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Sustainability at Work

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Composting for Restaurants


As of March 1, 2015, only food scraps are accepted in businesses' compost.

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.

How to get started

Best practices

  1. Place compost collection containers in high-use areas like food prep, dish scraping and coffee making.
  2. Replacing garbage cans with compost containers where possible. Keep some garbage cans nearby for twist ties, plastic bags and other non-food waste items.
  3. Label all composting containers. Order free posters and stickers.
  4. Train staff. Sustainability at Work offers employee training and presentations. Presentations educate and inform front line and back-of-house staff about how to compost.

How to get started

  1. Call your garbage and recycling company to request service (or call your property manager if they handle the building’s garbage).
    • Every garbage and recycling company is required to provide composting service if the customer requests it.
    • 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.
    • Businesses often find it helpful to request bids for composting service from their own garbage and recycling company, as well as a few others doing business in Portland. All commercial haulers are listed online.
    • Since food that was going into garbage will be going into compost, you may be able to reduce your garbage service level.
  2. Set up you food prep area.
      • These green containers are available from your garbage and recycling company:
    Green composting containers
    • Colors matter: if you purchase your own containers, try to stick with green for compost, blue for recycling, and brown/grey/black for garbage.
    • Counter-top containers:
      • Buckets for prep areas can be helpful.
      • Purchase green pails, or repurpose buckets or pails you already have by labeling with a compost sticker.

Helpful tips regarding containers and bags

  • Heavy lifting
    • Containers can get very heavy when full or even partially full.
    • Staff may need to work in pairs when dumping full containers.
    • Consider a policy to only fill containers half-full before dumping.
  • Cleaning
    • Containers should be cleaned regularly to prevent odors and fruit flies.
    • For sanitation reasons, containers must be cleaned out at the dump sink, not the food prep sinks.
    • Rinse water must go into the sanitary sewer and not storm drains.
  • Compostable bags (optional)
    • Use of approved compostable bags is optional.
    • Advantages:
      • Minimizes washing required for containers and can reduce odor or fruit fly problems.
      • Keeps your exterior collection containers cleaner; especially on hot summer days.
      • Makes emptying containers from your food-prep area easier (though these bags are generally not as strong as conventional plastic bags).
    • Disadvantages:
      • Cost of bags.
      • Potentially limited shelf-life; bags can degrade if not used within certain time period.
    • Where to buy bags