Metro has announced 14 grant awards for this year’s Investment and Innovation Grants program. Just over $6 million will go to local businesses and nonprofits looking to expand existing recycling services or create new ways to reduce waste. This includes three grants awarded this summer,
Grant recipients will match the funds with nearly $7 million in cash and in-kind support.
The three-year pilot program, created by Metro Council, began funding projects in 2018 with the aim of supporting efforts to repair, reuse, recycle, compost, or make energy from the stuff people discard in the greater Portland area.
There are two categories of grant funding.
- Program grants range between $25,000 and $75,000. Applicants provide a match of at least 20% of the grant amount in cash or in-kind contributions.
- Larger capital grants are up to $750,000 for infrastructure and equipment. Applicants must provide a match of at least 100% of the grant amount in cash.
Metro Councilor Shirley Craddick, who is on this year’s capital grant review committee, says that changes in global recycling markets over the last few years have had an impact on the local system. “The Investment and Innovation grants are a way to help the companies that are needing to modernize their sorting in order to make more materials available to recycle.”
Metro received 27 preliminary proposals for capital grant projects this year. The review committee invited 17 to submit a full proposal and ultimately recommended nine awards totaling close to $5.6 million.
The program grant review team recommended awarding eight grants totaling about $520,000.
“We tried to nudge every project that didn’t have clear equity outcomes to do better.”
Metro’s Chief Operating Officer, Andrew Scott, together with director of Metro’s Property and Environmental Services department Roy Brower, and Metro Council made the final grant determinations.
Recology Oregon Compost’s proposal ranked highly for its focus on food waste from businesses. Currently, greater Portland sends about 21,000 tons of food scraps and yard debris from homes and businesses to Recology’s Aumsville facility annually for composting.
“Food is a product that can be used in so many different ways,” says Craddick, who would like to see less of it sent to landfill. “Being able to separate it out of our waste stream is gold.”
Recology’s project will replace six small composting beds at its facility with two massive ones. It also will expand an existing curing pad where materials can effectively decompose. The changes are expected to help them compost an additional 44,000 tons of food and yard waste each year.
Several awards went to proposals working to improve recycling infrastructure. Pioneer Recycling Services received one of those grants.
The company will install optical sorters to remove contaminants from mixed paper to make it more valuable in markets for recycled paper. This follows on the heels of a grant last year to help fund two robots that use artificial intelligence to increase the speed and efficiency of sorting mixed recyclable materials.
In addition to sparking creative solutions for a changing recycling system, the grants seek to advance equity goals in the Regional Waste Plan that include benefiting local communities and companies owned by historically marginalized groups.
“We tried to nudge every project that didn’t have clear equity outcomes to do better,” says Suzanne Piluso, the grant program manager for Metro. “We challenge applicants to push a little bit further.” Companies can make strides by building equity into their business practices, she adds.
City of Roses Disposal and Recycling, an African-American-owned garbage and recycling hauler and processor in Oregon, was awarded a total of $376,500 in capital and program grants.
The company will use some funds to create an elevated sort line to replace current floor sorting and increase the amount of recyclable or reusable materials by 50 to 60 percent.
They also will expand efforts to collect, process and resell wood. They plan to divert between 170 and 300 tons of wood for reuse each month by creating pallet “kits” and architectural panels for use in work surfaces, flooring, cabinetry, and custom finishes.
“They keep coming up with fresh ideas on how to use the clean wood stream,” says Brower.
Brower also believes that the company is moving the equity dial on multiple fronts. “Alando Simpson, City of Roses CEO, is trying to be real intentional about getting folks who’ve had barriers into employment,” he says.
The next grant cycle for both program and capital grants will launch next summer.