Trash Compactor

Allen Field spreads the gospel of downsizing your garbage.

By Teresa Mahoney June 11, 2010 Published in the July 2010 issue of Portland Monthly

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FROM BALLPOINT PENS to dog poo, Allen Field will tell you that just about anything can be recycled or composted. He should know. For the past 10 years, the resident of Southeast Portland’s Richmond neighborhood has managed to limit his trash to a single 30-gallon bin each month. But now, personal discipline is becoming public crusade: Field was recently awarded a grant from the City of Portland’s Bureau of Planning and Sustainability—$1,895 worth—meant to help him design a neighborhood program to promote his one-can-a-month ways.

Field’s landfill-battling project challenges Richmond families with at least two children to cut their garbage service from weekly to monthly for a total of six months. "I want to prove that if a family can do it, even with kids in diapers, anyone can do it," says Field, who admits he doesn’t have kids of his own.

So far, so good. During the first month of the project, several of Field’s 12 participating families shrank their monthly garbage load down to the size of a football. (Switching to cloth diapers helped a lot.) Meanwhile, the enterprising families can fatten their wallets: Field’s grant money provides for six months of free garbage service. Plus, each family is given $50 worth of composting supplies, in addition to one slimy Can-O-Worms. Hey, nobody ever said saving the planet from piles of garbage was going to be pretty.

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