The Oregon Center for Environmental Health partnered with the Multnomah County Sustainability Program to review current serviceware product alternatives and waste stream options and develop effective implementation strategies and models. 

The purpose of the Multnomah County Sustainable Food Serviceware Project was to harness the purchasing and disposal influence of County food service operations and local food businesses to create a measurable shift in the waste stream from the Portland-area.  These results were achieved through a multi stakeholder process of outreach, research, alternatives identification, pilot implementation and the development of model procurement policies.  

A survey was distributed to restaurants, offices, hotels & caterers and grocery stores in the region that are participating in the Portland Composts program.   The barriers to using durable serviceware that were identified include the lack of washing facilities, initial material costs, labor costs and energy or water costs. Each restaurant uses approximately 10,000 units of serviceware each month.  With over 2,000 food vendors in Multnomah County, this makes up a significant portion of our waste stream.  

Durable serviceware is the most environmentally friendly choice but is not an option for many businesses.  Recyclable containers are often contaminated with food and are rarely accepted for curbside recycling. The purchase of compostable serviceware is exceedingly complicated due to product availability, the complexity of compostable serviceware certifications and sometimes are cost prohibitive. For more information see the Preferred Purchasing Information

 for businesses.

Four businesses and a government facility were selected to participate in further analysis of their use of durable or compostable serviceware and the capture of compostable serviceware for composting.  This allowed us to better understand the constraints of businesses in decision making, the serviceware procurement process and measure the impact of outreach materials. Case studies and waste sort report for these locations can be viewed to the right.

To help increase the capture of compostable serviceware, clear signs are necessary for compost collection container. Before creating our own compost signs, we gathered a sample of signs that other businesses and institutions are using.   We found that people generally have the perception that if any of the serviceware is compostable that all serviceware is compostable.  See the Comparative Compost Signs

 document and Multnomah Building Potluck Waste Sort  for more details.

Compostable serviceware is being used by many businesses throughout the region which highlights the need for regional conversation on this issue through possible policy action, educational campaigns or market solutions.

For more information, please see our Sustainable Serviceware PowerPoint Sustainable Serviceware PowerPoint (945 KB) or read our  Final Project Report


Business Toolkit Links

Cedar Grove Approved Items

Business Toolkit

Case Studies

Waste Sorts

Comparative Compost Signs