Portland State University’s Community Environmental Services (CES) unit celebrates this week a 10-year partnership with the Port of Portland. For the last decade, CES has placed student consultants with the Port to work on waste-reduction issues, which has them doing everything from data collection to public awareness campaigns to digging through the operation’s trash to uncover new areas for improvement.
“As one of our flagship programs, the Port of Portland Technical Assistance Project has continued to offer unparalleled opportunity for students, who get to help pioneer sustainability efforts in a professional environment,” said Eric T. Crum, director of Community Environmental Services. “This exposure to real-world applications during academic training is at the core of our mission and gives students the distinct advantage of applying their knowledge prior to graduation.”
The Port of Portland and its largest waste generator, Portland International Airport, has the functionality of a small city and provides an ideal chance to develop and test cutting-edge solutions to sustainability challenges. Working together the Port and PSU have greatly reduced the flow of waste from the airport to the landfill.
“CES has been a hard-working, flexible and motivated partner for us,” said Stan Jones, aviation environmental compliance manager for the Port of Portland. “Students have provided a lot of work with little quagmire and at a fraction of the cost associated with other vendors.”
A sampling of accomplishments by CES since the launch of the relationship in 2003 include:
• Implemented food waste collection and composting in 2006, a program that has grown to include offsite partners including hotels and flight kitchens and has saved the port significant costs in landfill diversion.
• Helped develop an innovative liquid collection station resulting in increased diversion rates, a cleaner stream of recyclable materials, and more than $30,000 in annual savings to the Port.
• Assisted in February with the launch of a food donation program that will cull 50 to 100 pounds of food per week for donation to St. Vincent De Paul.
• Completed a study with Starbucks Coffee as part of a national effort to help find a recyclable cup solution that could serve as a solution to the more than 6,000 cups of coffee sold daily at PDX.
• Worked with the Port to double its waste diversion rate from 15 percent in 2001 to 30 percent or more today at the airport. The waste diversion rate at the Port of Portland headquarter building is an admirable 82 percent.
“I attribute the long-term success to two things: the Port’s impressive commitment to keep pushing the needle forward on these issues, and the great students that CES continues to attract,” Crum said. “I can’t think of a better embodiment of the PSU motto, ‘Let knowledge serve the city.’”
Community Environmental Services, a PSU student-staffed research and service unit, has provided expertise and support on recycling, waste reduction and resource sustainability for more than 24 years. Clients have included the public sector, including the city of Portland and Metro regional government and private businesses such as New Seasons Markets, which CES worked with to benchmark the company’s zero-waste designation.