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Phone: 503-823-7700

Curbside Hotline: 503-823-7202

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

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Portland’s “wishful recycling” problem

A recycling expert reveals another side to Portland’s passion for recycling, and why it’s important to follow the recycling list.


You know the importance of saving energy and resources by recycling as much as you can, but do you sometimes go too far? A recycling expert explains why “wishful recycling” can do more harm than good.

Why is it important to follow the recycling list?

“Recycling is about recovering resources when making new products,” says Vinod Singh, a manager at Far West Recycling, a facility that sorts Portland’s mixed recycling. To be successfully recycled, materials must be collected from residents and businesses, then sorted, cleaned, processed and delivered to manufacturers for use in their products.

“Wishful recycling is really contamination to the recycling stream,” says Vinod. “People put items in the recycling cart that they think might be recyclable or should be recyclable, and they may think they’re doing the right thing by not putting it in the garbage. But in fact they are making it more difficult to recycle the items manufacturers actually need.”

Items that are not accepted in Portland’s recycling program — like plastic to-go cups, lids and bags — have historically not had strong enough demand from manufacturers to justify sorting, processing and transporting them.

Vinod’s advice for passionate Portland recyclers? Don’t be a wishful recycler. Follow the recycling list. Not sure? When in doubt, throw it out!

Metro, the Portland area’s regional government, is tracking the issue. Read more about the change on Metro’s website. To get the most up-to-date information on where non-curbside plastics are being accepted, use Metro’s Find a recycler online database or call their Recycling Information Hotline at 503-234-3000.

For plastic bags specifically, you can also use this online tool to look up location drop-off options. For grocery store locations, it's best to call the individual location to confirm before making a special trip.

Need a recycling refresher?

Follow the list at Portland Recycles! or download the Be Cart Smart guide.

Winter weather reminders for garbage, recycling and composting

For single-family homes and smallplexes (up to 4 units): When snow and ice hits, leave roll carts at the curb!

If extreme winter weather affects Portland again this winter, collection of your garbage, recycling and composting roll carts may be delayed.

snowy roll carts

Leave your carts at the curb and your garbage and recycling company will collect  them as soon as driving conditions permit.

While your street may be clear, access to and from your neighborhood may not.

In the case of severe weather, collection will be prioritized in the following order: 

  1. Garbage
  2. Recycling
  3. Composting

Stay ahead of the weather

Sign up for a weekly email that includes weather messages and reminders for your collection day at


December 12 PSC Work Session on Code Reconciliation Project

The Portland Planning and Sustainability Commission (PSC) will hold a work session on the Code Reconciliation Project – Proposed Draft at its meeting on December 12 at approximately 1:20 p.m. Check the PSC agenda to confirm the time. 

No additional testimony will be taken on this topic at this meeting; testimony on the project was taken at the October 24, 2017 public hearing. The PSC will also consider additional amendments proposed in the December 5 staff memo.

Internship Opportunity: Climate Action Program

BPS is currently seeking interns for a Community Service Aide (CSA) position with the Climate Action program. The CSA will support work on implementation and tracking of Portland’s 2015 Climate Action Plan. Under supervision of program staff, the CSA will be responsible for updating Portland’s annual carbon emissions inventory, including collection and processing of data for input to ClearPath, an online database. The project presents an opportunity for the CSA to learn about regional and international practices and methods for public sector carbon accounting.

Applicants should have:

  • Familiarity with the science of climate change and principles of climate planning
  • Ability to manage excel spreadsheets, complex data sets, and web-based database software
  • Ability to work with partners and other public agencies for data collection
  • Clear and concise writing
  • Attention to detail
  • Ability to keep data organized and clearly document methods, assumptions and findings
  • Flexibility, initiative, and ability to work as part of a team

Applicants must submit a cover letter and resume by December 27, 2017. 

See the full job description and application process for more details.

Ask the Curbside Hotline Operator: Which plastics are accepted in the blue recycling roll cart?

Use size and shape — not the numbers inside of the recycle symbol — for guidance.

Plastic buckets, tubs and bottlesQ: Which plastics are accepted in the blue recycling roll cart?

A: Bottles with neck smaller than base (6 ounces or larger), tubs (6 ounces or larger), plant pots (4 inches or larger) and buckets (5 gallons or smaller).

The City of Portland, along with the adjacent counties, use size and shape to determine whether plastic is in or out of the curbside system, not numbers or symbols. Do not assume a product with a recyclable label means it should go in your blue recycling roll cart.

The plastics resin numbering system (the numbers inside of the recycle symbol) is a common point of confusion. While numbers can be helpful, they do not tell the whole story. Find more about the resin identification code and alternatives to plastic products.

Need a recycling refresher?

Follow the list at Portland Recycles! or download the Be Cart Smart guide.

Have a question for our Curbside Hotline Operator?
Submit your question online or call 503-823-7202.