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Sustainability at Work

Providing free tools and expertise to achieve your goals

Phone: 503-823-7037

Email: sustainabilityatwork@portlandoregon.gov

Composting for Offices

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.

Find FAQs and more information about these changes.


Table of Contents

(Printable Version)

How to get started

Best practices

  1. Make compost as convenient as garbage and recycling. Ideally, containers are paired together in a waste station (recycling, garbage and compost).
  2. Label all composting containers. Order free posters and stickers.
  3. Train staff. Sustainability at Work offers employee training and presentations.
  4. Communicate with your janitorial service.
    • Discuss how often the compost container can be emptied. Consider emptying twice during the week and before weekends. Large offices may need daily service.
    • If you choose to use bags, confirm that your janitorial service has BPI-certified compostable bags.

Before you begin

Take the time to pay close attention to how much food is being thrown away.

  • Since the goal of a composting program is to collect food – not food containers or paper towels – it is important to assess if your office generates enough food waste to justify setting up a program.
  • Do you have regular catered events?
  • If your workplace has less than 20 people, you may need to get others in your building to participate.
  • For assistance, call Sustainability at Work (503-823-7037).

How to get started

  1. Set up composting service
    • Work with your property manager to request compost service from a garbage and recycling company.
    • See the Property Manager section at the bottom of the page for helpful information for your property manager (or you, if your workplace contracts directly with a garbage and recycling company).
  2. Decide who will empty your internal compost collection containers.
    • Your janitorial company can likely do this. Talk to them as early in the process and confirm how often they can empty your containers.
    • Containers should be emptied every day, just like garbage. This keeps odors and fruit flies to a minimum.
    • Your property manager may want each building tenant to take their compost to the building’s main compost container.
    • The cost of composting collection cost can often be offset by consolidating garbage cans and reducing the time janitorial staff spends on garbage collection.
  3. Set up break rooms
    • Many different styles of containers are suitable for food scrap collection. Containers with lids are helpful for reducing odor issues. Swinging or foot-lever lids offer a “hands free” option.”
    • Color code containers: green for compost, blue for recycling, and black, gray or brown for garbage.
    • Containers should be conveniently located next to the garbage and be well-labeled. Order free posters and full-color photo stickers.
  4. Bags/liners
    • Using compostable bags to line your containers is not required, but is essential unless your staff are able to wash out the containers at least weekly.
    • The City has approved specific bags for the composting program. These BPI-certified compostable bags can be purchased locally or potentially through your janitorial company.
  5. Educate the workplace
    • Let everyone in the office know when you are starting a composting program.
    • A good first step is to email an electronic version of the composting poster to the group.
    • Follow up with a short presentation at staff meetings to go over the poster with them.
    • Sustainability at Work advisors are available to help. Contact us to learn more about training your staff.

Information for property managers

Information for your property manager or whomever contracts directly with a garbage and recycling company.

  1. Composting service for office spaces is often shared by multiple tenants in one building.
  2. Estimating your service needs and cost will require a conversation with all the potential participants, to determine how much food waste will be produced on a weekly basis. The property manager can facilitate this conversation with tenants and the garbage and recycling company.
  3. The City of Portland does not set garbage, recycling, or composting rates – businesses choose a garbage and recycling company to work with and negotiate the type and cost of service directly with the company.
  4. Businesses often find it helpful to request bids for the proposed composting service from their own garbage and recycling company, as well as a few others doing business in Portland.
  5. Garbage and recycling companies can help you estimate what service level – the size of your containers and number of times they're emptied – you will need. There is a service level for almost every situation.