Recycling and composting, the most basic of all sustainable operations, have been available in City facilities for decades. In FY 17-18, the City’s waste recovery rate was 81 percent. The City has achieved this by continuing to find new recycling streams for items besides office waste, such as street lamps, hard hats and asphalt paint.
Achieving 90 percent waste recovery is an ambitious goal. In order to meet it, the City will have to find ways to recycle materials that currently don’t have a clear recycling pathway, like plastic pipe and worn uniforms.
Waste recovery from City operations
There’s no silver bullet for achieving a 90 percent recovery rate. Success requires projects that focus at the work site level and on specific materials.
Some friendly competition improves diversion at Fire Stations
The City’s waste hauler, Recology, ran a friendly competition among seven City of Portland fire stations during the summer of 2019. The purpose was to improve sorting and diversion of food waste and recyclables. An audit conducted prior to the competition found 30% of waste could be diverted into the compost and recycling bins. The competition was easy to be a part of. Participating stations were awarded points each week based on improvements. Fire fighters were provided with technical assistance and resources to help them improve. The results were impressive, with at least one station increasing their composting percentage by 25%.
City of Portland operations composts huge quantities of food waste and yard debris
Most city facilities promote and maintain lunch food scrap composting stations resulting in a reduction of over 300,000 pounds of garbage annually. On a larger scale, the Portland Bureau of Transportation’s Sunderland Yard composts and recycles over 30,000 cubic yards of leaf material every year (approximately 400 semi-truck loads).
City of Portland work sites get SAW certified
The City of Portland’s sustainability business assistance program, Sustainability at Work, certifies workplaces for comprehensively tackling sustainability including energy and water efficiency, low carbon transportation, and recycling and composting. Portland’s Fire and Rescue leads all other bureaus with the most number of locations certified – a total of 31 in all.
City meets regularly with waste hauling contractor to improve waste recovery
Every year BPS sponsors a time for bureau representatives to meet with the current waste hauling contractor. During this meeting, the contractor provides advice on how to recover additional recycling. In addition, each bureau recommits to waste recovery efforts. Most recently, bureaus committed to expanding their “waste sorts” to include 20 of the largest dumpsters. The majority of these dumpsters collect garbage. By knowing what’s in them the City can better determine whether new diversion opportunities exist.
Reusing micro electronics since the 1990s
The City has recycled computers and monitors since the service first became available in the early 1990s. The program expanded in 2009 to include other electronic materials such as cables, mice, keyboards, AV equipment, small scanners, speakers, and other smaller electronic peripherals collectively called “micro electronics”.
All used electronics are donated to the non-profit Free Geek where retired electronic devices can find new life. Free Geek’s goal is to divert technology that would otherwise be recycled or thrown away, refurbish it, and give it back to the community at no or low cost.
Every year the City recycles and/or donates over 35,000 pounds of electronics.