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The City of Portland, Oregon

Sustainability at Work

Providing free tools and expertise to achieve your goals

Phone: 503-823-7037


Getting buy-in: Speak to their interests

Frame your sustainability initiatives in terms decision makers care about.

How do you get the green light to go green?

If your efforts to implement new sustainability measures aren’t getting the go-ahead from decision makers, try something that has worked well for others:

Speak to their interests.

Sustainability efforts can have numerous benefits beyond environmental good. Think about what motivates the decision makers in your organization, and find where their interests align with yours.

going green = saving green = green light

For example:

Reduced operating costs through reducing paper, energy and waste.

Marketing benefits to reach and retain customers who value sustainability.

Responding to client demand for sustainable business practices.

Improved employee retention through engaged staff, who feel their workplace is doing the right thing.

Deposit bottle recycling expands: More to redeem in 2018!

January 1 marked the start of an expanded Oregon Bottle Bill, with new beverage containers now having a 10-cent refund.

Oregon was the first state to create a Bottle Bill back in 1971. Oregonians now get 10 cents for every deposit bottle they return. 

On January 1, Oregon’s Bottle Bill expanded to include more redeemable bottles; now most beverages in plastic or glass bottles, or metal cans, from 4 ounces up to 1.5 liters are included in Oregon’s bottle redemption program. 

While all beverage containers can still be recycled in your home or work recycling, recycling them through redemption centers allows you to earn back the 10-cent refunds or donate the refunds to a local nonprofit.

Newly included deposit bottles

New! Coffee, tea, kombucha, energy and sports drinks, hard cider (under 8.5 percent ABV), and juice beverages in plastic or glass bottles or metal cans now have a 10-cent redemption. See the full list of newly added beverage containers.

Beverage bottles that continue to have a 10 cent redemption.

Soda, beer, and water beverages in plastic or glass bottles or metal cans continue to have a 10-cent redemption.

Bottles that do not have a redemption

The beverages not included in the Bottle Bill are milk (dairy and plant-based), infant formula, meal-replacement drinks, wine and distilled spirits, and hard cider over 8.5 percent ABV. See the full list of beverages not included in the Oregon Bottle Bill.

While these bottles don’t have a 10-cent deposit, you can still recycle them in your home or work recycling.

Where to drop off your bottles

While some grocery stores still have bottle redemption areas, there are also BottleDrop centers around Portland that make redemption fast and easy. Look up the closest locations to you

Never used BottleDrop before? This step-by-step photo tutorial walks you through it.

Raise money for a local nonprofit

It’s now easier than ever to collect and donate bottles: Pick up bags coded for your favorite local nonprofit, fill them up with deposit bottles at home or work, and then drop the whole bag off at a bottle drop center. No need to feed the bottles into a machine one at a time, they’ll take the whole bag.

Find out how to collect deposit bottles to support your favorite nonprofit.

Learn more: FAQs about Oregon’s Bottle Bill

Updating your gadgets? Don’t miss a golden opportunity.

Recycling old computers and TVs is required by law in Oregon – it’s also easy and free.

Gold in electronics

Did you know that one ton of old computers contains more gold than seventeen tons of raw gold ore?

That makes recycling old computers and other electronics a golden opportunity to capture and reuse valuable materials.

Recycling your old electronics is:

Good for the environment: Electronics are made with valuable materials that can be recycled into new products. The U.S. EPA estimates that recycling one million computers prevents the release of greenhouse gases equivalent to the annual emissions of over 17,000 cars.

Good for our health: Electronics contain toxic materials such as lead, cadmium and mercury: Keeping these toxics out of the environment protects our health. According to the U.S. EPA, 40 percent of lead and 70 percent of other toxics found in landfills — including mercury, cadmium and polybrominated flame retardants — are from electronics.

Required: Since 2010, Oregonians are prohibited by law from throwing away computers, monitors or TVs in the trash.

How to recycle computers, TVs and more for free

Oregon E-Cycles provides free recycling of computers (desktops, laptops and tablets), monitors, TVs, printers and peripherals (keyboards and mice). 

Oregon E-Cycles

Workplaces with more than 10 employees may dispose of up to seven computers, monitors or TVs at one time, but collection sites may charge for additional items. Small businesses and nonprofits with 10 or fewer employees may take more than seven (this is also true for individuals and households).

Find your nearest E-Cycles drop-off location. Questions? Check out the E-Cycles FAQs.

old cell phonesRecycling other electronics

Oregon E-Cycles does not currently provide free recycling of cell phones, speakers, scanners, game consoles or other types of electronics or appliances — however, there are local recycling drop-off facilities that do accept these items.

Call Metro’s Find a Recycler hotline (503-234-3000) or use their online search tool. They can tell you the most convenient drop-off locations to your home or work.

Before you recycle, can you donate and reuse?

If you have still usable computers, laptops or tablets, bring them to Free Geek, where they’ll be refurbished and donated to folks who don’t have access to new computers.

Free Geek also accepts electronics for recycling, so if you bring things they don’t want, they can still take them off your hands.

Learn more

Finding opportunity in a recycling challenge

When recycling non-curbside plastics was no longer an option, New Seasons Market looked for opportunities for positive change.

NSM staff and recycling bins

For years, New Seasons Market has invited customers to take their hard-to-recycle plastics to stores, to make it easier and more convenient for customers to recycle “extra” plastics that aren’t allowed in their blue recycling bins at work or at home.

In October of 2017, new restrictions in the international recycling markets meant the store’s previous options for recycling “extra” plastics stopped. With no place to send the collected material, New Seasons had to stop offering the collection service.

New Seasons saw these changes as an opportunity to reevaluate plastics and packaging across their business. They focused on three key areas: educating and retraining staff, addressing packaging, and examining plastic in the customer shopping experience.

Following the hierarchy: Reduce, Reuse, Recycle

Using the Reduce, Reuse, Recycle hierarchy for guidance, they spoke with staff, suppliers and customers to discuss ideas for reducing and reusing in each area.

Here are some of the ideas – some are just getting started and others have been in place for years:

 BYO coffee mug sign at NSM  NSM customers with reusable bag NSM Bag it forward

Engaging customers

To help answer questions from customers about the changes to plastics recycling, New Seasons Market added educational messaging and resources on their website. They also posted educational signs in stores, and have brought in a Master Recycler volunteer to help answer questions at one store location (with more to come).

In stores, staff and signs encourage customers towards reusable options:

  • Reusable dishes for in-store dining.
  • Safe use of reusable customer containers and bags for bulk and produce.
  • Financial incentives for using a reusable coffee mug and bringing reusable grocery bags.

Sign in diary case with tips for using less packaging

Educating staff

At each store, employee Green Teams focused on reminding staff about which items can and cannot be recycled, and the importance of sorting properly and making sure items are sufficiently clean.

Working with suppliers

New Seasons Market staff contacted vendors to discuss options for switching shipping materials and packaging to more recyclable or reusable options.

Products made with less stuff: New Seasons' thinner plastic produce bags are an example of lightweighting, or reducing the quantity of material that goes into the manufacture of an item, thereby reducing the environmental impact of resources used and the environmental impacts derived from transporting it. The thinner bags use 35 percent less material.

Reusable shipping containers: Most of New Seasons' wellness products arrive in plastic reusable shipping totes that get returned to the vendor.

Deposit containers: New Seasons sells some local dairy products in reusable, glass deposit bottles.

Local bike transport: By partnering with a local trike-delivery service, B-line, local products are delivered to stores with fewer transportation emissions and less packaging.

Continuous improvement

For New Seasons Market, looking for opportunities and partnerships to improve sustainability is a continual process. This spring they plan to look at their internal packaging (grab-and-go foods), with an eye towards reducing, reusing and recycling.

How can you find opportunity in this recycling challenge?

Take advantage of the incentives New Seasons and others offer for bringing your own coffee mug and reusable bag. Avoid packaging by buying bulk products – and bring your own reusable containers. If you work downtown and eat out, sign up for reusable take-out containers.

Reusable alternatives

You can do a lot at your workplace as well, including buying items in bulk to avoid individual packaging, switching to reusable dishware in the breakroom and at catered events, and talking to vendors about reducing their packaging and shipping materials.

ResourcefulPDXAt both home and work, avoid one-time-use disposable items, and aim to buy products that you can use for years to come. Long-lasting products will save you the time and hassle of frequent replacements, reduce packaging and product waste, and likely save you money in the long run.

Find more ideas for reducing, reusing and “buying smart” at ResourcefulPDX.

Learn more:

Thanks to New Seasons Market for sharing their story. All photos of stores, staff and customers credited to New Seasons Market.

Keep recycling, it matters!

Updates on recent headlines about global recycling, and tips for how to recycle right.

You may have seen recent news stories about changes in the international recycling market. Please know that Portland’s curbside recycling service has not changed. You should keep recycling at work and at home. If changes occur in the future, we’ll let you know. 

Portland has one of the highest rates of recycling in the country – and that’s thanks to you! Recycling has many benefits, and one of the biggest is the environmental benefit of reducing the amount of raw materials and energy needed to make products from scratch. 

Recycle right: Follow the list

Recycling Guide poster

As individuals, we can help the recycling system work well by putting the right things in the recycling bin and keeping the wrong things out.

  • Do follow the list of what’s recyclable in Portland.
  • Do not assume a product with a recyclable label means it should go in your blue bin.

When in doubt, throw it out. If you’re not sure if something can be recycled, and you don’t have time to check the list, put it in the garbage. Being a “wishful recycler” can do more harm than good, increasing cost and hassle for sorting facilities to remove the unwanted materials and send them to the landfill. 

Make sure your workplace waste containers are well-labeled with our free posters (we have stickers too) and detailed Recycling Guide poster. You can also contact us to schedule a Recycling Refresher presentation for your workplace.

Reduce and reuseReduce and reuse

Recycling is a great way to reduce the energy and natural resources needed to make products — but you can save even more energy and natural resources by reducing the amount of plastics and other “stuff” you use.

Make the switch from throw-away items to reusable items. Buy in bulk to avoid packaging. Bring your own reusable water bottle and coffee mug. If you get take-out food, tell the staff up front you don't need a bag, napkins and/or one-use utensils. Or, where possible, sign up for a reusable take-out container program.

Recent news about recycling: FAQs

Is recycling changing?

Curbside recycling has NOT changed. Your mixed and glass recycling at work and at home remains the same. We will let you know if any changes are made in the future.

While curbside recycling hasn’t changed, if you were collecting “extra plastics” to recycle, you've probably noticed local recycling depots and grocery stores have stopped accepting them. (Plastic bags are still accepted in some places: Use this online tool to find locations. We recommend calling individual grocery store locations to confirm before making a special trip.)

State and local governments, recyclers and garbage and recycling companies are working together to address current recycling market conditions and to work on longer term options. Oregon’s Department of Environmental Quality is leading this effort: You can find more information on the recycling market conditions and what it means for Oregon on their website.

Where do our recyclables go?

Some materials are recycled locally, others internationally.

Most cardboard, glass, metal, and plastic from the Bottle Bill get recycled locally.

Other materials are sent to international markets, where demand for recycled materials from the U.S. has been huge. Pallets of recyclables often fill cargo ships that have brought goods to the U.S. and would otherwise return empty.

Learn more about where recyclables go after they leave your home or workplace.

Why are some things labeled “recyclable” not allowed in Portland’s recycling?

Recycling labels, including the recycling number labels on plastics, do not mean the item is recyclable in Portland’s system. The list of what’s recyclable in Portland was decided using a variety of factors, including what materials have a strong, steady market (that is, manufacturers want to buy them to make new products), as well as whether or not items can be sorted in local sorting facilities.

Plastic bags, for example, can be recycled into products like composite decking, but the bags cause major problems at the sorting facilities; they get caught in the gears of the machines, shutting down the facility while staff have to clean out the gears.

Are “compostable” plastics a good alternative?

No. “Compostable" packaging is not allowed in Portland’s compost collection – this is true for both residential and business composting.

Food is what makes nutrient-rich compost, not packaging. Additionally, “compostable” plastics and packaging don’t always break down and can lead to confusion that results in regular plastics contaminating compost.

“Compostable” packaging is also not recyclable. If it ends up in recycling, it causes problems for recycling facilities and contaminates the plastics that could be recycled.

Anything labeled “compostable” or “biodegradable” should go in the trash.

Read more