One company's trash ...

What are you still throwing away?

Pat yourself on the back, Portland. Our city is doing a pretty good job with an estimated 48 percent of our trash diverted from going to a landfill and instead being recycled or reused.

However, the official Waste Composition Charts from Oregon's Department of Environmental Quality tell a more humbling story. Hundreds of thousands of tons of usable materials are still going to the landfill or burned in an incinerator. As an example, the Portland metro area still dumps over 40,000 tons of clean lumber, 40,000 tons of metals, and 120,000 tons of plastics annually (based on the most recent 2009 data).

The challenge is getting those materials from the people that have them into the hands of the people that need them.

An eclectic group of organizations banded together by a program called ResourceFULL Use seeks to do just that. The group meets quarterly at the Portland Airport Business Center to describe their under-utilized wastes or by-products and to challenge themselves to collectively identify productive uses.

Participating companies ask: “What's still in my waste stream?” The answers get creative.

For example, the Portland International Airport throws away thousands of feet of old escalator rubber railing each year. When ResourceFULL Use wrapped its brain cells around the challenge of finding potential second uses, they came up with ideas for horse trailer or dock bumpers, structural parts for retail displays or landscaping barrier material.

Other exchanges are simpler, like the nursery that obtained discarded planting pots from a nearby waste transfer station. Even after installing a steam-cleaning process, the nursery saved over $10,000 in plant pot costs.

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Debra Taevs is the deputy director of the Pacific Northwest Pollution Prevention Resource Center in Portland. ResourceFULL Use is the brain child of the ZeroWaste Alliance, Columbia Corridor Association and the Pacific Northwest Pollution Prevention Resource Center, with a grant from the Boeing Company.

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