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The City of Portland, Oregon

Planning and Sustainability

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August 14, 2013 Notes from Conference Call

Group Members Present: Claudia Arana Colen, Amanda Kelley Lopez, Bill Beamer, Vivian Satterfield, Kristey Nguyen

Staff: Michele Crim, Desiree Williams-Rajee, Lauren Norris, Arianne Sperry, Taren Evans, Tim Lynch


Call Summary Notes


Consumption and Solid Waste – Summary Presentation

  • Arianne Sperry and Lauren Norris with the City’s Bureau of Planning and Sustainability gave an overview of the topic of consumption of solid waste.
  • The City of Portland doesn’t own any facilities like landfills or recycling stations; the City also doesn’t own any garbage trucks.
  • What the City does do is regulate the garbage/recycling haulers and set the rates for residential collection of materials.
  • The City has separate programs for residential (homes) and commercial (businesses and multi-family buildings with 5 or more units).
  • The City has had a curbside recycling system since 1987.
  • There are 18 garbage and recycling haulers in the City.
  • The City has a plan for waste and recycling called the “Portland Recycles! Plan”
  • The commercial sector produces the majority of the waste in Portland. The City regulates the collection in the commercial sector, but don’t set the rates. Businesses in Portland are required by law to recycle certain materials – and the City has an outreach program for businesses to help them recycle.
  •  The Portland Recycles! Plan set the goal to recover 75% of the waste stream by 2015 and to reduce carbon emissions associated with waste management and collection in the City.
  • The Portland Recycles! Plan is set to be updated soon – and will include a focus on consumption (more upstream than just waste management). Staff is very interested in ideas and feedback on how to do this work with an eye toward equity.
  • The City’s program called Sustainability at Work is focused on supporting businesses in recycling and waste reduction efforts.
  • The program is focusing on large waste generators that are not performing well in terms of the amounts of materials being recycled.
  • The “Curbsider” is a publication done twice a year that goes out to 185,000 customers in Portland. Based on testing – a large number of people are actually reading and using the information presented, and the recall rate (e.g. remembering they got the Curbsider and what the content said) is very high (although there are some differences).
  • The new curbside system (collecting food scraps, garbage collection every other week) was piloted before it was rolled out citywide. The City learned that there are three audiences that were struggling with the new system (renters, linguistically isolated and large families). Families wanted more options – and the haulers weren’t doing a good job of communicating the options. The outreach for the program focused on ethnic based events, media and leadership. The effort also included customer service training for the garbage haulers, door-to-door (20,000 doors) and working with community groups to conduct outreach (as a fundraiser - $2.00 per door conversation, $.50 for leaving a door hanger).
  • Historically the City doesn’t serve small rental properties (e.g. houses and 2-4 plexes). In Portland, for these properties, the property owner is required to provide/pay for garbage/recycling service.  As such, the landlord doesn’t necessarily have the incentive to ensure the family in the rental unit has the best service to meet their needs. Also – the materials that are mailed to the customers often go to the landlords, not the people in the actual rental unit.
  • The City is piloting a small renter project, and next year the effort will be expanded to renters across the City.
  • The Be Resourceful campaign from the City is focused upstream to reduce the amount of waste generated – it is focused on buying smart, reuse, borrowing and sharing, and fixing and maintaining.
  • Generally, Portlanders already know what to do – but often they don’t know where to go to do it (and/or don’t think it is available).


Consumption and Solid Waste - Questions:

  • What is the “sharing economy”? The idea is to make it safe and convenient to share items that are otherwise sitting idle in the basement or garage.
  • What manufacturers are we working with and/or targeted? The City will be collaborating with regional and state programs on product stewardship efforts  - not necessarily working directly with manufacturers. The focus would be on products that are the most problematic (e.g. toxic or expensive to manage because of size/weight). The goal is to shift the costs of managing the products to the manufacturer instead of the consumer or local government.
  • What percentage of renters were surveyed? (24%) What about English Language Learner? The report is new and staff haven’t reviewed it yet but staff will report back to the equity workgroup.
  • The PowerPoint with slides on the consumptions/solid waste was helpful, especially because of the notes. There is interest in better understanding the small renter program.


Climate Change Preparation – Summary:

  • What emergency warning systems are in place – and is information available in multiple languages? Most of these systems in place are focused on heat events. When there are heat events, a system of cooling centers is in place to serve mostly socially isolated, older adults and people with disabilities that Multnomah County works with. Development of Climate Change Preparation Plan identified the importance of expanding these programs to serve broader community and be used for both heat events and poor air quality. Looking at reaching broader community, including addressing language barriers, is an important action in the Preparation Plan.
  • Flooding – who is vulnerable? Drainage services – how does flooding impact communities that don’t have good drainage potentially – and how are these communities? Need to distinguish between large scale flooding and localized impacts that could disrupt mobility, promote vector/disease etc. Need to map this to understand who is impacted. Staff will try to find more information about localized flooding impacts for the next meeting.
  • Could some of the actions around flood protection and addressing urban heat island through expanded greenspace and parks in also provide additional access to these resources for communities that are currently underserved? How can we layer in increasing access to greenspaces and addressing climate change impacts? Staff agreed that this was an important potential co-benefit of the climate preparation work. Identified the importance of how implementation is structured, which is still be worked out.
  • Michele will forward the specific actions listed in the larger Climate Change Preparation Plan under institutionalize best practices.
  • What does emergency preparedness look like for homeless populations? Tim will try to find some more information to share with the group.


Equity Working Group - Process Update:

  • The City is still working with the conference call company to get the recordings of the call.
  • Based on feedback from the group, some changes in the process are being recommended to help us create a learning environment that meets everyone’s needs (community members, staff, etc.).
  • Process changes include:
    • Simplifying the spreadsheet to focus on the last three questions (how can action be improved, how to measure progress, any big questions or concerns).
    • Flip the order and purpose of the in-person meetings and the phone calls. The in-person meeting will focus on big picture creative ideas and brainstorming – and how the climate action area connects to community priorities.  The meetings will be much more open ended – thinking more creatively and not being restricted by programmatic and bureaucratic constraints.  This conversation will then be followed up by a conference call to dive into the proposed actions and worksheet, ask technical questions, etc.
    • The meetings will also be more actively facilitated to keep the conversation moving forward.
    • This shifts the timeline by one week.
    • It will take some time to close the loop on the feedback from the group in terms of being able to say what recommendations were incorporated into the updated actions. Most of this feedback will happen through sharing the 50% draft and the updated document narrative.
  • With the members on the call – there was general agreement that this new approach sounds promising and there is interest in trying it out.