Metro canceled the procurement of a processing technology for food scraps from greater Portland area businesses after it could not reach agreement with the proposed provider of that technology, Waste Management.
Food is the single largest portion of the greater Portland area’s garbage. Almost 20 percent of what the region throws in the trash is food. Metro will continue its efforts to keep more food scraps from going to landfills, where they decompose and create methane, a potent greenhouse gas that contributes to climate change. Instead, food scraps will be directed to other existing facilities that can create energy and compost from them.
At the direction of the Metro Council, an additional food scraps processing facility in or near the Portland area was sought as the regional government seeks to keep more food scraps out of the garbage. A voluntary program started in 2004 for businesses to have their food scraps collected separately from garbage, and most of that food waste is taken to one of three processors: Shell New Energies (formerly JC-Biomethane) near Junction City, Recology Organics in Aumsville, or Pacific Region Compost Facility in Adair Village. These facilities will continue to receive food scraps from Portland-area businesses.
On July 26, the Metro Council adopted a policy requiring food service businesses in the greater Portland area to separate their food scraps from their garbage, starting with the largest businesses in 2020. While there is existing capacity to process the additional food scraps to be recovered through this policy, Metro will continue to seek opportunities to bring additional food scraps processing capabilities closer to the greater Portland area.
“Our region has always been committed to doing the right thing when it comes to making better use of our food scraps,” said Paul Slyman, Metro’s director of Property and Environmental Services. “Doing the right thing is always more expensive than the easy way out—sending food to a landfill—but despite good-faith efforts by both parties, we could not reach a deal that Metro felt was in the best interests of the region’s ratepayers.”
Last year Metro issued a solicitation for a new processing facility, located within a reasonable distance (100 miles or less) of Portland, to manage up to 50,000 tons per year of food scraps from businesses. Waste Management’s proposal was preferred over five others. It proposed to set up a “pre-processing” facility in North Portland where it would receive food scraps, remove non-food items such as packaging, and prepare a slurry for use at an existing anaerobic digester at the City of Portland’s Columbia Blvd. Wastewater Treatment facility that would turn the slurry into energy.
Over the last nine months, representatives from Metro and Waste Management tried to reach agreement on costs per ton and other considerations.
While food scraps will continue to flow to existing anaerobic digestion and composting facilities, Metro will assess how it might take a different approach to a new procurement for smaller, more distributed and less expensive facilities that would be located in or near the greater Portland area to process food scraps from businesses.
“We’re not giving up,” Slyman said.