Reducing food waste a focus in Portland as it rises nationwide

Published: Jan. 9, 2023 at 5:17 PM PST
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NORTH PLAINS, Ore. (KPTV) - There is quite a bit that can be put in a household green compost bin in Portland and the surrounding areas where it’s offered.

Here are just some of the items: all types of food, bones, coffee grounds, food-soiled paper, pizza boxes and yard waste.

ReFed, a group that studies food waste, found the amount of food that ends up in landfills continues to rise nationally.

It says it also is costly. In 2019, about $418 billion worth of food went unsold or uneaten.

“We don’t want to over-order and that’s really the key to reducing the food waste in the produce,” New Seasons store manager David Goss said.

Portland is doing its part to try to reduce food waste. One local company with programs in place to limit it is New Seasons.

“Our ideal goal is to bring out what’s going to sell for that day,” Goss said. “Every day our order writers are coming in. They assess the department.”

But if what’s brought in doesn’t sell in time, there are other ways to use the food. That happens with rotisserie chicken in the deli being put on the store’s salad bar.

“As it gets close to being time to bring that off the shelf for the day, we can go ahead and pull that and repurpose it into our salad bars,” Goss said.

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Some of the other programs the company have are a sustainable meat supplier, deliveries of product by electric bike and recyclable and reusable containers in the deli department.

Goss says it’s all part of the company recognizing waste increasing overall and promoting sustainability.

“We focus on doing more good,” he said. “The more we can be financially responsible with mitigating cost and mitigating waste, the more we can give back to our communities.”

At Recology’s facilities, compost is ready to be used again just 60 days after it comes in. It’s where everything in the green bin ends up. Operations manager Nick Olheiser is helping places like a farm near Sandy get its soil.

“They’re kind of right in the middle from a big to medium-sized farm,” Olheiser said. “They apply that to their fields. They grow anything from lettuce, to carrots, to any kind of vegetable produce you can think of.”

This method makes sure food doesn’t reach the landfill. It’s what general manager Chris Carey wants to see.

“This is a better and higher use for the food versus going into a landfill which will stay there forever and fill up valuable space,” Carey said. “We’re only growing and capacity for landfills is shrinking.”

Recology in North Plains has added more technology in the past year to help expand production. Environmental manager Ame LeCocq said as those efforts continue it’s important to consider the question again of, ‘What do you put in a green bin?’

“Is this going to go back and help the health of the soil?” LeCocq said. “Then it should go in the bin. If not, maybe it belongs in the blue or black bin instead.”

Olheiser said he sees composters come back to the site to buy the finished product. He said it’s the full food cycle in action.

“It really kind of creates that closed loop system we want to see,” he said.

You can find tips to compost in your kitchen here.