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Sustainability at Work

Providing free tools and expertise to achieve your goals

Phone: 503-823-7037


Frequently Asked Questions

compostable bagsAre compostable bags still okay?

Yes, but only if they are BPI-certified compostable

papersWhat about paper towels and food-soiled paper?

These items are not allowed in the new food scrap only system, as the processing facilities cannot effectively handle high volumes of non-food items.

Are any amount of non-food items allowed?

Coffee filters, tea bags, and BPI-certified compostable bags are the only non-food items allowed. If you provide compost collection containers for staff or customers, we can help you update your signage to make it clear that only food is accepted.

disposable servicewareWhat’s the greenest disposable serviceware?

There’s no absolute best product, but weighing the pros and cons of different options will help you make an informed decision that’s right for you and your situation. One tip: look for products made with a high percentage of recycled content.

Reusable dishware - even if only offered to customers for on-site use – is the best environmental choice. Learn why, and how to make the switch.

Learn more:

yard debrisYard debris and paper are allowed in my green composting roll cart at home, so why aren’t they allowed here?

Compostable materials from homes go 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. 

Do you expect to expand what is accepted in the future?

Metro has no plans to accept more than food scraps at this time.

Are my garbage rates going to increase because of this program change?

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.

What should I do if I need to adjust my service levels?

Call your garbage and recycling company if you anticipate needing different sized containers or a different collection schedule.

Who does what in Portland’s composting system?

  • Metro: This regional government body makes the decisions about which facilities our compost, recycling and garbage go to. Metro also oversees the area’s waste transfer stations, where compost, recycling and trash are consolidated before going to their respective processing facilities. The November 1, 2014 and March 1, 2015 deadlines have been set by Metro. The new guidelines will be enforced at the transfer station: after the deadlines, contaminated compost loads will be sent to the landfill.

  • The City of Portland: The City works with the garbage, recycling, and compost haulers to provide the best service possible through this transition. The City also offers assistance and resources to businesses to support food-scrap collection.

  • Garbage, recycling and compost haulers: Your hauler can help you adjust your service levels – size of waste containers and frequency of pick-up – as you adjust to the new guidelines. Your hauler can also provide feedback about levels of contamination (non-food items in your compost). If your hauler’s compost load is rejected due to contamination, it will be sent to the landfill and charged at the higher garbage rate fees.

  • Property managers and tenants: If you lease your space and your property manager or building owner contracts directly with the hauler, you may need to work with your property manager to adjust your service levels. They may also relay contamination feedback from the hauler.

  • Sustainability at Work: Our advisors assist businesses with this transition through updated signage, help with retraining staff, and phone and onsite assistance.

  • Businesses: Operations Managers and Green Team leaders play a critical role in making these changes happen by communicating changes to staff and assuring the changes are fully implemented by Metro’s deadlines (November 1, 2014 for cardboard; March 1, 2015 for all non-food items). Sustainability at Work staff are here to help with updated signage, as well as phone and onsite assistance. 

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