Frequently asked questions (FAQs)
Food businesses in Washington County are required to compost food scraps as part of a region-wide policy. Food is the biggest part of our garbage. When it ends up in the landfill it contributes to climate change. By separating food scraps, this material can instead be used to create nutrient-rich fertilizer and clean energy.
To meet this requirement, food businesses must:
- Set up food scrap compost collection service with a garbage and recycling company. Contact your garbage and recycling company to learn more or contact our team for assistance.
- Set up free, county-provided food scraps collection bins and signage inside. This requirement does not apply to public or customer-facing areas of your business. It only applies to food handled by employees, such as kitchen prepared food and trim, and food from customer plates.
- Separate food scraps from garbage. Food scraps include all edible and inedible food and trimmings that result from the storage, preparation, cooking, handling, selling or serving of food. We can help you complete these steps.
We offer free onsite assistance, staff training, indoor collection bins, posters and stickers.
Contact Washington County Solid Waste and Recycling by calling 503-846-3605 or emailing [email protected]. If your business is within the Beaverton city limits, contact outreach staff for assistance by calling 503-526-2665 or emailing [email protected].
What if my business already has food scraps collected for compost?
Thank you for being one of the 1,300+ businesses in the region that already composts! Please verify your business is in compliance with the requirement by filling out this brief questionnaire to let us know. If you are interested in food donation or further reducing food waste, please email us.
What if I send my food scraps elsewhere?
If you already divert food waste from your garbage – such as sending it directly to a farm – you may already be in compliance with this policy. Please email us so we can update our records to reflect that your business is in compliance.
When will my business be required to participate?
- Large food generating businesses will be required to set up food scraps collection programs by March 2023. This includes grocery stores, food manufacturers and some larger restaurants, cafeterias and hotels. These businesses will be contacted by their local government starting March 2022.
- Businesses that produce less food waste will be phased into the program starting Fall of 2023. Businesses will receive notification from their local government a year in advance of their requirement deadline.
- Contact Washington County for more specific information about when your business will need to meet this requirement or how to set up your food scraps program now.
What if my business does not generate food waste?
If your business is not categorized as a food generating business and you received notification about the requirement, email us so we can update our records.
Who picks up my food scraps for compost?
The same waste collection company that picks up your garbage and recycling also picks up your food scraps.
Is there an additional fee to add food scraps collection service?
- Tigard, Beaverton and unincorporated Washington County have bundled collection rates. This means that there is no additional fee for commercial food scraps collection.
- There is an additional fee in other jurisdictions. Visit your jurisdiction’s website or contact your garbage and recycling company for rate information.
Are businesses or organizations that use a shared kitchen or operate a food truck required to participate?
It depends on the amount of food waste produced each week. Shared commissary kitchens will be required but food carts and food trucks will not. Email us for assistance.
What items can go in my compost bin?
- All types of food, including raw and cooked meat, bones, dairy, fruit and vegetable trimmings, grains, cooked food, spoiled food, plate leftovers, tea and coffee grounds can be included.
- There are three exceptions: Biodegradable Products Institute (BPI) certified compostable bags that line your food scrap collection bins, coffee filters with coffee grounds and tea bags.
- Please do not include liquids, fats, oils or grease.
What can’t go in my compost bin?
- No napkins, pizza boxes, to-go or take out containers, "compostable" or "biodegradable" products, utensils, gloves, straws, parchment paper, twist ties, or other garbage are allowed.
- Products that are sold as ‘compostable’ are not allowed because they cannot be processed in our local system regardless of the products’ claims. Please keep these items out of your compost bins!
- Please do not include liquids, fats, oils or grease.
Can I add yard debris or floral arrangements to my commercial compost bin?
No. Contact your waste garbage and recycling company if you’d like to add commercial yard debris as a separate service.
My garbage and recycling company said commercial food scraps collection is not available in my area. When will it be available?
Where does the garbage and recycling company take the food scraps after they pick it up?
Depending on your collection company, most of the County’s food scraps go to Recology Organics in Aumsville, OR, or Pacific Region Compost in Adair Village, OR.
What happens if my business doesn’t participate? Is there a penalty or fee?
- Fines can be assessed, and are set by each local jurisdiction.
- We recognize the challenges facing our food service businesses. We will support you in meeting this requirement on a timeline that’s manageable for you. We are offering free assistance as well as a waiver to extend the compliance deadline as needed.
What happens if trash is regularly put in my food scraps bin?
Your collection company may leave an ‘oops tag’ on the bin or a notification that says your bins are regularly contaminated with non-food items. They might also choose to not pick up your bins or pick them up as trash if there is a high level of contamination. Contact your garbage and recycling company with questions if you notice a missed collection.
How do I keep my bins clean and avoid odors?
If your business hasn't had issues with odors or pests in the past, it's unlikely that you will now by simply separating food scraps from the garbage. Here are some recommendations to ensure your bins stay free of nuisances:
- Line your indoor containers with Biodegradable Products Institute (BPI) certified bags.
- Rinse your internal collection bins regularly if not using a BPI certified bag. Using a smaller bin or bucket can make it easier to rinse bins.
- Take out food scraps at least once a day or more since food waste can be heavy.
- Keep outdoor bins in a shaded area with the lids closed.
- Make sure outdoor bins are getting picked up by your garbage and recycling company often enough.
- Rinse outdoor bins regularly or ask your garbage and recycling company to swap out compost bins annually. (There may be a fee.)
If you run into challenges, our team can help by working with your collection company to change the size of your external bins or adjust collection frequency.
Where can I find Biodegradable Products Institute (BPI) certified bags?
Most vendors and restaurant supply stores offer Biodegradable Products Institute (BPI) certified compostable bags and are the only type of bag allowed in the food scraps collection. Plastic bags are not allowed. Contact us if you’d like more assistance or recommendations on where to source the BPI certified compostable bags.
Where can I find tips to reduce my business’ food waste?
We can offer training, tools, free resources and share best practices to reduce food waste at home and work.
Get started today and join the hundreds of other Washington County businesses that are already composting their food scraps!