Food is the single largest portion of our region’s waste. Although our region is making progress to keep food scraps out of the garbage and put them to better uses such as compost and energy production, about 18 percent of what our region currently sends to landfills – about 170,000 tons per year – is food, enough to fill 5,000 long-haul trucks. Food scraps are one of the largest contributors to the development of methane in a landfill which is a very potent greenhouse gas.
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For more than 10 years, Metro and local communities have taken steps to keep food scraps out of landfills. In 2004 the region began a program to collect and compost food scraps from some businesses, and in 2011 the City of Portland began a residential program through which food scraps are collected with yard debris and sent to compost facilities. Today, the food scraps from some restaurants, grocery stores and other businesses across the region are sent to a facility near Eugene to turn into electricity as well as to a facility near Corvallis for composting. Despite these programs, there is a lot more food that can be kept out of landfills, though it will require new facilities, and perhaps new policies, to achieve this goal.
The Food Scraps Capacity Project of the Solid Waste Roadmap is looking at where there are existing facilities within the Northwest that could receive and process our region’s food scraps and what it would take to support new facilities to keep more of our food out of landfills and put it to use for our homes, businesses, farms and gardens. This project will consider new policies, incentives and other approaches intended to capture greater economic and environmental value from food scraps.