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Portland transfer stations overloaded by garbage backlog

Staff are asking the public to hold off on personal garbage visits for now to save room for commercial haulers to drop off their trash loads.

PORTLAND, Ore. — Portland's garbage and recycling system has become strained due the COVID-19 pandemic and a spate of severe winter weather that caused intermittent freeway closures in the past few weeks.

Frequent closures of Interstate 84 through the Columbia River Gorge have prevented trucks from carrying compacted trash loads to landfills in Eastern Oregon, according to a Tuesday news release from Metro, and have also blocked some empty trucks from getting back to reload.

A backlog of trash has built up in the meantime, and transfer stations in the Portland area are nearing capacity as haulers try to catch up and maintain room for incoming garbage.

Credit: Metro

Staff at multiple sites are asking the public to avoid making their own trips to transfer stations for the time being, in order to save the remaining space for commercial haulers.

“We do not make this decision lightly,” chief operating officer Marissa Madrigal said in a statement. “While the amount of garbage the public brings to the transfer stations is limited, maintaining the space to keep everyone safe is our main concern. We are working to keep large garbage trucks separate from smaller cars and at this point, lack of space is a real safety issue.”

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Interstate 84 and other freeways have reopened at this point, but the backlog has grown large enough that it will take several weeks to clear, according to the news release. 

The system is also struggling with a shortage of drivers and transfer station staff due to the pandemic, which could lead to delays in getting garbage and recycling picked up. Many companies are prioritizing neighborhoods that were missed during the snowstorm, according to the news release.

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