Stinky Kitchen Pail: Portland’s Compost System (with a poll!)

I would like to discuss a problem that is CONSUMING this city with love(rage). A problem that brings up high emotions, ranging from vehement anger to enlightened gratitude. Similar to abortion and religion, this is a topic that divides people into two camps. The topic? Portland’s new kitchen compost bucket.

Starting last november, Portland changed their garbage and recycling service to be more “green”. This included changing regular garbage service from every week, to every other week, and changing the yard debris container frequency from every other week to every week. Recycling containers remain weekly frequency. With the increase in yard debris service came a little brown bucket for your kitchen, in which you are to place food waste in it and empty into the larger yard debris bucket when it is full. Here he is, looking guilty….

The bucket is designed to be put under the sink, close to the cooking and cleaning so that you can scrape any of your leftover food or scrapes into it. Scrape the scrapes! That should be their slogan.

So, here are the two views of the issue, as far as I see it, I can leave you to decide which camp you are in….

The bucket stinks, literally and figuratively. Under the sink? Yeah right, that’s where the garbage is and the recycling is…you want me to put another bucket down there? Between all the grocery bags and the garbages, there is no room. So we end up putting it in the kitchen sink (we have a “farmhouse” style sink that has a divider in the middle) for easy access to our cutting board and our dishwasher. Filling it up is no problem, but keeping the lid closed is. The plastic tab is kinda janky and doesn’t snap properly. If there is debris in the bucket overnight, it will start stinking pretty good by morning. So I take it out to my big green bin, dumping carefully, attempting to avoid the juicy fruit guts. The residue left over in the bucket is nasty, and without a proper rinse and clean, will turn to mold very quickly. Sometimes I clean it everyday! During the week, the debris in the big container begins to congeal into a large white mass. Gross! So after Mr Garbageman empties it, I have to wash the yard debris bucket too! And that is not a job I wish on my enemies–it’s gag-tastic in there. Come summer, I bet the fruit flies will be out of control in that bucket, we will need to locate it far from the house, so as to avoid the infestation. It is usually bad enough as it is, with the fruits and veggies mixed with eth garbage, but now with the easy access the flies will have, its gonna be a mess, man! Having our normal garbage taken every other week makes for a very full garbage can, most weeks, I can’t even get the lid closed, it looks like a great green monster has his mouth agape, waiting for more garbage, but no more will fit! Portland charges us $5 for every extra bag we set out, so its an added cost to me when we only can take it to the curb every 2 weeks. What did you say? That I don’t recycle efficiently enough? Screw you, pal! Oh, and I heard that they don’t give these little brown buckets to people in apartments. Whats up with that, Portland? Only people in houses can create compost for you? BAH!

Dude, the bucket kicks ass! It is so nice of Portland to provide us an easy way to compost our food, that compost pile we have going in the backyard never really took off. So it’s nice to know that Portland is doing the compost for me. Once they make it into compost, we can even buy it back.  I keep the bucket right under my sink (I had to clear some room out), so it is easily accessible when we are cutting up veggies for salads and such. It fills up very quickly, so I end up taking it outside to the large yard debris container quite often. We ended up buying these biodegradable bags for the bucket because it was getting messy and moldy in the bucket. Plus, we can tie the bags when they are full and it eases the mess in the big bucket. This will help with fruit flies come summer. It also helps with the smell, since there is no need to clean the bucket every time it fills up. Having our normal garbage taken every 2 weeks is not a big deal, sure, it is nearly overflowing by the 2 week mark, but I can still get the lid closed (with some extra muscles), so it doesnt matter. One less bin to roll to the end of the street every week. This is the future, and we all need to do our bit for the environment. There is so much waste being generated, its nice that we can actually re-use some of it. It’s worth any small hassles for that reason.

So there you have it! I am sure for most people, the issue is not as black and white as I make it sound, there are positives and negatives about any new change.  I tend to lean on the “Like” side of the issue, I felt guilty in the past when we would just throw all the veggie and fruit waste into the garbage. We started a compost pile a few years ago, but the fruit flies were out of control, so we stopped. I bet if we add more “brown” (leaves and grass clippings) to it, it would calm down, maybe we should try again. But if we don’t, it is nice that Portland is composting for us.

Lining the bucket:  Portland’s compost website suggests lining the bag with a paper bag or newspaper, but once some cantaloupe guts or old, wet salad leaves hit that, it will go right through. So it’s best to line it with biodegradable bags. Here are the two brands that we have seen…

We have seen the Biobag at Fred’s and New Seasons ($4.99 for 25 bags), but the NaturBag only at New Seasons ($4.49 for 25 bags). They can be re-used if you don’t want to tie them up in your yard debris bin, but the risk of fruit flies in the summer, using this technique, will be HIGH.

What to put in the bucket: ANY food scraps…here is the list of approved things. DOG OWNERS: Don’t put your dog crap in there!


 If all else fails, just throw it out for the chickens (everyone in Portland has chickens, right?)…..

BN Out!

9 thoughts on “Stinky Kitchen Pail: Portland’s Compost System (with a poll!)

  1. I F-ing hate the bucket. Gross to the max. We buy the biobags from costco. Sometimes we can get away with reusing a bag but usually it is a bag a week. We were camping for 4 days and it was a solid grey mass when we returned- gross!

  2. The people and the users knows best. I really think that bio bags are the way to go! Why do they have to sell it in the first place? Government should buy are compost and in exchange they give us bio bags, coffee,soap, free movie pass. Other government are doing this already.

    Trisha recently posted.. I am an Avenger and I Save the World

  3. I keep my food scraps/compost in a bag or plastic container in the freezer, and empty it fairly frequently. Problem solved.

    • nice, thats a good idea, putting it in the freezer. And then maybe just putting it out for garbage day to avoid the fruit flies. Thanks!

    • Raw scraps like peels (which are the only kind you’re supposed to be composting anyway…not cooked leftovers) kept in the freezer can also be dumped in a pot with boiling water for a few hours to get veggie stock. That’s what I’ve heard is the thing to do if you backyard compost, when it gets too cold for the backyard compost to do its thing (at which point it is definitely soup weather).

  4. Nick,
    A little trick I came up with to cut down on the funky-slime-factor, is each week after our City’s finest empty the big green bucket, line the bottom of it with raked leaves, like a cozy nest, before dumping the slop from the kitchen bucket. That way it comes out clean(er).

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