In food, sustainability

Office Composting in Portland

Businesses in Portland, Oregon are some of the most progressive in the country at reducing waste, recycling, and composting. It’s good for a company’s bottom line, the community at large, and it reinforces impactful behaviors for employees. The problem is that even if you’re part of business that promotes sustainability, the most up-to-date information about recycling and composting may not have made it to the average employee in the cafeteria.

In Portland, you can compost all of your food, including used coffee filters, tea bags, and certified compost bin liners. Simple, right? The bad news is that there are a lot of misconceptions around compostable materials like cutlery and plates.

Portland businesses can’t compost anything but food. All of those “green” plates, forks, and knives end up in the landfill – but only after time and money have been spent to remove them from the compost stream. If you’ve been throwing those items in the compost bin, it’s time to stop.

Residential compost material is sent to a commercial facility which can accommodate more types of materials, like napkins and pizza boxes. Business compost is sent to an anaerobic digester to generate methane for electricity production- and only the food waste (and the three exceptions) can be broken down by the bacteria used in this process.

Clearly labeled recycle bins makes it easy for employees to recycle.

What Can You Do?

The best option to reduce waste is to use reusable plates and silverware. This, of course, can be logistically difficult in the workplace. Inevitably, someone in the office won’t clean up after themselves to the chagrin of all. Still, it’s better than creating all of that waste. For more detailed information from a case study written by the city of Portland, check out this article.

The next best option is to eat with plates and cutlery that are made from recycled content. It’s not just about creating less trash – most of the environmental impact from disposable items come from production and transportation (more info here). Items with recycled content mitigate your overall footprint.

For more information on composting at work, please visit the City of Portland information page on “Sustainability at Work.”

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