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The City of Portland, Oregon

Planning and Sustainability

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1900 SW 4th Ave, Suite 7100, Portland, OR 97201

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Top 6 items to keep out of your curbside recycling

These items belong in the garbage.

items that belong in garbage1. Plastic bags, plastic film and wrappers

2. Paper and plastic drink cups, straws and coffee cups

3. Frozen food boxes and trays

4. To-go containers and “clamshells”

5. Styrofoam™ blocks and foam peanuts

6. Diapers, of course!

Portland City Council to consider conditional ban on single-use non-recyclable plastics, including plastic straws

Bureau of Planning and Sustainability will listen to feedback from public and businesses before City Council votes on ordinance in Fall 2018.

 

Media contact: Mayor’s Office, Michael Cox 503.823.4046 or Michael.B.Cox@portlandoregon.gov

It could soon be the last straw for Portland’s City Council—at least the last plastic straw. Today City Council approved a resolution that directs the Bureau of Planning and Sustainability (BPS) to develop a strategy to reduce single-use, non-recyclable plastics and invite feedback from community members, hospitals and care facilities, and businesses that stock and supply straws.

City of Portland is considering the ban as a response to the global plastic litter problem involving single-use, non-recyclable plastics: Plastic straws are one of many items that are littering our land and oceans and impacting wildlife habitat. In fact, plastic straws are the 6th most frequently occurring litter in the United States, according to the 2017 Ocean Conservancy report. Over 663 species, including sea turtles, whales, dolphins and seabirds, are impacted by plastic, either by ingesting or becoming entangled in the plastic debris.

“A lot of people feel overwhelmed by the magnitude of the plastic problem,” said Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler. “In 2011, Portlanders did an amazing job moving away from plastic bags at the grocery checkout. Giving up plastic straws is another important step in the right direction.”

Plastic does not biodegrade but instead breaks down into smaller pieces that enters the marine food chain. Note: Compostable plastic straws are not a viable alternative either because they do not break down in aquatic environments like our rivers and oceans.

In response to ocean plastics and litter, over 100 municipalities worldwide are banning or charging for plastic bags, and reusable bags are commonplace. Cities around the world such as Vancouver, BC., New York, Seattle, San Francisco, Berkeley, and Boulder already have or are in the process of restricting straws and other single-use non-recyclable plastics.

“We’re really proud to see Portland businesses lead on this effort,” said Charlie Plybon, Surfrider Foundation’s Oregon Policy Manager, whose organization has already worked with over 100 businesses in Portland to phase out plastic straws.

BPS staff will incorporate public feedback and elements of lessons learned by other cities into the development of an ordinance. The City is committed to working with the community on a business-first approach, to ensure those impacted by the ordinance have an opportunity to voice concerns.

Consideration will be given to restaurant customers and patients in hospitals and caregiving facilities that need straws to comfortably consume beverages.

Initially, the ordinance will apply to restaurants and other businesses and organizations in Portland that provide straws to customers and employees. How and when a change will occur will be determined in the development of the ordinance.

Visit www.portlandoregon.gov/bps/reduceplastics to follow the progress of this strategy.

Modernizing the City’s fleet vehicles

Transforming the City’s fleet from gas to electric is underway

The City of Portland’s sedan fleet has transformed dramatically since 2013, from almost entirely conventional gas vehicles to over 20 percent electric vehicles (EVs) and hybrid EVs.

The City is a leader in EV purchasing, EV charging infrastructure, education and outreach efforts, and fostering new markets for EV technology beyond sedans and light trucks. There is great support for EVs at the City, from Mayor Ted Wheeler who can be seen getting around town in his Ford CMax Energi to Bureau directors and staff. It’s truly a team effort and our collective hard work is paying off.

But this transformation is still underway, as there is more work to be done to meet key goals of the City’s 2030 Environmental Performance Objectives, Climate Action Plan (CAP), and the community-wide renewable energy goals established in 2017 by Resolution 37289.

  • The City’s Climate Action Plan, adopted in 2015, sets ambitious goals: a 40 percent reduction in carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions by 2030 and an 80 percent reduction by 2050, using 1990 levels as a benchmark.
  • The 2030 Environmental Performance Objectives, also adopted in 2015, hold the City to even higher standards, aiming for a 53% reduction in CO2 emissions by 2030, using FY 06-07 as a benchmark.

With transport currently creating 40% of CO2 emissions in Multnomah County, “EVs are a vital tool to help the City and the region meet long-term environmental goals,” explains Ingrid Fish, EV Policy Lead with Portland’s Bureau of Planning and Sustainability. While EVs are part of the solution, they are by no means the entire solution.

The City is also working hard to create and foster walkable communities, encourage active transport, and create policies for autonomous and shared transport. But in areas where cars are still a necessity, EVs are the way to go and they are also the future of the City’s vehicle fleet.

Modernizing an aging fleet

The opportunity to transform the City’s fleet fell heavier on the Bureau of Development Services (BDS) than on some other Bureaus, because their inspectors only use sedans. Other Bureaus require heavy duty trucks and for these there are currently few, if any, EV options. Katie Salazar, Facilities Coordinator for BDS, recalls that in 2013 their fleet was aging and not at all green. They had no EVs and more than half of their vehicles were due for replacement. In order to follow the then new Bureau of Planning and Sustainability (BPS) policies and to help meet City EV goals, BDS began buying exclusively hybrids and plug-in hybrids.

But Katie faced a challenge. “The Prius was seen as the ultimate green pansy car. I wanted to be sustainable, but also to keep my people happy.” So, Katie got to work. She explained to BDS staff how the Bureau needed to reduce its carbon emissions in order to do their part to meet the City’s Climate Action Plan (CAP) goals. She sold hybrids on convenience: “You won’t have to stop as frequently for gas.” And she gave staff voice and choice.

After test driving a number of vehicles, BDS staff chose the Ford C-Max Energi plug-in hybrid. Many staff objected to the Prius, which was under consideration, not only because of its image, but also because it was uncomfortable for taller inspectors and had difficult sight lines. Staff were happy to have voice and choice and, in general, there have been few complaints about the new vehicles. Today all of BDS' 108 vehicles are hybrids or plug-in hybrids.

Plug-in hybrids are projected to deliver meaningful cost savings over the lifetime of the vehicle. Hybrid vehicles last longer and need to be replaced only every 10-11 years, while conventional vehicles need to be replaced every 6-7 years. Hybrids also have lower operation and maintenance costs. And the cost difference of buying a hybrid or plug-in hybrid as opposed to a gas vehicle is getting less and less. For example, five years ago a standard gas-powered sedan cost about $20,000 and a plug-in hybrid cost $35,000, a 75% difference. Today that gap has narrowed to 20% with gas powered sedans at $24,000 and plug-in hybrid’s at $29,000. With the reduced purchase price and reduced maintenance, the overall lifecycle costs of these vehicles are less than that of a comparable gas-powered sedan.

Building EV infrastructure

With the City of Portland purchasing hybrid EVs in ever-increasing numbers and with an “EV first” policy, requiring that new vehicles be EVs unless there is a compelling reason not to buy one, the City is working hard to build sufficient charging infrastructure. At times, the City is playing catch-up: creating infrastructure that will let Bureaus charge existing vehicles.

In 2017, 43 EV charging stations opened in the garage that the City of Portland’s Bureau of Development Services uses to park its fleet. This was a significant milestone in a broad and ongoing process of fleet transformation designed to decrease carbon emissions.  

The 43 EV charging stations were built in partnership with Portland State University (PSU), from whom the City rents garage space. The City Council approved project cost was $280,000. 

Growing the EV market

The City has committed to a goal of meeting 100 percent of its community-wide energy needs with renewable energy by 2050. This goal includes transportation energy which results in the City aiming to have a zero-emission vehicle fleet fueled by renewable electricity sources by 2050. To meet these goals markets must continue to shift. For example, the EV market for sedans and light SUVs is relatively well established. But, if you’re looking to buy a heavy-duty truck or specialized vehicle like a paver or garbage truck, there are very few EV options and the options that exist are currently cost prohibitive.

Portland, in partnership with other west coast cities, is working to change this. In 2017, the Cities of Portland, Seattle, San Francisco, and Los Angeles, all members of the Mayors National Climate Action Agenda, submitted a Request for Information (RFI), inviting “automakers to describe their plans for meeting a potentially record-breaking order of EVs. The four cities could buy or lease up to 24,000 electric vehicles for their fleets, if automobile and truck manufacturers are able to meet the demand and provide appropriate pricing.”

This RFI is the first effort of its kind to include municipalities from different states, demonstrating the purchasing power of local governments to transform the electric vehicle market. By moving to electric vehicles, cities can reduce greenhouse gas emissions, decrease reliance on fossil fuels, and improve air quality while reducing fuel and maintenance costs by an estimated average of 37 percent. In particular, this RFI aims to demonstrate demand and create a market for the development of EV trucks and medium or heavy-duty equipment including delivery vans, trash trucks and transit buses.

Education and Outreach

The process of fleet transformation and EV adoption is not simply a technical one. It is also a question of the behavior of thousands of users – City staff who depend on fleet vehicles. BDS has opted to make the process of behavior change more natural and not to make it mandatory for staff to use the charging stations. Currently there are more EVs than charging stations, so hopefully the charging stations will be used by engaged and motivated staff and this will, in turn, create additional interest. To streamline this process BDS has conducted outreach and created a video explaining how to use the charging stations. Similar outreach and education processes are playing out across the City’s Bureaus.

Initial reports are very positive. Ingrid Fish shares, “I have heard from Fleet that EVs are the first to be reserved. People like how they handle and that they are very quiet.” It is also a plus that you don’t need to refuel frequently. Donny Leader, the Vehicle Administrative Supervisor for City Fleet agrees. “As an EV owner, I try to lead by example and encourage others to purchase electric vehicles. I also advocate for workplace charging as an incentive to City employees who commute to work from outside the city limits to purchase electric vehicles.”  City Administrative Rules do not currently provide for this.

Looking ahead

As the City of Portland continues to buy more EVs and to use EVs to fulfill more needs, there will be continued need for new EV charging infrastructure. Some of these charging stations will be eligible to earn credits under the Oregon Clean Fuels Program.  Hopefully car and truck manufacturers will respond favorably to the RFI and move swiftly so that we’ll see EV garbage trucks and construction vehicles in not too long. When it comes to personal vehicles, the City will look to encourage and plan for a future in which individual vehicle use, even if it’s an EV, declines.

Recycle with Confidence

Here’s how to avoid common recycling blunders.

Find out what goes where in the Be Cart Smart Guide

More isn’t always better
Not everything goes into the blue recycling roll cart. Rest assured you are doing the right thing when you put items that are on the NO list into the garbage.

Why are some items accepted in the blue roll cart while others are not? The items on the YES list can be sorted, sold, and turned into new materials in a cost-effective way.

Free yourself from recycling number confusion
Do you search for the symbol and number on the bottom to decide if you should recycle an item? Give your eyes a break! Ignore the numbers; they indicate plastic resin type for manufacturers, not recyclability. Portland’s recycling facilities sort containers based on size and shape.

Leave out the take-out items
To-go containers are not accepted in the blue roll cart. This includes paper and plastic cups, food containers and wrappers, cutlery, and straws. Putting take-out items in the recycling slows down the sorting process, adding cost.Find out what goes where in the Be Cart Smart Guide

No plastic bags, please
Plastic bags are on the NO list because they get caught in machinery at the sorting facilities, causing major mechanical slow-downs. Instead, return them to participating retailers. Follow the list and relax.

Preparation reminders

  • Rinse containers before placing in the blue recycling roll cart and yellow glass bin.
  • Do not include caps or lids for recycling.
  • Take off plastic stickers from fruit and vegetables before placing peels in the green compost roll cart.

Need a recycling refresher? Find our Be Cart Smart guide online or download it in one of 12 languages.

Can the heartbreak of wasting summer fruits and vegetables

Food preservation author Marisa McLellan talks about the benefits of small-batch canning to reduce food waste at home.

Picture of a woman with fruits, vegetables, and canned goods.

Avoiding food waste is one of the most important actions residents can take to prevent climate change. Through prevention, donation and recovery, Portlanders sent 22 percent less food to the landfill in 2016 than in 2009*.

There are so many ways to reduce food waste!

We talked to food preservation expert Marisa McLellan of www.foodinjars.com to learn about the benefits of small-batch canning to reduce food waste.

You say you grew up in Portland. What kind of lessons did you learn about our mantra of “reduce-reuse-recycle”?

I grew up with Portland's environmental message bred into my bones. I remember helping sort our recycling from an early age and I joined my middle school's Green Club on the first day of 6th grade.

How did you learn canning?

I grew up helping my mom make jam with blueberries and blackberries picked on Sauvie Island and the windfall apples from our neighbor's trees. So, canning is something I always knew how to do. I didn't start to learn the deep science of food preservation until I started the blog, though. Once I started writing, people began asking me questions, and I quickly discovered how little I understood. I immediately started doing my research, so that I could answer questions from a place of knowledge, rather than folklore.

How did you come up with the idea for small-batch canning recipes?

When I first started canning, I followed the conventionally sized recipes. I didn't know that you could do it any other way. However, I quickly found that I was making far more than I needed and my limited storage space was overflowing. So, I did a little research into culinary ratios and started cutting down my batch sizes.

I discovered that small batches had much to offer. They were quick to make, they were more affordable, they didn't overwhelm my storage space, and helped me reduce the amount of food I wasted on a regular basis. I feel like everyone wins when home cooks preserve on a small scale.

Was there a moment that made you realize that small-batch canning helps reduce food waste?

I started thinking about canning as a waste prevention tool when friends would tell me that they subscribed to a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) share and were finding themselves throwing as much as half their share away because they just couldn't eat it all up before it started to spoil. It dawned on me that small-batch canning was a way to buy some time for that produce. I started talking people through some basic preservation skills. Each time, I heard back that it made a difference in how they thought about their share and helped them send less food to the compost.

How do you use small-batch canning to reduce food waste in your life?

Whenever I find myself with more produce than I can eat each week, I pull everything out and start to triage. Anything that can keep on its own goes back in the crisper (things like potatoes, cabbage, and cauliflower). Then, I divide things up into four categories—jam, pickles, pesto, spreads—and roll my sleeves up to get started.

Rapidly softening fruit gets prepped (this includes removing soft spots, peeling, coring, pitting, and chopping) and combined with some sugar or honey to soften for a while. Cucumbers will get a quick vinegar pickle treatment, other vegetables like green beans will be submerged in a salt brine with garlic cloves and dill seed to ferment. Tender greens like arugula and spinach get combined with soft herbs and whirred into pesto (pack into small jars, top with olive oil, and freeze for up to a year).

“…I can transform a fridge full of produce in just a couple of hours…I get more value from my food budget, I eat better throughout the week, and I throw away less.” -- Marisa McClellan

Canning sounds intimidating. How do you make it less scary?

The very best way to let go of any fears surrounding canning is to take a class (whether in person or by video), or to find an experienced friend and get them to can with you. Some of the best starter recipes include blueberry jam (it almost always sets up), pickled green beans (they stay crisp better than cucumbers), and applesauce (because apples are high in acid and sugar, you don't have to add anything to applesauce to make it safe for the boiling water bath canner).

Gather the basic tools, including a wide-mouth funnel, jar lifter, and canning rack. (These items are available for borrowing at kitchen share libraries around Portland.)

Visit www.savethefood.com for even more food waste prevention tips.

*According to the latest data available from the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality.