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News and Tips on Garbage, Recycling, Composting and Reducing Waste at Home

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.

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.

Don’t let your food scraps go to waste

Use holiday leftovers before adding to your compost container.

The holidays offer more time in the kitchen – preparing, baking and cooking for family and friends. Get a head start on your food prep by having your kitchen compost container handy.

Keep your pail tidy by lining it with newspaper, a paper bag or an approved compostable liner. You can also wrap up food scraps in a piece of newspaper before placing them in your container.

To get the most from your bird, make stock with the bones before you compost it. It's easier than you think. By adding water, carrots, onions, celery and perhaps some favorite herbs and spices, you can create flavorful stock to freeze for future winter cooking. Enjoy your leftovers (many holiday foods taste better the second day), make a turkey sandwich, a casserole or get creative with your own concoction!

And when you’ve gotten everything out of your meal, add the turkey bones and any other food left to your kitchen compost container or directly in your green Portland Composts! roll cart. 

Reminder: Keep fats, oils and grease out of drains to prevent clogging. Cooking oil from the turkey fryer should go in a container with a tight seal and placed inside the garbage cart. 

Check out the Guest-imator!
Find meal planning tips for holidays or anytime at Resourceful PDX, including the Save the Food dinner party calculator called the Guest-imator!

Is it food? It's compostable!
Get a detailed list of what goes in the green compost roll cart.

Leftover pumpkins? Extra leaves? Your green Portland Composts! roll cart can handle it

Let autumn leaves fall and rotting jack-o-lanterns roll into the right container.

Set out an extra 32-gallon can, kraft paper leaf bag or bundle of yard debris for a $3.75 fee.

Pumpkins and gourds, along with pruned items, yard debris and fallen tree fruit go in the green Portland Composts! roll cart. This is also the time of year to include seasonal food scraps like apple and pear cores and leftover or half-eaten candy (without wrappers).

Yard debris includes weeds, leaves, vines, grass, flowers, plant clippings and small branches (less than 4 inches thick and 36 inches long). Large branches that may come down during storms or stumps that are too big for your curbside container can be collected by your garbage and recycling company with advance notice (and extra fees) or taken to a recycling depot.

Watch the weight! Don’t forget there are roll cart weight limits, especially with heavy pumpkins and wet leaves. The 60-gallon green composting roll carts have a 135-pound limit.

From early November to mid-December, removing leaves from our streets is critical: Leaving leaves on the street can clog storm drains, flood intersections and make streets slippery. Some Portland residents have street tree Leaf Day Pickup based on where they live.

Are you in a Leaf Day Pickup area?
Find out on the Leaf Day Pickup website or call 503-865-LEAF (5323).

Need help remembering garbage day?
Visit to sign up for weekly reminder emails and the occasional winter weather collection alert.