- Metro — the regional government for the Oregon portion of Greater Portland — has announced its decision to award two new transportation and disposal contracts worth a combined $220 million to Waste Management and Walsh Trucking Company. The initial contracts, which take effect in Jan. 2020, will run for 10 years with the option of two five-year extensions.
- Metro is currently under a contractual obligation to send 90% of all local waste to one of two Waste Management landfills. This new deal will only cover Metro's two transfer stations — which handle about 40% of total waste — leaving five private transfer stations to make their own arrangements within local guidelines.
- Metro’s announcement marks the end of an open procurement process that began summer 2017. Columbia Ridge Landfill beat out stiff competition — including two landfills owned by Waste Connections in Washington and one owned by Republic Services in Oregon — while Walsh outbid companies offering various trucking, barge and rail options.
After Metro began exploring alternate disposal options in 2017, there was speculation that it might choose to discontinue its 25-plus year partnership with Waste Management. While the company’s Columbia Ridge Landfill was one of the only local options for Greater Portland’s waste when it opened in 1990, more landfills have since cropped up in the area — although the Metro Council passed an ordinance last year prohibiting local waste from going to any new or expanding landfills starting 2020.
Metro has also demonstrated interest in pursuing waste-to-energy options and reducing landfill dependency, as evidenced by its July passage of a commercial organics ordinance requiring certain establishments to source-separate food scraps. Once fully implemented, the mandate is expected to divert approximately 59,000 tons of food scraps per year, compared to the 24,000 annual tons collected previously through voluntary programs.
While Metro has decided to extend its relationship with both existing partners — Walsh has been transporting waste to Columbia Ridge since 2010 — several newly negotiated contractual terms aim to enhance cost effectiveness and sustainability. Under Columbia Ridge’s contract, for instance, Metro will pay lower rates per ton than what Waste Management currently charges, while Walsh’s new contract stipulates increased wages for drivers, higher fuel efficiency standards and more tonnage hauled per load, and partnership opportunities with community-based organizations to support career development for women and people of color.
According to the 2019-2020 solid waste forecast released by Metro last week, Greater Portland’s economic growth will be accompanied by increasing amounts of waste in the next two years. Per the report's findings, it's clear the region anticipates a need for expanded waste disposal options in addition to organics diversion efforts and other recycling priorities — and it remains to be seen what new policies Metro might adopt as a result in the years ahead.