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A Guide to Recycling In Portland

Whether you just moved here, or are a native Portlander, knowing how to recycle in the Rose City can get confusing. Portland has one of the highest recycling rates in the country, keeping 70% of its waste out of local landfills.

If you want to do your part for the environment, and do it correctly, this article will help clear up those gray areas surrounding recycling regulations in Portland.

We’ll tell you what you can put into each roll cart, as well as how to find your collection schedule and roll cart weight limitations. Then we’ll look at how to start composting  in Portland, as well as commercial recycling basics. You can also contact Cascade Building Services if you want to speak with a recycling expert today.

Basic Tips For Recycling At The Curb

To rinse or not to rinse, that is the question. The need to rinse depends on the recycling provider in your area, but here are some general rules to follow:

  • Empty is better: Make sure the containers are clean (or at least empty) when you recycle them. Dirty containers attract vermin and excess debris in your recycling bin requires extra energy to dispose of and clean.
  • Rinsing: Paper and cardboard are particularly sensitive to residue, so it’s important to dump out all liquids from containers to help keep the paper goods recyclable.
  • Conserve water when rinsing: Removing (or composting) food before rinsing is greener than keeping the water faucet running. You can also fill a bowl with water to use and reuse if you have several containers to clean out.

More Rules To Follow:

  • Don’t pack any of your roll carts too tightly. Contents must fall out easily.
  • Be sure to remove your roll cart within 24 hours of pickup.
  • Weight limits vary depending on the size of your roll cart. Find a guide here.
  • Keep your bin lid securely closed. Store your garbage out of direct sunlight.
  • To deter insects and avoid odors, you can sprinkle baking soda in your garbage can.
  • For an extra $5 fee, you can set out an extra garbage container or bag on your collection day.

What Goes Into Which Bin?

In Portland, not only do we have blue and green recycling bins; we have a black garbage bin and yellow recycling bin. What does it all mean? What goes into which? Here’s a helpful infographic showing basic guidelines. We’ve also put together a list below:
Photo credit: cogdogblog via / CC BY

Blue Roll Cart

  • Paper: scrap paper and junk mail, small cardboard boxes, newspapers, magazines, catalogs, phone books, cartons of milk/juice/soup, etc.
  • Metal: aluminum, foil, tin and steel food cans, empty and dry metal paint cans, empty aerosol cans, scrap metal smaller than two inches
  • Plastic: 6 oz or larger bottles with smaller neck than base, 6 oz or larger tubs, plant pots, buckets

Yellow Glass Bin

  • Glass bottles and jars
  • Mixing colors and keeping labels on is okay

Black Garbage Bin

  • Paper: used paper plates, coffee cups, take out containers, facial tissue
  • Plastic: wrappers, styrofoam, plastic bags, rigid plastics such as tupperware and rubbermaid, plastic containers labeled “compostable”, toys
  • Other: painted or stained wood, and plywood, incandescent light bulbs, windows
  • In sealed container: kitchen fats, cooking oil and grease
  • Must be bagged: pet waste and cat litter, diapers and feminine hygiene products, ashes and sawdust, packaging peanuts, broken glass

What You Can’t Recycle (At The Curb) Might Surprise You

  • Electronics
  • Styrofoam
  • Plastic bags
  • Rigid plastics (tupperware)
  • Books
  • Light bulbs
  • Coffee cups

To easily find out if certain objects are recyclable, donatable, or reusable and where to do it use this handy tool.

How to Reduce Your Landfill Waste By 33%: Composting

There are many benefits to composting: reducing your waste, having a healthier garden, and conserving resources such as water, energy, and fuel. And luckily for us in Portland, composting is made easier as Portlanders are provided a green roll cart for composting purposes.


To easily integrate composting into your routine we recommend getting a kitchen compost container and placing it in a convenient location in your kitchen. This way you can collect your small compost items and then empty your kitchen compost container into your green compost bin as frequently as you like. Remember to use approved liners with your kitchen compost container, available at most supermarkets.

What you can compost:

  • Food scraps: meat, poultry, fish, shellfish, bones, eggs, cheese, dairy products, bread, pasta, rice, beans, coffee grounds, filters, tea bags (for a comprehensive list go here)
  • Table scraps: plate scrapings, leftovers, spoiled food
  • Paper products: paper napkins,towels, and pizza boxes
  • Yard debris: weeds, leaves, vines, grass, small branches, flowers, house plants, plant clippings, pumpkins

What’s my Pickup Schedule?

  • Blue roll cart: once a week, but only when full
  • Yellow glass bin: once a week, but only when full
  • Green composting cart: every week, even if it is not full
  • Black garbage bin: every other week

Photo: City of Portland

If the standard garbage service pickup schedule doesn’t work for you and your family you can always increase or decrease the size of your garbage container or sign up for every four week pickup.

You can also check to see exact dates of garbage and recycling pickups through The City of Portland’s website. Pro tip: there’s an option to sign up for weekly email reminders so that you’ll never forget your pickup day again!

Commercial Recycling

Sustainability at work is increasingly becoming a focus for businesses, and various metro areas and counties in and around Portland require businesses to meet certain recycling requirements. Check out our guide to commercial recycling, or read on for the basics.

  • Give employees the opportunity to recycle
  • Recycle paper and containers
  • Sort and separate recyclables correctly
  • Set out materials for recycling collection

Cascade Building Services has 50+ years of experience helping Portland recycle. We’re proud to offer office recycling services to handle all of your paper recycling needs, as well as custom-tailor office recycling solutions. We’ll make sure your recycling program is simple and convenient, maximizing recycling and helping you comply with local regulations.

Learn how we can help with your commercial recycling services now by getting in touch. We’re happy to answer any questions, as well as provide a free quote.

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