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Sustainability at Work

Providing free tools and expertise to achieve your goals

Phone: 503-823-7037

Email: sustainabilityatwork@portlandoregon.gov

Recent Changes to Commercial Composting

NOTICE: CHANGES TO THE ACCEPTED LIST

As of November 1, 2014, waxed cardboard will no longer be allowed as part of the commercial compost collection. As of March 1, 2015, only food scraps will be accepted.

These non-food items will NO LONGER be accepted:

 Materials no longer accepted in compost

**Portland’s residential composting program has not changed.

Bags - Transparent and semi-transparent BPI certified compostable bags will be the only non-food item allowed.


Table of Contents

(Printable Version)

Frequently Asked Questions

Why composting is important

  • Collecting commercial food scraps will continue to provide our community the benefits of:
    • Generating electricity (at the new bio-methane facility)
    • Creating compost for farms and gardens
    • Reducing greenhouse gases (created when food breaks down in a landfill)
  • Your ongoing participation in the composting program is appreciated, and is critical to maintain a stable regional business composting program that we can all count on for years to come.

Q: What are the changes?
A: As of November 1, 2014, Metro’s facilities will no longer accept regular or waxed cardboard as part of its commercial composting program. As of March 1, 2015, only food scraps will be accepted. Items such as compostable serviceware, paper towels and other paper products will not be accepted. Transparent and semi-transparent BPI-certified compostable bags will be the only non-food items allowed.

Beginning November 1, 2014, any food scraps found to contain “more than a trivial amount” of regular or waxed cardboard will be sent to landfill.  Beginning March 1, 2015, all food scraps with “more than a trivial amount” of any non-food item will be sent to landfill.

Q: Why are the changes happening?
A: As the commercial food scraps program has grown, so has the volume of non-food items. These non-food items have reached such a quantity that they are very difficult to handle at local processing facilities.

Metro decides where the commercial food scraps received at its transfer station are processed. The City of Portland’s role is to provide assistance to businesses and to work with the haulers to provide the best service possible.

The bio-methane and composting facilities that process food scraps from Metro Central Transfer Station will have much greater certainty that they will receive the quality of raw materials they need to manufacture their products in a cost-effective manner.

Continuing to include non-food items puts the entire commercial food scrap collection program at risk.

Q: Do you expect to expand what is accepted in the future?
A: There are no plans to accept more than food scraps at this time.

Q: Why are yard debris and pizza boxes allowed in my green composting cart at home, but they're not allowed here?
A: Residential compost goes to a different facility than commercial food scraps. The facility processing residential food scraps is able to accept yard debris and limited paper products but is not permitted to process commercial materials.

Q: How much time do I have to use up my existing stock of compostable serviceware? Will there be a buy back for stockpiled materials?
A: You are welcome to continue to use stock after March 1, 2015, but it must be kept out of the commercial composting program. You have until March 1, 2015 to use up existing stock of compostable serviceware and transition to food scraps only. The city will not buy back previously approved materials. Check with your supplier to see if they are willing to buy back unused stock.

Q: What types of bags are approved and where can I buy them?
A: You can use transparent and semi-transparent BPI-certified compostable bags.

Q: What kinds of assistance is available to help communicate the changes with my customers/staff?
A: The City of Portland has resources to assist with the transition.

  • Updated posters and stickers to label containers and educate employees and customers.
  • Informational talking points to communicate changes to employees and customers.
  • On-site training for your staff.
  • Extensive FAQs.
  • List of approved bags and liners on BPI's website: http://products.bpiworld.org/companies/category/bags (must be transparent or semi-transparent and BPI certified).

Contact the City of Portland’s Sustainability at Work program for resources and assistance, or to provide feedback on how we can support you during the transition.
Phone: 503-823-7037
Email: sustainabilityatwork@portlandoregon.gov

Q: Paper/compostable products are used for serving food at our business. It will be very difficult for us to keep paper out. Is any amount of these products allowed?
A: No. The commercial program will only accept food scraps, so paper or certified compostable products will not be allowed. Transparent and semi-transparent BPI-certified compostable bags will be allowed. If you provide compost collection containers for customers (“front of house”), we can help you update your signage to make it clear that only food is accepted. 

If food-only collection by customers results in contamination, you may need to discontinue front of house (public) food scrap collection. However, there is still a significant opportunity to continue back of the house collection of food waste created through food prep and expired foods.

Q: How can I find out the most environmentally friendly single-use serviceware to buy?
A: The City of Portland does not have a resource for businesses to compare the environmental attributes of conventional versus compostable single-use serviceware. Due diligence is important when selecting products that have environmental claims. Considerations include:

  • In many (but not all) cases, durable serviceware is the best environmental choice.
  • Both conventional plastics and bioplastics should go into the garbage in Portland.
  • Conventional plastics are made from oil and natural gas; bioplastics are made from plants.
  • The process used to make bioplastics may or may not be less energy/resource intensive than conventional plastics.

Q: Are my garbage rates going to change because of this program change?
A: The City of Portland does not set garbage rates for businesses. Call your garbage and recycling company to find out if there will be any change to your service costs.

Q: What should I do if I need to adjust my service levels?
A: Call your garbage and recycling company if you anticipate needing different sized containers or a different collection schedule.

Q: What about paper towels and food-soiled paper?
A: After March 1, 2015, these items will not be allowed in the food scrap-only system, as the processing facility cannot effectively handle high volumes of non-food items.


Letter from Metro

Download (PDF Document, 649kb)

Letter from City of Portland

Download (PDF Document, 201kb)