Ode to Oscar: We love trash

By Joshua Baker

When you throw an energy bar wrapper “away”, where does it go? And how much does it cost to throw it “away”?

Photo credit: 427 / Foter / CC BY-NC-SA

Photo credit: 427 / Foter / CC BY-NC-SA

These questions are easy to overlook at work, where we often have trashcans in convenient locations and don’t pay the garbage bill. Even at home, the garbage bill is just that – a fairly static bill can be hard to connect to the waste we produce.

The answer, of course, is that there is no “away”. Garbage goes to landfills, and at best recyclable materials are separated and eventually are used to create new products. However, that takes time, and uses a lot of energy and resources—all of which cost money.

In the Lloyd District, we create 58,000 tons of waste annually. 25,000 tons of that goes to the landfill. Not only does that create a significant impact on municipal waste infrastructure, but it also comes at a cost: about $2.5 million a year.

In Portland we are pretty good at recycling and diverting waste from the landfill already, and Lloyd District employers such as AAT, DoubleTree, Oregon Convention Center and the Moda Center are leaders in waste diversion. But as an EcoDistrict we have the ability to help everyone achieve better rates while effectively monetizing some elements of the waste and recyclables. There is cash in that trash!


A child plays the recycling game at Lloyd Eco Fair in April 2015.

Lloyd EcoDistrict is starting to tackle waste challenges here in the district. We call these efforts materials management, because we’re not just dealing with waste – we’re thinking broadly. This includes considering how we can divert materials from the waste stream; increasing reuse, recycling and composting; and collaborating as a district to manage our waste stream more efficiently and at a reduced cost for all. Our goal is to achieve a 93% reduction in waste disposed, through waste prevention, reuse, upstream purchasing decisions, and recycling, by 2035. In order to get to that audacious goal, we are breaking it down into five year increments and developing an action plan for the next five years.

We’re currently hiring a consultant to launch our materials management efforts. This work will include confirming our waste stream baseline, and creating the five-year action plan to move us toward our waste reduction goal. The intent is to launch at least two initiatives from that action plan by the end of this calendar year, and that includes forming a waste working group. This group will be made up of district stakeholders who are interested in materials management, and oversee waste at their organization or building. If you’re interested in participating in the working group, which will meet monthly, please contact Alison Hopcroft at info@ecolloyd.org.



Alison Hopcroft is the Program Manager at Lloyd EcoDistrict. You can reach her at info@ecolloyd.org.