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The City of Portland, Oregon

Planning and Sustainability

Innovation. Collaboration. Practical Solutions.

Phone: 503-823-7700

Curbside Hotline: 503-823-7202

1900 SW 4th Ave, Suite 7100, Portland, OR 97201

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East Portland Food Businesses Provide Feedback on Food Scrap Collection

BPS gets tips from businesses trying out composting service on how to make collection easy and successful

Restaurant owner in entry in front of menusBy 2025, many of Portland’s restaurants, grocery stores and other food businesses will need to start separating food scraps from trash for collection. This is part of a 5-year region-wide plan that applies to all food businesses that throw away more than 250 lbs of food scraps per week.

BPS wants to make it easier for all businesses to participate, most especially those unaware of composting collection or who have staff with limited English proficiency.

To learn more about businesses’ needs and to test program materials, BPS conducted a test project with eight restaurants and one grocery store in East Portland to start collecting food scraps and share their experiences with setting up and using the service.

How it worked:

  • Employee holding food scrapsBPS reached out to businesses that had never tried food scrap collection and asked them for feedback on signs and how-to guides, setting up service, and employee training. Each business completed surveys, and engaged with phone, email and on-site assistance. 
  • Nine businesses, small to mid-sized, and ranging from fast-food chains, to grocery store, to full-service restaurants participated in the test project.
  • In exchange for this valuable information, BPS paid for 4 months of compost collection service, and provided containers, signage, compostable bags, and ongoing technical support.

What we heard:

  • Employee scraping food scrapsWe appreciate that composting is good for the earth.
  • We thought separating food scraps would take too much time, but turns out it was only a little more work.
  • Once employees saw the posters and containers, they found it easy to understand how to compost.
  • The kitchen containers were very useful – we like them!
  • The “Start Composting Today” informational piece was great at explaining what to do.
  • It would be nice to have a video that explains why my employees should compost.
  • Posters need to be laminated so they last.
  • We really appreciated the on-site assistance in Spanish.
  • We’ll keep composting going as long as the costs of the service and the bags are low.
  • We like using the liner bags – it makes it easier for us to keep containers clean.

Next steps:

  • Employee pushing compost roll cartExpand access to on-site technical assistance and online materials in Spanish, Korean, Vietnamese, Mandarin and Russian.
  • Make durable posters available.
  • Look into providing smaller (4 gallon) food scraps buckets for smaller kitchens.
  • Promote new videos for business owners and managers about why composting is important and ways to make the collection system easy to use. 

Participants included: Best Baguette, Bistro 23, Izzy’s, So La Kong Dong, Su Casa Super Mercado, Super Torta, Wall Street Pizza, Wheland’s Pub, Zero Degrees.

Find more information about how to set up business composting service or request assistance.

Multnomah County, City of Portland commit to reducing diesel emissions on construction sites

Cleaner air is win for human health and environmental justice

The Multnomah County Board of Commissioners and the Portland City Council passed parallel resolutions in late September committing to establish a Clean Air Construction Procurement Standard. The Standard would require equipment used on City and County construction projects to dramatically reduce emissions from older diesel engines.

Stakeholders pose for photos.

Clean Air Construction workgroup members and stakeholders pose for photos with the
Multnomah County Board of Commissioners.

“Some issues seem daunting,” County Chair Deborah Kafoury said Thursday. “Some are impossible for us to solve on our own. This is a chance where we can make a difference. We can control air quality in our community.”

“This is exactly what people elected us to do,” Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler said Thursday. “I’m very pleased the city of Portland and Multnomah County are working together to provide leadership on a regional approach. It’s very important that we work together to develop consistent standards to ensure our policies are feasible and will have a larger impact on reducing harmful emissions,” he said. The primary pollutants of concern from diesel engines are diesel particulate matter and nitrous oxides.  

“In the last 25 years there has been growing evidence for health effects from diesel exhaust,” Kevin Downing, who led the state’s clean diesel efforts from 2000 until his retirement earlier this year, told the county board Thursday. The exhaust not only causes predictable lung conditions, but is a known human carcinogen according to the International Agency for Research on Cancer and has also been linked to autism, impaired cognition, and ALS.

“That’s because the particles are so small,” he said, “It acts more like a gas, and transports loads of toxins into the body.”

Portland and Multnomah County residents have the highest exposure to air toxics in the state and are well above national averages (link is external) for cancer risk and respiratory hazards from air toxics. Soot from older diesel engines is among the most prevalent and harmful airborne toxins in the region. According to the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ), the Portland Metro area registers diesel particulate matter (PM) levels above the ambient benchmark concentration set by the state.

DEQ estimates (link is external) the emissions lead to more than 400 premature deaths and $3 billion in economic losses a year. More than 50 percent of diesel particulate matter in the region comes from construction equipment. People with lower incomes shoulder a disproportionate share of the pollution, as they are more likely to live in denser neighborhoods near congested roadways. Although air quality affects everyone, a 2014 Multnomah County Health Department report found African Americans are three times more likely to be exposed to diesel particulate matter, and Latinos are 2.5 times more likely, than white county residents.

Kevin Downing speaks to commissioners.

Kevin Downing has led the state’s clean diesel efforts from 2000 until his retirement earlier this year.

The action comes after the City of Portland and Multnomah County completed a $2.3 million upgrade (link is external) to their fleets in 2011, ensuring most older engines were retrofitted with pollution control devices. The City and the County also piloted clean construction requirements at that time. Since 2016, the County and the City have worked with a coalition of local jurisdictions to establish a single standard that could be applicable across jurisdictions and create a market for clean equipment. The goal is to speed up a transition to cleaner equipment with pollution controls. Because diesel equipment is so durable, the transition to newer equipment has been slow.

The coalition also includes Washington and Clackamas Counties, The Port of Portland, Metro and the Department of Environmental Quality.

Amelia Reiver Schlusser, a staff attorney at Lewis and Clark’s Green Energy Institute (link is external), encouraged county and city officials to strengthen the proposed Clean Diesel Procurement Policy by expediting the phase-in period and reducing the horsepower threshold from 100 to 25.

That’s because California’s clean-diesel regulations require construction equipment over 25 horsepower to meet cleaner-burning standards. If Oregon jurisdictions establish standards for equipment over 100 horsepower, she said, local contractors might buy from companies in California trying to unload dirtier equipment with smaller engines.

City and county staff will submit final procurement policies by the end of the year. The policy applies to non-road diesel equipment with equal to or greater than 100 horsepower, and on-road dump and cement trucks. It will include a phase-in period to allow contractors the time and flexibility to plan for the new standard. Some exemptions will also be available in the case of safety, emergency, or economic hardship. The City of Portland and Multnomah County will ask the Oregon Legislature to set aside a portion of the Volkswagen settlement money (link is external) to help disadvantaged, minority, and women-owned businesses upgrade their equipment to comply with the standard.

A message from Mayor Ted Wheeler: A huge thank you and farewell to Susan Anderson

As you may know, Director Susan Anderson left the Bureau of Planning and Sustainability in early October. Fortunately, she will continue to leverage her experience and expertise as a consultant on climate change, clean energy and urban development issues.

BPS former Director, Susan Anderson

 Susan's 25+ year career with the City of Portland has been truly outstanding! Susan has been a visionary director of three bureaus in her career, including the Portland Energy Office, Office of Sustainable Development, and Bureau of Planning and Sustainability (BPS). She has built partnerships throughout Portland and literally around the world to creatively pursue policies and programs that have made Portland more prosperous, healthy, resilient and equitable.

 Under her direction, Portland was the first city in the U.S. to create a local Climate Action Plan (1993). In 2000, Susan was chosen to lead the creation of the Office of Sustainable Development, an entrepreneurial office, which leveraged millions of dollars of private, foundation and federal government funds to pioneer new sustainability policies and programs that provided practical solutions for Portland residents and businesses.

 In 2009, Susan was asked to lead the new Bureau of Planning and Sustainability. Under her leadership, BPS created the blueprints for the next two decades of growth and development. In particular, her efforts focused on ways to advance equity within urban development and sustainability practices through the creation of the Portland Plan, 2015 Climate Action Plan, 2035 Comprehensive Plan, Central City 2035 and dozens of new programs and projects. Her work is captured well by the BPS tagline: Collaboration; Innovation; Practical Solutions.

 Susan reflected on her strong belief in partnerships, “All the work I have done for almost three decades here at the City has been in partnership and collaboration with so many of you, along with talented coworkers and hundreds of people from other City bureaus, businesses, non-profits, universities, other cities, counties, regional and state governments, foundations, and environmental, business, health, equity and other organizations. I have learned that in all things, when we work together, we are much greater than the sum of our individual parts.” She has truly proven what is possible when we come together in pursuit of audacious goals. Thank you Susan!

 The City’s Bureau of Human Resources has begun a rigorous executive recruitment process to find the next director for BPS. In the meantime, I have great confidence in Chief Planner Joe Zehnder, who I appointed as BPS Interim Director. 

 Many of you know Joe for his work here in Portland, where he has been the Chief Planner for almost ten years. Joe has 30+ years of experience working in large and small communities and in the public and private sectors. Prior to moving to Portland, Joe was a principal with an architecture and planning firm in Chicago and a senior policy director at the Urban Land Institute. He also served as a planner and Deputy Commissioner with the Chicago Department of Planning and Development.

 Please join me in welcoming Joe Zehnder as interim BPS director, and in offering congratulations to Director Anderson on her City retirement, and as she continues her work as a consultant working on climate change, clean energy and urban development issues.

Mayor Ted Wheeler

Remember to compost autumn leaves and pumpkins

Let autumn leaves fall and rotting jack-o-lanterns roll into the compost container.

Pumpkins and gourds, along with pruned items, yard debris and fallen tree fruit go in the green Portland Composts! roll cart. This is also the time of year to include seasonal food scraps like apple and pear cores and leftover or half-eaten candy (without wrappers).

Residents compost autumn leaves.

Set out an extra 32-gallon can, kraft paper leaf bag or bundle of yard debris for a $3.75 fee.

Yard debris includes weeds, leaves, vines, grass, flowers, plant clippings and small branches (less than 4 inches thick and 36 inches long). Large branches that may come down during storms or stumps that are too big for your curbside container can be collected by your garbage and recycling company with advance notice (and extra fees) or taken to a recycling facility.

Watch the weight! Don’t forget there are roll cart weight limits, especially with heavy pumpkins and wet leaves. The 60-gallon green compost roll carts have a 135-pound limit.

From early November to mid-December, removing leaves from our streets is critical: Leaving leaves on the street can clog storm drains, flood intersections and make streets slippery. Some Portland residents have street tree Leaf Day Pickup based on where they live and is now free of charge!