Northeast Portland neighborhood, which includes several institutional players like the Moda Center and Lloyd Center, seeks to become a 'zero-waste' community
Many of us have recycling goals. Use the compost bin more. Pick out recyclables from that sea of holiday wrapping left discarded on the living room floor Christmas morning.
But a Northeast Portland ecodistrict is setting its recycling bar ambitiously high as it embarks on a multiphase plan to ultimately become a net-zero waste community.
In October, the Lloyd EcoDistrict kicked off a nine-month process to identify collaborative projects to reduce waste within the district, which is between the Willamette River and Northeast 16th Avenue, and north of Interstate 84 and south of Broadway Street.
This year, a five-year effort starts to increase the district's recycling rate, estimated at Portland's regional rate of 71 percent, up to 77 percent, said Courtney Cross, program manager.
By 2035, the aim is to become a net-zero waste community, defined as a community in which 90 percent or more of its waste is recycled and composted. Not content to hit 90 percent, Cross said the district's goal is 93 percent of 2010 levels.
That's despite projections that development within the ecodistrict will triple by 2035. Today, the ecodistrict includes 11 million square feet of development, but it's expected to gain another 22 million square feet by 2035. "It is one of the highest growth areas in Portland, and we are hoping to reduce the impact on the environment," Cross said.
The ecodistrict dates back to 2010 and operates much like a nonprofit business association — collaborating with businesses, residents and other stakeholders. Its sustainability goals encompass energy, water, transportation and waste. Most of the waste reduction is slated to come from commercial producers, not residents.
"We have some pretty big players" within the ecodistrict, Cross said, including the Portland Trail Blazers, Moda Center, Oregon Convention Center, Lloyd Center mall and Veterans Memorial Coliseum. Many of them already were committed to reducing waste before the district formed. Now those strategies unite the district, Cross added.
During the current planning phase, more strategies are being discussed as residents, businesses owners and property owners share perspectives on how the ecodistrict can make it easier for them to prevent unnecessary waste, use durables instead of consumables and recycle and compost more.
"There are a lot of really exciting things we hope to do in order to reduce waste," Cross said, "from eliminating those pesky to-go boxes that no one can recycle, to finding ways to make it possible to recycle things like plastic baggies."
So far, the district plans to focus on increased recycling and composting, particularly of food waste. "Currently, 39 percent of all garbage is food waste citywide," Cross said. Composting food waste at the commercial level can be difficult, but food-donation programs for retailers could help the district achieve its net-zero waste goal, she said.
Other ideas include hosting special collection events or creating new collection methods for a material, such as thin plastic, which requires a high volume to recycle. Or taking what individual companies are doing well and morphing that into a districtwide endeavor. For example, Bonneville Power Administration has an office furniture repair, reuse and recycling program that could be expanded.
Wade Lange, vice president and regional manager for American Assets Trust, said he's eager to work with the trust's nine properties within the ecodistrict to see how they can ramp up waste-reduction efforts.
He has more than 40 years of experience creating business-based recycling programs. "So I am excited that we as an ecodistrict are setting some pretty aggressive goals," he said. And based on the success of some of the ecodistrict's other efforts, "I think this ecodistrict can do anything it sets its mind to."