Judge Dismisses Ridwell Lawsuit Against Washington County Over Recycling Services

Another lawsuit filed by Ridwell in federal court against Washington County is ongoing.

ridwell Inside Ridwell's Northeast Portland warehouse. (Mick Hangland-Skill)

On Aug. 8, a judge dismissed a lawsuit filed by Seattle-based recycling company Ridwell against Washington County. In that lawsuit, filed in June in Washington County Circuit Court, Ridwell’s attorney alleged that Washington County violated a state law that forbids haulers from charging more for a recycling service if it would cost less money to just throw that item in the dump.

But the judge ruled the county’s new optional program, Recycle+, which is a close replica of Ridwell’s model with just a few minor tweaks, broke no such Oregon law. He dismissed the lawsuit, in which Ridwell asked the courts to stop the county’s copycat program that launched July 1.

The feud started over a year ago when trash haulers in Washington and Clackamas counties and Portland attempted to oust Ridwell from operating within its territory, alleging the Seattle startup was infringing on the haulers’ exclusive franchise rights. (The Portland City Council voted unanimously to allow Ridwell to operate in September 2021.)

The battle escalated in January when Ridwell pulled out of Washington County after receiving a cease-and-desist letter from the county threatening fines if it continued to serve customers. Soon after voluntarily departing, Ridwell sued Washington County in federal court, alleging the county was violating state law by prohibiting Ridwell’s service when it picks up items the franchised trash haulers don’t currently collect. (That lawsuit is ongoing.)

On July 1, the county launched a close replica of Ridwell’s program. Customers place separated items such as light bulbs, plastic film and clamshells into separate satchels and haulers pick them up on a regular basis. One hundred sixty county residents have signed up for the Recycle+ program since its launch a little over a month ago, according to county spokeswoman Wendy Gordon.

“Judge Sims’ dismissal of the lawsuit means that urban unincorporated community members can continue to take advantage of the county’s new Recycle+ program,” Gordon tells WW.

Ridwell had 1,900 subscribers in Washington County when it was kicked out.

“This program is nothing more than an illegal effort to use the county’s franchise garbage system to shut down innovative new companies trying to help residents reduce waste,” says Caleb Weaver, vice president of public affairs for Ridwell. “We’re currently evaluating our legal options and working on ways to continue helping residents of unincorporated Washington County put less into the landfill.”

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