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Sending waste to the right place

Hillsdale Main Street's sustainability committee encourages commercial composting in town center
by: Vern Uyetake Several Hillsdale restaurants and grocers already take steps compost their food waste; the Hillsdale Main Street Program’s sustainability committee is now taking steps to encourage other neighborhood businesses to follow suit.

HILLSDALE - With a citywide residential composting program set to take effect Oct. 31, the Hillsdale Main Street Program's sustainability committee is encouraging some of the neighborhood's biggest waste producers, its businesses, to follow suit.

One of three Main Street Programs in the city of Portland, Hillsdale's is the only to maintain a separate sustainability committee.

The committee's goals include:

• Contributing to the (design committee's) landscaping plans by specifying native plants and bioswales;

• Involving businesses in the city's BEST program that will help them save energy and water and reduce waste and give them recognition for improvements;

• Installing recycling containers in Hillsdale's commercial core;

• Reducing waste at Hillsdale events;

• And recycling and composting at the Hillsdale Farmers' Market.

Additionally, it's set on expanding commercial composting throughout the Hillsdale Town Center.

'The committee is interested in reducing waste. Getting food and food-contaminated paper out of the garbage stream is one of the best ways of doing this,' said Jeanne Roy, sustainability committee member and co-director of the Center for Earth Leadership. 'Businesses are the source of 75 percent of all landfill waste, and food scraps, food-soiled paper and yard debris make up nearly a third of that.'

Decomposing food is a major source of the greenhouse gas methane, and reducing the amount of food dumped in landfills reduces their greenhouse gas emissions and therefore their impact on global warming.

Plus, compost produced at composting facilities nourishes soil so that more food can be grown without fossil-fuel fertilizer, Roy said.

Several of the town center's most recognizable businesses already compost, including Baker and Spice Bakery, Food Front Cooperative Grocery, Pizzicato Pizza, McMenamins Hillsdale Brewery and Public House and Salvador Molly's Restaurant.

In order to increase participation among other food-based neighborhood businesses, Roy said the sustainability committee has gone door to door throughout the town center distributing information about composting, and it has prompted Heiberg Garbage and Recycling to off er a pilot program to those businesses that are not yet composting.

She said Heiberg was set to contact businesses about this program by Sept. 19 and that the committee followed up with each business afterward. The committee might also off er a recognition sticker for the windows of the program's participants.

So far, Roy said several of the businesses that have been contacted are interested, but many want to know about the cost of composting.

She said this is a complicated question to answer, because some businesses share garbage dumpsters and pay a flat rate, and there are multiple garbage haulers serving Hillsdale businesses.

'We'd be more successful if Portland had a franchised hauling system,' she said.

In the meantime, however, efficiency and costs could be improved if a hauler picked up compost from all restaurants and grocers in the area instead of just a few, she said.

'If everyone can all get onboard with it and do it, then it will bring everyone's cost down and make it more affordable for all of us,' said Matt Kappler, co-owner of Baker and Spice. 'It's like anything; the more people are onboard to do it, the more the hauler (is willing to do so).'

And, for businesses that produce mostly compostable waste, Roy said implementing composting might actually reduce their waste disposal costs.

Kappler, who owns Baker and Spice with his wife, Julie Richardson, said the bakery has been composting for nearly four years and now composts about 80 to 85 percent of its waste.

'We'd always composted at home, and we realized how much waste was going into the garbage that just didn't need to be (going there),' he said. 'We just decided to do it.'

Kappler said composting was initially a little cost prohibitive, but as time went on Baker and Spice was able to compost more and more. Now, four of its five waste cans collect compost, and only one contains landfill-bound garbage.

'The cost is starting to come down now a bit because more people are doing it,' he said.

He said that, after he received the composting containers from Heiberg, transitioning the bakery to composting was easy; a matter of training employees, for which the city of Portland provided information.

The bakery's biggest decision initially was whether or not to use compostable bags, he said. They decided to do so because much of their waste was thrown out in a messier dough form, and this added to their composting costs.

Business-wise, Kappler said Baker and Spice's composting efforts have had a positive effect.

'The biggest advantage is that it's the right thing to do, and I think, when people realize that you're doing it, there's certainly an advantage to it,' he said. 'People take note that you're trying to be a good steward.

'I think most businesses get turned off when they see (composting) can be more expensive, but when you look at the longer-term costs to all of us and the world, you have to try and find a way to do it.'

To learn more about the sustainability committee's efforts, visit www.hillsdalemainstreet.org .

To learn more about both residential and commercial composting, visit www.portlandcomposts.com .