Recycle on the Go Success Story

Oregon Convention  Center Puts "Good Waste" to Use
The Oregon Convention Center (OCC) in Portland, the largest convention center in the Pacific Northwest,
designed and launched an extensive sustainability program, incorporating a broad range of practices—
from composting to water conservation. These environmental changes earned it the distinction of being
the first convention center certified under the Existing Buildings (EB) program of the Leadership in Energy
and Environmental Design® (LEED)  Green Building Rating System™. OCC  recycled more than 315 tons of
materials in the last two years alone.
 OCC Facts at a Glance
   The convention center covers
   about 1 million square feet,
   including 255,000 square feet
   of exhibit space, 50 meeting
   rooms, and 2 ballrooms. It hosts
   an average of 700 events and
   700,000 people annually.
   The Center recycled more
   than 315 tons of materials in
   OCC is committed to achieving
   a 75 percent recycling rate by
   OCC was the first convention
   center to re-certify at a higher
   level (Silver) under the LEED-
   EB program.
       United States
       Environmental Protection
                                                      .-•» m
  Photo: Bruce Forster
                                      OCC, shown here, is the largest convention
                                      center in the Pacific Northwest, with about 1
                                      million square feet of total space. The convention
                                      center is committed to achieving a 75 percent
                                      recycling rate by 2012.
Recycling  Program Overview
OCC has operated a recycling program since 1990. Today, OCC manages an extensive
recycling program that includes organic waste, cardboard, mixed paper, cans, plastics,
glass bottles, wood pallets, cooking oil, electronic equipment, and landscape trimmings.
The center generated approximately 552 tons of waste in fiscal year 2009-2010, and
diverted more than 315 tons of materials from landfilling through recycling, composting,
and donating.

Notably, OCC implemented and continues to run its recycling program without grant
money or other financial support. "The money to set up the program was well spent, and
the cause is one that has wide appeal to our clients and employees," says Ryan Thorpe,
director of operations for OCC. Savings are now achieved through a dynamic familiar
to operations personnel: preventing waste and increasing recycling to reduce landfill
hauling costs.

The waste stream at OCC comes from a variety of sources including conference center
attendees, contracted food service employees, and OCC staff. Conference and event
attendees mostly generate paper and beverage containers; vendors generate food waste,
cardboard, and containers; custodians or event vendors unload pallets with recyclable
                                                       U.S. ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION AGENCY Recycle on the Go

shrink wrap at loading docks; staff for OCC's contract food service provider, handle food
waste in the kitchen or dining rooms; and office and administrative workers generate
paper and beverage containers. To help with collecting such recyclable materials, all
public spaces inside the center have convenient, clearly marked bins.

Nuts and Bolts

Bins and Placement
The convention center has 65 three-container
waste bins for mixed recycling, glass recycling,
and trash. The bins are used in meeting rooms
and other high traffic areas to collect discarded
material from event attendees. Separation of wastes
and recyclables has been very successful in the
meeting areas, with low contamination rates.

Recently, OCC rolled out a redesign of the container
signage throughout the facility for clearer communication.
Signs with pictures of what can be recycled—aluminum
cans, plastic and glass bottles, etc.— have been placed on
the bins to better direct the public and staff.

The Operations Department staff use a variety of receptacles to move the waste and
recyclables: 25 rolling dumpsters, 25  rolling cages, 30 64-gallon recycling roll carts,
and 30 64-gallon composting roll carts. Many of these are located in the "back of the
house"—to be used by staff and exhibitors away from public view. The center places
"Wet" and "Dry" signs on rolling dumpsters.

Event attendees separate much of OCC's waste
themselves when they dispose of it in the  clearly marked
receptacles. Convention center crews, three shifts
with 40 people total, collect waste left in public places
such as unwanted items from exhibits. The crews sort
recyclable material from nonrecyclables at their locations
throughout the halls and meeting rooms, or at the back of
the building. The nonrecyclable material is then further
sorted into wet and dry portions. Dry waste is hauled to
a transfer station, where further sorting pulls any other
recyclables. Twice a week, recyclables are collected from
the center and hauled to a local material recovery facility
less than 10 miles away.
                                                            Photo: Nancy Erz
OCC uses three sites on its loading dock to transfer waste
and recyclables. The dock is located at the rear of the building, near the equipment used
for disposal, and there is a staging area of about 1,500 square feet. The equipment, run
by OCC staff, includes two 25-yard compactors, one for wet waste material and one for
dry; a 15-yard cardboard baler; and a 20-yard cardboard compactor. OCC staff bales and
prepares all the material.


Food Waste
The convention center donates leftover preconsumer
meals and other food items through partnerships with
local food shelters and food banks. Large food-focused
events are specially targeted for capturing food donations
from exhibitors. At a recent event, 10 tons of donated
food was diverted through this effort.

OCC also composts pre- and postconsumer food waste,
the heaviest waste material. The convention center
captures all food waste from its contractor's operations
and the center's hauler transports the waste once a week
to a transfer station. By removing food waste from the
landfill waste stream, OCC significantly reduces disposal
costs that are dependent on weight.

OCC also composts other materials that are not food
waste. Box lunches that include compostable plates,
coffee cups, flatware, and barware can be tossed in among
food scraps and other organic material. OCC composts
food service paper towels too. Currently, most disposable
items provided in catering and concession services are
compostable. However, a few items, including soda
containers and beverage lids, are not yet available in a
compostable version that is accepted by Cedar Grove,
OCC's offsite composting facility. But, Thorpe assures,
"We are working with these vendors to make their
containers more environmentally sustainable."
                   '  stainabHfty
   Staffed Sustainability Stations, available for an
   extra fee, help attendees separate recyclable and
   compostable materials from trash.
   Photo: Nancy Erz
OCC guidelines require purchasing office
products that contain recycled content. The
convention center purchases 100 percent
postconsumer recycled-content office
paper, and 100 percent recycled-content
paper towels and toilet paper from a local
manufacturer. All in-house publications
are printed on recycled stock using soy-
based inks.
OCC recently made its collection process for food waste
more efficient by converting a compactor for organic materials. The composting area is
power-washed weekly, and other odor-control measures are in place.

All collected material from the Portland area is taken to Cedar Grove Composting in
Maple Valley, Washington, where it is made into finished compost for gardening. Cedar
Grove is a 60-day compostable site, meaning it only accepts material that will degrade
within 60 days. In order to divert as much organic material as possible, OCC uses only
60-day compostable material approved by Cedar Grove. Although OCC receives no
payment from Cedar Grove, it does not have to pay composting fees, making this process
less expensive than paying hauling fees for landfilling.

For help with collecting compostable material, event organizers can pay a separate fee
to have staffed recycling and composting stations called Sustainability Stations. The
stations help event attendees separate compostable material at a 10-by- 10-foot booth.

                                                        Waste Prevention Practices
                                                        • Staff reduces paper use as much as possible
                                                          by printing double sided and by using
                                                          email to send contracts, event documents,
                                                          and to communicate with clients.
                                                        • Condiments, beverages, and other food
                                                          items are served in large containers
                                                          instead of individually packaged.
                                                        • Five gallon water bottles on water
                                                          coolers are provided at events to refill
                                                          glasses and bottled water is only provided
                                                          upon request.
Recycling Miscellaneous Materials
Wooden pallets are ubiquitous in the convention industry.
and OCC charges clients for pallets that are left behind.
These pallets and other wood scraps go into a wood drop
box (an open-top dumpster) for recycling. Occasionally.
OCC recycles materials such as metals, concrete.
porcelain, and electronics. OCC also recycles shrink
wrap, clear plastic, and light vinyl table cloths, which are
compacted and baled with cardboard.

Hauling Contract
The center has one contract for both the waste and
recyclables pickups. OCC pays roughly $70,000 each year
to have its waste and recyclable materials hauled. The cost
is low because the center receives credit on the hauling
invoice for its recyclables and saves a significant amount of money avoiding waste
disposal costs by reducing, recycling, and composting.

The Operations Department staff is responsible for separating, processing, and preparing
the materials for pickup. Generally, the hauler rejects recyclable material if the
contamination rate reaches 2 percent and sends the load to the landfill. If this happens,
OCC is charged twice the hauling fee for the same load. Facing such a penalty, the
convention center  works diligently to prevent contamination and loads are rarely rejected
by the hauler.

As a result of revised procedures and reporting by the hauler, the center now benefits
from more accurate diversion data. "The hauler supplies us with original copies of all
the transfer station slips with all the pertinent data—weight, material, day, time, etc.—
for tracking purposes," says Thorpe. "We're very conscientious about being accurate
and transparent when reporting these numbers to our clients and the public. There's
extremely tight self-monitoring here."

Education and Evaluation
OCC educates its custodial force and food service contractor personnel about recycling
through on-the-job training, formal annual training, and its Green Team. The center also
offers staff offsite training and access to seminars through groups such as the Natural
Step Network, which helps organizations work toward sustainable development.

To advertise its recycling program to vendors, event planners, and attendees—and
educate them on their roles in supporting it—OCC uses fact sheets available on its Web
site and holds preconference meetings with clients. "A hands-on approach is always the
most effective," says Thorpe. "Extensive informational signage on the containers and
throughout the facility helps, too."

OCC evaulates its program in various ways.  For example, the center discusses
sustainability efforts in staff and departmental meetings. In addition, OCC reviews
monthly hauler reports that break down the recyclables hauled from the center by
category and weight. Clients also weigh in with post-event evaluation surveys.

Sustainable Choices for Customers
OCC offers two levels of sustainability and recycling options
to prospective event managers: standard and premium. The
standard option is included in the facility rental and covers regular
operational practices for waste  diversion and sustainable food and
beverage, including recycling bins for move in/out and for the
duration of the event, use of china in carpeted areas, compostable
disposables, bulk condiments, excess food donation program, and
energy-saving lighting schedules. The premium option includes the
standard measures plus a package of a la carte food and beverage
services, and a post-event report of total weight of materials
recycled, composted, and donated during the event.
The convention center also has some clients that choose to go beyond
the premium option, working with OCC to design custom sustainability
efforts for their events. For example, the Sysco food service company held its regional
culinary expo at OCC in April 2008. Given its line of work, the company wanted to excel
in terms of food waste and composting. OCC worked out a package of services with
Sysco representatives, and collected 7 tons of compostable material at the event.

Other Environmentally Sustainable  Features
As part of its 2003 expansion, OCC added features that
collect storm water from the roof and filter it through
a system of rock terraces, pools, and soil, helping to
prevent pollutants from reaching the nearby Willamette
River. Also outside, grounds and building exteriors
are designed to reduce the "heat islands" produced by
asphalt, concrete, and hard-surface roofs. Native species
and habitat-friendly vegetation is used in landscaping.

Inside its facility, OCC keeps its energy consumption
and costs low through the  use of its many windows and
skylights, which naturally illuminate the facility. Light
sensors reduce the need for artificial light, and individual
controls moderate the temperature for each space. The
center also purchases 40 percent of its electrical energy
from Pacific Power's Blue Sky Block Program, which
uses renewable wind power. In addition, the convention
center's ventilation system brings fresh, outdoor air
directly into each major space, not allowing it to mix with
exhaust air from the facility.
OCC utilizes rolling cages with
variable signage to collect recyclables
during move-in and move-out days.
                                                                   Photo: Nancy Erz
 OCC's award-winning rain garden is an
 extensive system that takes rainwater from the
 roof of the facility and niters it through a series
 of settling ponds and landscape features before it
 is released into the nearby Willamette River.
Photo: Bruce Forster
In January 2009, OCC voluntarily joined NW Natural's Smart Energy Program to help
offset the facility's natural gas usage. Smart Energy supports renewable energy projects
by installing bio-digesters at local farms. OCC pays a fee on its monthly gas bill to
participate in the Smart Energy program

Reasons  for Success
The OCC leadership attributes it success to several factors. The convention center's team
spirit is exemplified by the Green Team, comprised of individuals from all levels and
backgrounds within the organization. The team meets monthly to discuss sustainability
issues that affect OCC and its clients, track programs and projects, and make suggestions
for enhancing effectiveness or expanding existing programs. The team also educates
staff, clients, and vendor partners on the importance of working toward sustainability.
Similarly, OCC shares its environmental goals with clients at pre-conference meetings,
where it details its sustainability and recycling procedures.

Management support is also critical to the program's success. All senior staff and
department managers contribute within their areas of focus and are key decision
makers for the recycling and sustainability programs. OCC also benefits from city and
regional resources, such as Portland's Bureau of Planning and Sustainability, the state's
Department of Environmental Quality, and Metro, the elected regional government that
manages waste and recycling for the Portland metropolitan area.

One of the most innovative programs that OCC has implemented to help support
sustainability is the Gainsharing Agreement between OCC and the bargaining unit
members that have responsibility for day-to-day recycling duties. Members of AFSCME
3580-1 ratified a Gainsharing Agreement in 2008, which awards members a cash
incentive for reaching the recycling goals agreed upon in bargaining. OCC partially
funds the program through savings from lower hauling and landfill fees. According to
Thorpe, "The Gainsharing program has increased awareness and buy-in from staff and
has demonstrated an increase in diversion rates."

Portland currently has a city-mandated recycling program with a 50 percent total
diversion requirement for businesses, and has legislated a 75 percent requirement by
2012. OCC exceeded the 50 percent recycling rate in 2008 and is making program
adjustments to meet the new target. To centralize management of the recycling program
and other environmental elements, the center hired a sustainability coordinator.

In September 2008, OCC achieved Silver level LEED-EB and aims to achieve Gold
during the  next re-certification process. OCC also hopes to expand its sustainability
efforts and reach out to its customers by implementing a voluntary carbon offset program
for show managers and attendees. The OCC values LEED certification for its guiding
principles to sustainable operation, as well as the recognition it brings within the events
industry and green building community.

For  More Information
For more information on waste reduction in public places such as convention centers,
airports, stadiums, and parks, visit

                                           OCC FY 2009-2010 Recycling Report
                                           Material               Tons
                                           Mixed Paper2
                                           Organic Waste
                                           Donated Food
                                           Misc. Donations4
                                           Recycling Total       315.43
                                           Waste Total
                                           Diversion Rate
                                            1 Glass cannot be co-mingled with other material because it can foul sorting
                                             machinery if it breaks. At OCC, it comes from front-of-the-house collection
                                             containers and the kitchen.
                                            2 Paper comes from shows and OCC offices.
                                            3 Co-mingled includes paper, newspaper, tin, and plastic. OCC still collects some of
                                             those materials separately as needed, and records them separately. For example, if
                                             an exhibitor leaves behind four boxes of brochures, OCC may put them on a pallet
                                             for the hauler to pick up.
                                            4 Misc. Donations includes items donated for reuse to local schools, charities, and
United States
Environmental Protection
Office of Solid Waste (5306P)
EPA 530-F-09-028
                                'ecycled/Recyclable — Printed with Vegetable Oil Based Inks on 100% Postconsumer,
                               Process Chlorine Free Recycled Paper