January 30, 2006 | General

Portland Businesses Continue Push For Food Residuals Composting

BioCycle January 2006, Vol. 47, No. 1, p. 22
Program works with haulers and commercial composter to reach over 50 companies that include supermarkets, restaurants and institutional kitchens – plus firms at the Portland airport.
Betty Patton

THE LATEST ISSUE of the Association of Oregon Recyclers newsletter (AOR) headlines a report, “Portland Businesses Capture Scraps for Food Composting.” Since February, 2005, explains the article, Portland companies that generate significant amounts of food waste have had an alternative to sending leftovers, kitchen scraps, and food-soiled paper to the landfill. Instead, through the Portland Composts! program, they can have their food waste collected by haulers and trucked to Maple Valley, Washington, where Cedar Grove Composting, Inc., turns it into compost for home gardens and commercial landscaping.
Portland Composts is a voluntary program developed by Metro and the City of Portland, available to firms through private waste haulers. Currently about 50 businesses are participating in the program. They include grocery stores such as Safeway, Wild Oats, New Seasons, and Whole Foods; restaurants such as the McMenamin’s brew pubs, Higgins Restaurant, and Widmer Brothers; and institutional kitchens, including Oregon health and Sciences University and Portland State University. The Port of Portland also is participating, with 20 hotels and restaurants at Portland International Airport – composting both pre- and postconsumer food waste. (In June, 2005, the Port received an AOR special award for innovation for its food waste collection program.)
Together these businesses are sending up to 815 tons of food waste a month to the Metro transfer station. The biggest contributor is Safeway, which provides about two-thirds of the tonnage.
As part of its contract with Metro, Cedar Grove has agreed to site and build a composting facility in Portland if the amount of food waste reaches a threshold of 10,000 tons per year. In fact, Cedar Grove already has investigated one potential site, on Marine Drive. Although access issues on this site could not be resolved, Cedar Grove is actively looking for another site, says Babe O’Sullivan of the City of Portland’s Office of Sustainable Development.
Metro estimates that approximately 275,000 tons of food and nonrecyclable paper are thrown away each year in the metropolitan area. In Portland, about 75 percent of those discards come from commercial businesses. The “Portland Composts” program accepts vegetable, meat and dairy scraps, along with food-soiled paper and cardboard.
The City of Portland – and its Office of Sustainable Development – help companies set up their composting systems by providing free training for staff, collection containers, educational materials, and technical assistance and troubleshooting when needed. About marketing the finished compost from the Maple Valley facility, some is packaged and sold under the Cedar Grove name at retail stores in Oregon, including Home Depot and Lowe’s.
The BioCycle West Coast Conference – to be held in Portland, Oregon March 20-22, 2006 – will have several major presentations on food residuals composting and field trips to sites. These sessions include the following:
Food Recovery In A Sustainable Society – Preventing food loss that costs the American economy $100 billion annually; Role of food residuals composting: Timothy A. Jones, University of Arizona.
Refocusing The Municipal Recycling Message – Practical strategies to make commercial and residential composting the centerpiece of MSW management: Steven Sherman, Applied Composting Consulting.
New 60% Recycling Program Initiatives Expand Organics Diversity – City policies lead Seattle to expand curbside residential organics and commercial food residuals collection: Gabriella Uhlar-Heffner, Seattle Pubic Utilities.
Building Composting Capacity For Residential, Commercial Streams – Adding food residuals, soiled paper to residential green waste collection programs in Alameda County, California; Sitting, design of 600 tons/day composting facility to process residential, commercial and institutional organics: Brian Mathews,
Targeting Commercial, Institutional Organics – Portland and Metro regional government focus on generators, haulers and companies to achieve recovery goals: Babe O’Sullivan, Portland Office of Sustainable Development.
Brainstorming Program Challenges And Solutions – Discussion on challenges related to collection, use of compostable bags and food serviceware; Program economics: Panel.
Siting and Sizing Digesters To Process Increasing Volumes – Capturing energy from diverted food residuals in the San Francisco Bay area; Compatibility with composting: Chris Choate, Norcal Waste Systems.
Utility District’s Organics Recycling Journey – How a regional utility uses organics from the MSW stream and agriculture to create a financially and environmentally sustainable infrastructure: Michael DeAngelis, Sacramento (CA) Municipal Utility District.
Building Food Residual Recycling Programs – Cost-benefit margins with regard to containers, compactors, plastic vs. compostable bags, labor costs; Case studies of supermarket chains: John Connolly, JF Connolly & Associates.
Protocol To Evaluate Biodegradable Bag Compostability – Establishing parameters to demonstrate biological degradation in composting process used; Diverting large quantities of commercial and institutional organics that minimize bag use: Denise Foland, Cedar Grove Composting.
Practical Model for School Organics Recovery – Building partnerships between school district, county and waste haulers: Penny Ramey, Waste Connections and Pete Dubois, Clark County, Washington.
Building Diversion From School Composting Projects – Implementation with area school districts; Result from pilots. – Panel.
Betty Patton is executive director of the Association of Oregon Recyclers (AOR). She can be contacted via e-mail at:

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