Happy 10-year Compost-iversary, Portlanders!

Blog Post
A woman stands in her front yard and empties food scraps from a kitchen-top compost pail into a green compost roll cart.
In 2011, Portland’s curbside compost program expanded from just yard waste to include food scraps.

It’s been ten years since Portland residents started adding food scraps to their green compost bins and it’s made a real difference!

Almost 800,000 tons of food and yard waste have been collected from Portland homes and transformed into nutrient-rich compost. That’s enough to enrich over 1,500 acres of farmland.

Include the food: Big or small, we want it all

Green compost roll cart with orange banner reading "Include the Food"

What’s allowed in your compost bin hasn’t changed since Portland first started allowing food in curbside compost bins back in 2011.

Food scraps of all types are welcome: peels, pits, bones, shells, plate scrapings, leftovers, and spoiled food. And all varieties of food can go in your bin: meat, poultry, fish, shellfish, bones, eggs and eggshells, cheese, dairy, bread, baked goods, pasta, rice, beans, nuts, seeds, vegetables, and fruit.

This is in addition to yard waste, including weeds, leaves, vines, grass, small branches, flowers, house plants, plant clippings, fallen tree fruit, and pumpkins. (Note: Business compost guidelines are food only, no yard waste.)

Residents can also put a few non-food items in their compost: Paper coffee filters and paper tea bags, paper towels and napkins, and cardboard pizza delivery boxes (remove any plastic or wax paper first). If you want to bag your compost, you can use paper bags or BPI-certified compostable bags.

Beware of ‘compostable’ confusion

In the past ten years, the growth of packaging and products labeled ‘compostable,’ ‘biodegradable,’ or ‘made from plants’ has grown substantially.

We know it’s confusing, but these items belong in the garbage, not in your compost bin. They cause problems at local compost facilities and are not allowed in your compost or recycling bin. The only product with a ‘compostable’ label that’s allowed in your compost bin is BPI-certified compostable bags.

A child uses a garden tool to smooth compost in a community garden bed.

Compost is a double win for the environment

In addition to providing nutrient-rich fertilizer for farms, composting food waste also reduces harmful greenhouse gases. When you throw food in the garbage, it goes to the landfill where it creates methane gas, which worsens the climate crisis. This is why making sure all of your food waste gets into your compost bin – rather than your garbage – matters.

Seasonal compost reminders

In addition to all those fall leaves, you can put pumpkins and gourds in your compost bin. This includes past-their-prime jack-o-lanterns, as long as you remove candles and other decorations before tossing it in your green bin. (If you’ve painted your pumpkin, it should go in the garbage.) Leftover or half-eaten candy can be composted too, as long as the wrappers are removed first.

Holiday tree season is around the corner and once you’ve removed all the decorations, your tree can be composted too. You can cut your tree into pieces – no longer than 3-feet each – and put them directly in your compost bin for no additional charge. Or you can lean your whole tree (6-feet max) against your compost bin for an extra charge of $5.10. (Artificial trees and trees “flocked” with fake snow should be disposed of as garbage.)

Looking into the inside of a curbside compost roll cart, we see the top of a carved pumpkin as well as flowers.

Watch the weight

The standard 60-gallon compost bin that most residents use has a 135-pound limit, and wet leaves, or a bunch of pumpkins, can be surprisingly heavy. For your safety and to avoid damaging your bin, be careful not to overload it.

Learn more

Take a look at these tips for composting, including how to keep your bin clean and avoid fruit flies. If you live in an apartment community that doesn’t have compost service, find information about composting at multifamily communities to share with your property manager.