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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

Email: sustainabilityatwork@portlandoregon.gov

What happens to your food waste?

Food scraps from Portland businesses are taken to an anaerobic digestion facility, where they are blended into a liquid and then broken down by bacteria. The bacteria create methane, which is captured and burned to make electricity.

anaerobic digestion process


Portland’s residential and business compost are different

The compost collected in Portland’s residential curbside program goes to a different type of processing facility than the compost collected by businesses, which is one reason there are different guidelines for what is allowed in residential compost and business compost.

Business compost

JC Biomethane digester facility

The food scraps collected in Portland’s commercial compost program go to an anaerobic digestion facility.

How it works: Food waste is blended into a liquid and is broken down by bacteria. The bacteria create methane, which is captured and burned to make electricity.

What goes in: Food is the only thing allowed in business compost: It's what the bacteria want to eat! Other materials gum up the system and have to be filtered out. (Learn more and download a poster.)

The end product is energy for homes and businesses, as well as fertilizer to enrich soils.

Residential compost

Recology North Plains compost facility

The food scraps and yard debris collected in Portland’s residential curbside compost program go to a commercial compost facility.

How it works: At commercial compost facilities, compost is laid out in big rows that are regularly mixed, or “turned.” These rows function like a bigger, hotter version of a backyard compost bin. 

What goes in: Food is the key ingredient. It’s what provides the nutrients that farmers and gardeners need for healthy crops. Some non-food items are also allowed: yard debris, paper towels and napkins, and pizza boxes (Learn more or download a guide). These non-food items help provide a balanced mix of fiber, and wet and dry materials. 

The end product is nutrient-rich compost that farmers, gardeners and vineyards add to their soil to help grow food and other plants.


How do food scraps turn into energy?

This 1-minute video shows how an anaerobic digestion facility turns food waste into energy.
(Video created by the British recycling campaign, RecycleNow.)

Food waste from Portland businesses goes to the JC Biomethane facility – watch their video about how the process works:

JC Biomethane for Kids from Kelly Lyon Photography on Vimeo.


Learn more