Commercial Composting Changes


It is a common sight at most restaurants and shops in Portland. Three options to dispose of your waste: landfill, recycle, and compost. Almost as ubiquitous as these disposal options is compostable utensils and containers. Soon, however, where you put those compostable items will change.

Starting March 1st, only food scraps will be accepted in Portland’s business compost program. Items such as waxed or regular cardboard, compostable serviceware, paper towels and other paper products will no longer be accepted. This may come as a shock to those of us who have grown acustom to disposing of these items in the compost bin. As Portland has always had a strong emphasis on sustainability and reducing waste, some may wonder what has prompted the upcoming shift.

According to the portlandoregon.gov site, one of the key factors has been the volume of non-food items coming into the processing facilities. Increasing quantities of non-food compostables are becoming too difficult to manage, increasing the cost for companies to wade through and separate materials. These materials are then sent from the compost sites to a landfill, adding an additional step to the process and failing to reduce waste.

One important note is that the changes currently affect businesses. Residents should recycle and compost as usual. However, we are still left with the reality of continuing to send more refuse to the landfill even as Portland continues to try and reduce its waste as a city. The Capital Press reports that the Nature’s Needs composting facility in North Plains used to receive commercial food waste. The facility was recently restricted from accepting the material because of the smell in the community.

Consumers can use these as a rallying point to continue to demand that our businesses think creatively to find solutions to the problem. We can also ask ourselves what sacrifices we are willing to make to continue composting programs.  Will we be willing to put up with potential odors from facilities that compost non-food items, use to-go boxes less,  bring our own reusable containers with us? It is important that we continue to do our part individually and collectively.

For more information, visit the portlandoregon.gov website.




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