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City Council OK's implemeting Metro regional government crafted ordinance

Wood Village City Council adopted an ordinance at its meeting Tuesday, July 9, requiring all businesses producing more than 250 pounds of food waste per week to separate that waste from their garbage.

The code adoption took place over the objection of City Councilor Patricia Smith, who argued the program will eventually cost city businesses money.

The ordinance is a Metro requirement for the 24 cities in the regional government's jurisdiction to adopt a food waste collection policy by Wednesday, July 31.

Smith opposed the ordinance when it was first presented to the City Council on Thursday, June 27. Smith often doesn't agree with Metro's decisions requiring cities to implement codes.

"I just don't like to be mandated," she said.

At the June 27 meeting, Smith said she wanted more information about where the food waste ends up before supporting the program. Although Smith was outvoted 4-1 at the meeting, which was the first time the ordinance was presented to the Wood Village City Council, the vote must be unanimous in order for an ordinance to pass.

Metro Councilor Shirley Craddick attended Wood Village's latest meeting to offer more information.

Commercial food scraps collected in the Portland area go to two composting facilities: a Recology facility in Aumsville, southeast of Salem, and a Pacific Region Compost facility in Adair Village north of Corvallis.

Craddick said by requiring all 24 cities in Metro's jurisdiction to adopt a program, they can collect enough food waste to help strike a deal with processors to take the waste to an anaerobic digester at the Portland wastewater treatment plant on North Columbia Boulevard. The digester will turn food scraps into energy.

"Food waste is a commodity, and putting it into the ground (creates) methane," Craddick said.

Smith responded she would rather have all the pieces in place before requiring cities to implement the program.

Cost debate

Many Wood Village businesses started separating food waste from recycling for a voluntary program in 2011, said City Manager Bill Peterson, and a few of those businesses found they actually saved money. Although it's unclear if more organizations will see a similar cost savings as the requirement come into effect.

Not implementing the program would cost the city money. Peterson pointed to Troutdale's decision to not implement a business recycling program (not a food waste composting program) in 2011. For the last three years, Metro has withheld $6,000 to $9,000 from the city annually for noncompliance.

"There are real consequences with appropriate action that Metro can do, for us not doing this," Peterson said. "There is a real cost for failure to comply."

Mayor Scott Harden said it wouldn't make any sense to buck a Metro requirement if the city will be fined for noncompliance.

"It would be spending money in the most foolish way possible," Harden said.

Businesses that have participated in voluntary food waste programs have often examined their food preparations practices and discovered cost-saving measures, Craddick said.

Metro is funding the first five years of the program.

Smith said once the monetary assistance program ends, business costs for the program will skyrocket.

Responding to Smith's concerns, Craddick said, "I hope you find this is a benefit as opposed to what you're worried about."

"We'll see," Smith responded. "We'll see."


When does it start?

Metro regional government adopted an ordinance requiring businesses generating more than 250 pounds of food waste per week to separate food scraps from their garbage.

Businesses that generate 1,000 pounds or more of food waste per week will be required to follow the standard by March 31, 2020. Organizations that generate 500 pounds or more of food scraps per week will be required to implement the standard by Sept. 30, 2021. Kindergarten through 12th grade schools, and businesses that generate 250 pounds or more of food scraps per week, will need to implement the program by September 2022.

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