touch as many businesses as they can in order to prevent any issue reaching that enforcement option. I have not been told of any enforcement action on their part."
While no vote was taken at the June 25 meeting, councilors expressed no opposition to the idea. The council is expected to vote on adopting a recycling ordinance during its Tuesday, July 9, meeting.
Most Troutdale business owners won't even have to change their business practices after the council adopts a recycling program, Largura noted.
"The bottom line is the ordinance would require businesses to do what they have been likely doing for years voluntarily, and what most citizens do already," Largura said. "It simply requires businesses to separate their trash from their recyclable disposables."
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