Expanding composting opportunities in East Multnomah County. Using robots to better sort and improve the quality of recyclable materials. Providing training for more people to become commercial truck drivers in the garbage and recycling industry with competitive wages. Reducing the amount of food thrown out in schools. Creating opportunities in the local deconstruction industry that increase the reuse of valuable construction materials.
These are just a few of the projects that will be supported by 14 Investment and Innovation grants.
In the first cycle of the three-year pilot program, Metro is providing nearly $2.5 million to local businesses and nonprofit organizations to reduce waste in the greater Portland region and help generate more benefits from the area’s garbage and recycling system.
Created by the Metro Council in December 2017, the program can provide up to $3 million per year to support businesses and organizations involved in reusing, recycling, composting or making energy from the stuff that is discarded in the greater Portland area. The main goals of the program are to strengthen local efforts to reduce waste, make better use of the waste that is produced, and help foster economic opportunities for people who have historically been left out of the garbage and recycling system, particularly communities of color.
“The strong response to our first call for proposals demonstrated there is a wide range of creative ways that businesses and organizations envision improving the garbage and recycling system,” said Paul Slyman, director of Property and Environmental Services at Metro. “Those improvements include addressing historic inequities that have left communities of color out of the equation.”
The grant awardees were chosen through a competitive process launched this summer in which Metro received 67 preliminary proposals of project concepts. A committee of representatives from government, community, and business, Metro staff and the Metro Council President reviewed the preliminary proposals and invited 26 applicants to advance to the full proposal stage. After careful deliberation of the full proposals, the committee recommended a final set of proposals for some level of funding. The final grant awards were determined by Metro’s Chief Operating Officer following consultation with Slyman and the Metro Council.
Grants are awarded in two categories: smaller grants (between $10,000 and $50,000) to support personnel costs, operations and equipment; and capital grants (between $50,000 and $500,000) to support investments in machinery or other capital improvements. The smaller grants require applicants to provide at least 20 cents in matching funds (either in cash, in-kind donations or a combination of both) for every dollar provided by Metro. The larger capital grants require a dollar-for-dollar match in cash.
“By providing matching support, the grants are leveraging resources to make a real on-the-ground impact on the system and on communities,” said Slyman.
The 14 grant awards total just under $2.5 million in funding from Metro matched by nearly $2.4 million in cash and other in-kind support. Some of the highlights include:
- Support for the creation of a new composting system at Allwood Recyclers in Troutdale to expand residential food scrap composting for East Multnomah County residents
- Installation of two robotic sorting systems at Pioneer Recycling in Clackamas that will use artificial intelligence on the sort lines to process recyclable materials faster and more effectively, thus improving the marketability of those materials
- Funding for the Interstate Trucking Academy to expand its training program to prepare workers for careers as truck drivers, addressing a shortage of commercially licensed drivers for garbage collection and providing access to family-wage jobs for communities of color
- Training parent leaders through the Eco-School Network to reduce food waste in elementary schools in the Portland, Beaverton, West Linn and North Clackamas school districts, and further develop waste prevention and resource stewardship values in students
- Investing in a partnership between Earth Advantage, Re-Use Consulting and the Home Builders Association of Metropolitan Portland to enable more participation in the local deconstruction industry
Grant recipients will be required to report to Metro, on a quarterly basis, the progress they are making with their grant awards, with reports on final outcomes due in 12 to 18 months. For the larger capital grants, the grantees will be required to report to Metro for an additional three years on the project outcomes, so Metro can evaluate the ongoing benefits of the investments of public funds.
Following this first year of the Investment and Innovation grant program, Metro staff will evaluate the first cycle and consider improvements to the proposal solicitation, review and grant award processes to put in place for the 2019 grant cycle, which is likely to launch next summer.