Self-Help Guide to Starting Food Scraps Composting
It's not hard to get food scraps collection started. Follow the steps below to develop a plan for your business. We have online resources and staff to help if you have further questions or need assistance. Contact us at (503) 823-7037 or email@example.com
Assessing your opportunities
When do you want to start food scraps collection?
- Now, I'm open for business and ready to start
- Later, I'm planning ahead for when I open my business. I'd like to start service by _________(date)
Who manages the garbage and recycling services for your business?
If you are a tenant in a building with other businesses, the building owner or property management company probably negotiates service with the waste hauling company. You'll need to contact the appropriate management staff to inquire about getting food scraps collection added to the service.
- I control the contract for service
- Property management company
- Building owner
Which waste hauling company do you want to use?
We suggest that you check first with the hauling company that is currently picking up your garbage and/or recycling. If they are not able to provide food scraps collection service, we can provide you with a list of participating hauling companies. Contact Portland Composts! by phone or email to request the list.
- __________________________ hauling company that collects garbage
- __________________________ hauling company that collects recycling
Where are the food scraps coming from?
There may be several steps in your operation that produce food scraps. We suggest that you start with those where you have the most control such as prep areas and bussing or dishwashing stations. Asking your customers to sort out their food scraps as they throw away their garbage is problematic so we recommend that you do not start with "post-consumer" collection.
- Plate scrapings at dishwashing or bussing stations
- Food prep areas
- Post-consumer collection
- Other (list)
What can go in the bin?
All types of food and food soiled paper are allowed. Check the following that you expect to generate:
- Dairy (butter, cheese, yogurt)
- Fruit and vegetables
- Waxed cardboard
- Paper napkins
- Paper placemats
- Paper towels (from the kitchen only, not bathrooms)
- Paper soufflé cups/tasting cups
- Pizza boxes
- Other (list)
What has to stay out?
Certain liquid food products are a problem in the compost process. In addition, plastic, aluminum foil, metal and glass are all considered contaminants. Paper items with a plastic lining (they have a shiny surface) such as milk cartons, paper cups, and to-go containers also have to stay out. Identify the food products or service items that can't go in with the food scraps.
- Liquids (milk, beverages, soups, sauces)
- Plastic or foil condiment packaging
- Plastic utensils*
- Other (list)
*Compostable plastic service ware that has been tested and approved is allowed in with the food scraps. Contact Portland Composts! for more information.
Getting your collection system set up
What containers should you use in the kitchen and where should you put them?
The City supplies hauling companies with 23 gallon and 25 gallon interior collection containers which you can request, but you can use whatever containers suit your needs and space constraints. We can supply you with stickers to clearly identify the food scraps containers. We recommend placing them close to the source of the scraps (prep station, bussing station, etc.). It's often a good idea to couple the garbage and composting bins in the same location to make it more convenient for your staff.
- Request interior containers from hauling company as needed
- Request stickers from City
What type of outside container should you use and how often should it be emptied?
There are several possibilities - depending on the amount of food scraps you produce, you can use plastic roll carts (w/lids) or larger containers that are 1-4 cubic yards. You'll need to discuss these options with your hauling company and find out how often they can pick up your scraps. Most hauling companies offer service at least two days a week. More frequent service may be available but likely at a higher price. Consider other factors like how your staff will transport the interior containers and empty them into the outside container.
- Determine with the hauling company appropriate outside collection container
- Determine frequency of pick up
Should you use bags?
One way to limit your collection frequency and avoid pest and odor problems is to place your food scraps in compostable plastic bags (regular plastic is not allowed). These bags are readily available from distributors in Portland but do cost more than regular plastic bags. Only bags that have been tested and approved can be used. You can get a list of the approved bags and tips on how to use them from our website.
- Determine if you plan to use bags
- Select bag and vendor from list of approved compostable bags available from Portland Composts!
- Order bags in appropriate size to fit the container
How should you clean your containers?
Keeping your bins clean helps control odor and pest problems. Smaller interior containers can be washed in your kitchen dishwashing station. For others, if you wash them outside, make sure the wash water is draining to a sanitary sewer, not a storm drain
- Determine what cleaning strategy you will use
- Verify that wash water is entering the sanitary sewer and not a storm drain
How should you prepare your staff?
Training your staff properly is critical to the success of your composting efforts. Make sure to clearly define the roles of individual staff members and provide everyone with the information they need to know about how your collection system is organized. Think about who should be responsible for monitoring for contamination, moving food scraps from interior bins to the outside collection container, cleaning containers and ordering bags (if applicable) When you're ready to train your staff, organize a short outline of the key points you want to cover. You can request training suggestions and assistance from Portland Composts! staff.
- Determine staff roles
- Plan and conduct staff training
Who to call
- Contact your hauling company or property manager for help with frequency of service, missed pick ups, containers and billing.
- Call the Portland Composts! hotline at (503) 823-7037 for help with common questions, sourcing approved compostable plastic bags or service ware, problem solving or finding a business composting mentor. Many of the resources you'll need are available on our website under the "Resources and tools" section.
Promote your efforts!
Let your customers and vendors know all you are doing to contribute to a greener Portland by participating in food scrap composting. Portland Composts! will provide you with a toolkit with print and graphic resources for advertising and promotion. Some options include:
- Table tents
- Window cling
- Press release
- Website or newsletter article
- In-store poster