Food businesses in Portland are required to compost food scraps as part of a region-wide policy to keep food out of the landfill and turn it into renewable energy and nutrient-rich fertilizer for farms.
This requirement does not apply to public or customer-facing areas of your business.
Enforcement is phased based on businesses’ estimated volume of food scraps.
March 31, 2023: Businesses that produce over 1000 pounds of food waste or more per week are required to compost by March 31, 2023. 1000 pounds is about four full 60-gallon compost roll carts.
September 30, 2023: Businesses that produce over 500 pounds of food waste or more per week are required to compost by September 30, 2023. 500 pounds is about two full 60-gallon compost roll carts.
September 30, 2024: Businesses that produce 250 pounds of food waste or more per week are required to compost by September 30, 2024. 250 pounds is about one full 60-gallon compost roll cart.
Organizations that cook, assemble, process, serve, or sell food are required to compost their food scraps. This includes:
- Grocery Stores, warehouse clubs, wholesalers, and specialty food stores.
- Restaurants and catering companies.
- Food and beverage manufacturers.
- Businesses with onsite cafeterias, restaurants, and/or food preparation, such as hotels, hospitals, corporate campuses, colleges and universities, nursing care facilities, and correctional facilities.
- Elementary and secondary education with cafeterias or food preparation (enforcement starts in 2024).
Businesses will receive a letter from the City at least one year in advance of their requirement deadline. Businesses producing 500 - 1000+ pounds of food waste per week will receive a letter in March 2022.
Food businesses that produce less than 250 pounds of food waste per week (the equivalent of about one full 60-gallon roll cart) are not required to compost at this time but are encouraged to join the 1,300+ Portland businesses that already compost.
Businesses that do not produce food waste, such as offices and non-food retail or manufacturing are not required to compost. However, large offices with over 100 employees that have lunchrooms or breakrooms are encouraged to look into voluntarily signing up for compost service: Learn more or contact us for assistance.
If you are unsure when the requirement will be enforced for your business and would like to know in advance, please contact the City.
Property managers’ role: If a food business’s property manager provides garbage service, they are required to also provide compost and recycling services (at service levels that meet the business’s needs).
Customer food waste: This requirement does not apply to public or customer-facing areas of your business; it only applies to food scraps disposed of in back-of-house areas, such as food prep and dishwashing areas.
Other allowed options for food scraps:
- Food donation: Food fit for human consumption, stored properly, and accepted for donation by a charitable organization, such as a food bank or pantry. (Contact us for donation assistance.)
- Animal feed: Food collected to feed animals in facilities regulated by the Oregon Department of Agriculture.
- Rendering: Meat, fat, and bones collected for rendering or bio-fuel production.
If your business puts very little food in the garbage, due to comprehensive food donation and waste prevention practices, or sending food scraps to a farm or rendering facility, let us know.
The City will lead with education and assistance to help businesses meet the food scraps compost requirement. However, if a business does not work towards compliance and does not get an approved temporary waiver, the City will enforce the requirement and apply fines:
- $200 the first month
- $400 the second month
- $600 for every month after
All food service businesses that are required to compost will be monitored by random spot-check starting in 2025.
Temporary waivers: In certain cases, the City of Portland may give businesses an additional year to come into compliance.
Where to get assistance
How to set up compost
Our step-by-step guide walks you through how to set up food scraps compost collection. Here are the key steps:
- Set up compost service with a garbage company. The City does not set rates or assign garbage companies: you choose a company and negotiate costs. Learn more.
- Set up internal containers with labels showing what goes in compost (food only).
- Train staff to put all food scraps in compost instead of garbage.
City staff are here to help your business set up compost service. These staff have been helping businesses with compost and recycling for years and are familiar with common challenges and solutions. They can also answer questions about the requirement.
Frequently Asked Questions
How much will compost service cost?
The City does not set rates or assign garbage companies: You will negotiate cost with a garbage company of your choice. We recommend you get a few quotes to compare costs.
All permitted garbage companies are required to offer compost pickup, but prices may vary based on a number of factors, including whether they’re already picking up compost from a nearby business.
Contracts: If you choose to sign a contract for waste collection service, read the details; it may be difficult to change your levels or cost of service during the duration of your contract. If you are currently in a contract, you may be required to use your current provider for compost service.
Do customers have to separate their food waste from garbage?
No. Areas where customers dispose of waste are exempt from the requirement.
We do not require customers to separate food scraps and we don’t recommend it. It’s too difficult to maintain the “food only” business compost guidelines. In a public setting, food scrap collection is often contaminated with napkins, disposable cups or cutlery, and other non-food items.
If you want to sort customer waste for compost and recycling, we recommend instructing customers to leave everything on the table or in dish bins so staff can properly sort it.
What kinds of food scraps are included in the requirement?
All food waste, including spoiled food, food prep trimmings, and plate scrapings; raw or cooked meat, dairy, fish, shellfish, nuts, seeds, bread, and pasta; coffee grounds and tea; peels, shells, and bones.
Portland’s business compost program is food only so do NOT put liquids, paper products, packaging, or anything that is not food in your compost bins, even if it’s labeled “compostable” or “biodegradable.” The only non-food items allowed are paper coffee filters and tea bags, and BPI-certified compostable bags.
Wet food waste and fats, oil, and grease
Liquid food waste such as soups and dishwater solids need to be strained before being placed in the food scraps compost bin.
Fats, oil, and grease (FOG) should not go down the drain. Solid forms of FOG can be placed in your compost bin but liquids cannot. Businesses can set up collection of used cooking oil and/or animal rendering from independent processors. Find companies through Metro’s Find a Recycler or call 503-234-3000.
Additional assistance can be found through the City’s Cut through the FOG program.
More about the policy
Find more detailed information in the City's Commercial Collection Customers: Solid Waste, Recyclables and Compostables Administrative Rules.
The City’s policy follows Oregon Metro’s regionwide requirement (Ordinance No. 18-1418, adopted in 2018) for certain food-generating businesses to separate food scraps from the garbage.
Purpose of the policy
This regionwide policy aims to prevent food from ending up in the landfill, where it worsens climate change. Instead, your food scraps are used to create clean energy and nutrient-rich fertilizer for farms, nurseries, and gardens.
More than half of the food that the Portland metro area sends to landfills each year comes from businesses, and much of that comes from restaurants, grocery stores, and other food-focused businesses.
Learn more about the benefits of keeping food out of the landfill and how your food scraps are turned into energy and fertilizer.
How businesses will be notified
The City of Portland will send letters to businesses notifying them when the requirement will begin for them. The first letters were sent in March 2022.
Notification letter to businesses estimated to produce 1000+ of food per week (deadline for compliance is March 31, 2023):
Notification letter to businesses estimated to produce 500+ of food per week (deadline for compliance is September 30, 2023):
Businesses that are part of a chain with multiple locations also received a letter from Metro in February 2022. This is to assure that regional management is aware of the requirement for locations across the great Portland metro area.