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Big News From the World of Garbage

And, no, I’m not talking about the sad, steady decline of “Glee.” I’m talking about this genuinely good idea from Portland’s sanitation brain trust, via The Wall Street Journal

“In a first for any large American municipality, Portland last fall abolished weekly trash pickups, switching to once every two weeks. At the same time, it increased collection of “green” waste—lawn cuttings and other backyard debris mixed in with compostable food scraps—to once a week.
By picking up unsorted trash less often, Portland wants to divert waste from landfills and churn this leafy city’s considerable volume of vegetation into compost. 
In the first quarter of 2012, Portland collected just under 13,000 tons of residential garbage, down from 23,000 tons during the year-earlier period. Counted in garbage truckloads, that’s 1,800 fewer per quarter, or 25 fewer truckloads daily.
Volume to the landfill is down 44%. “It’s just a remarkable decrease,” says Bruce Walker, solid waste manager for Portland’s Bureau of Planning and Sustainability. Compost collection is nearly three times what the city expected, he adds.”

This all builds up to my favorite line of the piece: “Those are the kind of numbers that excite municipal waste watchers.” Hey, don’t sell yourself short! Next to Latinos and married women, I’m told municipal waste watchers will be the key swing-demographic on Election Day. 

Update: In other garbage-innovation news, Mike Grunwald brings us this in Time:

The future of garbage is ... a trash can the size of a U.S. mailbox, pimped out with a solar-powered compactor that allows it to hold five times as much as a normal can, plus high-tech sensors that let sanitation workers know how full it is. There are 15,000 of these BigBellys deployed around the world, and they've already started to transform the ultimate dirty industry, keeping gas-guzzling trucks off the street while cutting costs for cash-starved communities.
In Philadelphia, where BigBellys were painted in bright colors to look like cute trash-eating monsters, they saved the city nearly $900,000 on collections in their first year. They've reduced pickups from three times a weekday to less than three times a week, and they've financed a new recycling program that's producing additional eco-friendly revenue. ...
The company also benefited from an early investment by the Massachusetts Green Energy Fund, a state-sponsored venture-capital fund designed to promote the clean-tech industry.
And yes, the Massachusetts governor at the time was one Mitt Romney.

Dan Gross has a bit more on the BigBelly backstory in his new book, Bigger, Stronger, Faster.

Follow me on twitter: @noamscheiber