Memorial Day closure

Most City of Portland offices will be closed Monday, May 27, in observance of Memorial Day.

Office compost guide

Learn how to set up and maintain a compost program at your office. Get free posters and stickers, staff training tools, and tips for composting food waste.
On this page

Should your office compost?

Offices, retail, and other non-food businesses are not required to compost. And small offices may not have enough food waste to warrant weekly pickup (the minimum frequency to avoid smells, etc.).

However, if your workplace shares building space with a restaurant or other food service business, you may already have access to compost collection. Or, if your workplace has 100 employees or more, and staff eat lunch or other meals at work, you may have enough food waste that setting up compost service makes sense.

We're happy to help you decide whether compost service makes sense for your business: contact us for assistance.

Set up service

If your property manager provides garbage service, talk with them about adding compost service. If your business works directly with a garbage company, call your current garbage company to get a quote for adding compost service, and get a few additional quotes to compare costs and service options: Learn more.

If you share space with a restaurant or food service business, you could ask them about sharing compost service. However, you'll need to assure you can keep your compost "clean" by following the Food Only guidelines. If the garbage company sees non-food items in the compost, they may treat it as garbage instead of compost. 

Set up your space

Indoor containers

Three compost containers
  • Size: A 15-gallon container works well for most offices. If you choose to use a larger container, you may want to place an empty cardboard box at the base of the bin to take up some space. Food waste is heavy and compostable bags aren’t as strong as conventional plastic bags. A broken bag of food waste isn’t fun to clean up! A small countertop bin would work as well but will require more frequent emptying.
  • Color: Try to use green for the compost bin, blue for recycling, and black or gray for garbage.
  • Lids and step-cans: Use a bin with a lid, if possible, preferably one with a pedal-activated lid (not critical but nice to have).
  • Placement: To encourage staff to compost, and to avoid trash going into the compost bin, place compost containers next to (or very close to) garbage and recycling containers.

Posters and stickers

Use our free posters and stickers to label all waste containers clearly, ideally on top, front, and sides. These labels show staff what should and shouldn’t be put in each container. This is especially important since the guidelines for residential compost are different than business compost, and an on-the-spot reminder is helpful.

Get free posters and stickers

Talk with janitorial staff

Before you start composting, talk with janitorial staff about how frequently to empty containers, where to empty compost containers, and how to keep containers clean.

Frequent collection: Compost containers inside your office should be emptied as often, if not more often, than garbage containers. Once a day, or twice a day in larger offices, is best.

Lift safely; avoid broken bags. Compost containers can get heavy quickly, and compostable bags aren’t as strong as regular plastic bags. It may make sense to only partially fill the compost container before emptying it. Placing something in the bottom of the kitchen container—like an upside-down cardboard box—may help take up some of the space so the bag never gets too full to safely lift without breaking.

Compostable bags: You don’t have to use bags to line compost containers, but we highly recommended them for an office setting. They keep containers clean and reduce mess, odors, and fruit flies.

Only BPI-certified compostable bags are allowed in Portland’s compost program. Find BPI-certified compostable bags through janitorial supply vendors. If your janitorial company provides the bags, make sure they're BPI-certified.

Educate employees

Let staff know your office is starting to compost and remind people what can and cannot go into compost.

What goes in, what stays out. Label all containers with stickers and waste collection areas with posters that show what can and can’t go in each bin. Do spot checks to make sure non-food items aren’t going into the compost bin and correct issues before they become a habit.

Schedule a short presentation and Q&A at an all-staff meeting to review the “what” and “why” of compost and recycling. We’re happy to give a presentation or arrange for an expert Master Recycler to present to your staff. Contact us to schedule a presentation.

Get help. We’re here to answer questions, help you get set up and educate your coworkers. Contact us any time.

Avoid odors and pests

Internal containers should be emptied daily.

  • Clean compost containers in your kitchen daily.
  • Use BPI-certified compostable bags to reduce the build-up of food in the containers.

External containers: Your garbage company can clean your external compost containers or replace them (charges may apply). If your outdoor containers are leaking, contact your garbage company for new bins.

If fruit flies appear: Trap fruit flies in a shallow dish of apple cider vinegar doused with a few drops of dish soap. Avoid leaving fruits and vegetables out.  Clean kitchen or break room sink drain. (Consider using baking soda and vinegar to clean your drain rather than a chemical drain cleaner.)