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Sustainability at Work

Providing free tools and expertise to achieve your goals

Phone: 503-823-7037

Email: sustainabilityatwork@portlandoregon.gov

Can I recycle this?

Find out which plastics can go in your recycling bin, and which can’t.

You’re holding a plastic cup, hovering over the recycling bin, but doubting yourself. Does it go in recycling? Or maybe trash? 

Plastics are especially confusing when it comes to recycling. Here’s a run-down of what goes where and why:

Can I recycle these?
Plastic lids, cups, containers, straw and utensils

No. 

These plastics should not go in your regular recycling container.Plastics not allowed in city-wide recycling system

At work, and at home, the only plastics you should put in your recycling container are bottles, tubs (6oz or larger), buckets and jugs.
Plastics allowed in city-wide recycling system

Why?

Sometimes it’s because the items are too small (think lids), making them too hard to sort out from paper, cardboard and other recyclables.

Other times it’s because the global market for a particular type of plastic changes too frequently (to-go containers, for example). Recycling only works if it makes financial sense for companies to buy the used plastics to turn into new plastics.

What about the numbers on the bottom of plastics?

1-7 Recycling number labels for plastics

Ignore the numbers. The numbers on the bottom of plastics refers to the materials they are made from and play no role in what is recyclable in Portland

Just think size and shape. The allowed plastics – bottles, tubs, buckets and jugs – are the right shapes to get successfully sorted, and they’re the types of plastic that recycling companies want to buy.

Is there any way to recycle these extra plastics?

Yes. Even though you can’t put these items in your mixed recycling, they can still be collected separately and dropped off at many places around town. Find the closest drop-off location to you by using Metro’s Find a Recycler website, or calling their hotline: 503-234-3000.

To set up extra plastics recycling at work, check out our helpful guide.

What about plastics labeled “compostable” or “biodegradable?”

Never put plastics labeled “compostable” or “biodegradable” into any recycling container. These “plastics” are made to break down quickly and will contaminate the plastics recycling process and reduce the quality of goods produced from the recycled materials.
"compostable" & biodegradable plastics

Go the extra recycling mile: Leave no plastic behind

How to set up “extra plastics” recycling at your workplace.]

If your workplace is already doing a good job recycling, and you want to up your recycling game, consider collecting extra plastics for recycling. What are “extra plastics?” They’re plastics that can't go in your regular recycling.

Here’s how to set up an extra plastics recycling collection program at your workplace:

1. Determine what items you want to collect

Pay attention to the “extra” plastics that you see thrown away at your workplace (or misplaced in regular recycling). Plastic to-go food containers, cold drink cups and lids from soda bottles and yogurt are commonly found in offices. For plastic bags, bubble wrap and shrink wrap, you’ll need to set up a separate container.

Plastic lids, cups, to-go containers and utensils

2. Choose a collection area

The kitchen (or very nearby) is often the most convenient, but a storage room or extra large hallway could work, too.

3. Set up collection containers

These can be as simple as a few boxes or bags, or as formal as custom cabinets. For light-weight but bulky plastic items, like to-go containers, we’ve found these containers work well with large clear bags. For small items, like lids, a small bag or sturdy box or bucket is all that’s needed.

4. Label the containers

Use these posters to make it clear what plastics go in the containers: 
Click to download Extra Plastics poster Click to download Plastic Bag recycling poster Click to download Garbage poster
Click on poster images to download printable PDFs.

We recommend using this garbage poster, which has the extra plastics removed to avoid confusion.

5. Set up a drop-off or pick-up system

Decide who will take items to a recycling facility when the collection containers are full.

Look first to your green team or like-minded colleagues. If you have some colleagues who drive to work, one of them may already be commuting near a drop-off location. They might not mind making a delivery now and then. There are many drop-off locations around Portland: find the closest one to you by using Metro’s Find a Recycler website or calling their hotline: 503-234-3000.

If you work in or near downtown Portland, another option is B-Line bicycle delivery service. They will pick up and deliver your extra recyclables for a small charge.

6. Let everyone know!

Once your system is in place, get the word out. Tell your staff what additional items are now being collected and where the containers are located. Be sure to explain any prep that needs to happen (no food residue, “nest” containers to minimize space needed, etc.) and who to talk to if they have any questions. Some businesses encourage staff to bring in these plastics from home as well.

3 ways to green your summer event

From dishware to directions, there are countless ways to make your event more sustainable.

The season has arrived for outdoor gatherings of all sorts: company picnics, family reunions and parties in the park.

reusable dishware, recycling and directions by bike

Here are some tips and resources for greening your events:

Use ‘real’ dishware

Ever tried cutting something with a plastic knife? Probably not the best experience.

Real (reusable) cutlery, dishware and cloth napkins provide a nicer — dare we say, classier — experience, while also being considerably better for the environment

Recycle

Most event waste (such as disposable cups, plates and napkins) can't be recycled or composted.

But if you’ll be serving drinks in bottles or cans, you can make recycling signs that show just those items, or even rent recycling containers and signs for free — just be sure to book in advance.

Event waste signs

Go by bike (or foot, or bus…)

In the event invite, provide tips for arriving by bike or transit: nearest bike parking, close-by transit stops and a link to TriMet’s trip planner.

3 tips for a bike-friendly workplace

Three ways to support and encourage your workplace bike commuters

Here the most common ways our certified businesses encourage and support bike commuters:

1. Bike Parking

Bike parking

Outdoor parking

Find out how to get free bike racks or sign up for a bike corral through the City.

Or get creative, and have a custom rack created.

Whichever route you go, learn from what BikePortland described as "the best business bike parking in the entire city of Portland."

Indoor parking 

Indoor bike parking provides people with a safe place to put their bike, helmet and other gear during the workday.

It doesn’t have to be fancy. We’ve seen businesses convert an underused supply closet, room, break room wall or unused outdoor area into bike parking.

2. Bike lock and repair kit

An extra lock can be a great help if a rider arrives to work and realizes they've forgotten theirs. Providing a bike repair kit at work allows bike commuters to take care of maintenance problems like flat tires, small adjustments or tires needing air. 

Leave your repair kit indoors near bike parking and make sure employees/coworkers know about it. Make the kit available to customers, visitors and clients to encourage more biking.

3. Bike buddies and route planning

Bike buddies map

A bike buddy – a coworker to commute with for the first few days – is a great way to encourage first time bike commuters. The bike buddy breaks down those initial barriers – “What time should I leave the house? What route do I take? How do I avoid busy roads?”

To get your workplace started with bike buddies, put up a map where employees can mark their bike commutes. New bikers can find a bike commute buddy from the map and connect with their buddy to arrange when and where they’ll meet and ride.

Bike buddies can also help new cyclists with route planning. Experienced bike commuters or members of your office green team can help determine the best route between home and work, and suggest how long to allow for the trip.
 
Tip: Order free citywide and neighborhood bike maps for your workplace.

Travel Oregon's Bike Friendly Business Program

Bonus: Promote your bike friendly nature

If your business serves tourists, you can become a Bike Friendly Business through Travel Oregon. The certification is open to businesses that provide food, drinks, lodging, recreation and more.

Give two-wheeled transport a try

May is the month to get on your bike!

Be a new rider.

This is the month to do it!

Be a joiner (of the Bike More Challenge party)

Sign up for this month’s Bike More Challenge. Don’t have a workplace team set up? Read step-by-step instructions on how to start a team.

And it’s not just biking to work—all bike trips count, including errands and cycling for fun. Plus, you can win prizes like great food, coffee, beer and gear! 

Don’t be that guy (or gal)

Be courteous of other bikers. If you’re going slow, stay to the right. If you’re going fast, give people an “on your left” verbal warning before passing.

Also: 7 Annoying Things Other Cyclists Do. Both new and experienced cyclists can be guilty of these. Don’t do them. 

Be in the know

Here are tips to get you up to speed on everything you need to know to get your ride on:

Proper helmet placement.  Bike hand signals  Bike box.
Click on images for information on proper helmet fit, hand-signals and green bike boxes.

Rules of the Road

Wondering what the laws are for bicyclists and drivers? Find the most common ones in this helpful poster.

Or find all current bicycle laws in the searchable PDF (use Ctrl+F to search for "bike") of the OR DMV Driving Manual