The Case for Food Composting in Washington County

Release date: 04/04/2013
Sponsored by: Board of Commissioners

Long before the existence of the pilot program that brought food scraps from the City of Portland into Washington County for composting, your Board of Commissioners has been addressing complex issues surrounding solid waste management. Washington County is part of the "regional wasteshed" and as such, figuring out what to do with food scraps is not just a "Portland problem," but a shared responsibility across the region. Expanding our food waste composting capability is an important step in our efforts to divert garbage from landfills and cut down on greenhouse gases.  

Providing some urgency is the fact that landfills are non-renewable regional resource. To help address this, we are committed to work with allied agencies and local communities to find sustainable waste management solutions. We recognize that at least part of the solution is to divert food scraps from the waste stream and turn them into a renewable resource. For that reason, we approved the demonstration project at Nature's Needs, near North Plains. 

For two years, your Board of Commissioners has worked diligently with County staff, Nature's Needs' parent company Recology, and the citizens and government officials of the City of North Plains, to provide an opportunity for the demonstration project to succeed. It remains to be seen if more restrictive conditions added to the franchise agreement will allow for the project's ultimate success, but the process has provided us with valuable insights to inform our decisions about food composting in the future.

Both residential and commercial food scraps constitute a large percentage of the material that could be diverted from landfills and composted, although each category has different characteristics and methods of collection. By taking them on one at a time, we can work with our community partners and stakeholders to design programs that will succeed. This month, we directed County staff to begin work on a new voluntary pilot project for commercial food waste recycling. This pilot may potentially focus on the southern part of the county and will include cities, businesses, garbage haulers and other stakeholders in the area who wish to participate. The project will not involve creating new compost processing facilities or transfer stations but will focus on developing a collection program for food scraps generated by businesses.   

This new project is one more step toward our goal to spearhead more food scrap composting programs that will help reduce the amount of food in the waste stream. Other important issues such as choosing new composting sites and the most efficient transportation methods will require continued collaboration with our legislative team and allied agencies. We also encourage all citizens in Washington County to explore alternatives to throwing food into the garbage. For a guide to effective composting at home, go to

Chairman Andy Duyck
Commissioner Greg Malinowski
Commissioner Roy Rogers
Commissioner Dick Schouten
Commissioner Bob Terry

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