Portland State University’s Community Environmental Services (CES) is taking the wraps off a new service. The Zero Waste Team, a student-led waste diversion service aimed at helping event planners target zero waste events.
Building on more than a decade of experience providing event waste diversion services as a contractor with the city of Portland, CES is now offering Zero Waste Team services to the private sector.
We’re able to leverage significant experience and research to get the best results,” said Eric Crum, director of Community Environmental Services. “To me, it’s not about being competitive in the marketplace, it’s about giving students another project to work on.”
The service was piloted with Food Services of America Portland branch, a distributor that holds several food shows per year and has been working toward zero waste events since 2011.
Diverting 90 percent or more of the waste generated on site from the landfill through recycling, composting, and other programs is identified by the Zero Waste International Alliance as aligning with its Zero Waste Business Principles.
Working with PSU is important to her company, said Pamela Lewis, marketing programs and events manager for FSA-Portland. FSA has contracted with the CES Zero Waste Team on two events this spring.
“We want to work with like-minded organizations,” Lewis said. “We even promote PSU, we want people to know who we’re partnering with.”
At the FSA’s Annual Foodshow May 7 at the Portland Expo Center, more than 270 vendors set up booths, most of them handing out a variety of food to be sampled by attendees.
Student workers from CES met with vendors before the show to share the zero waste game plan: aggressive composting and recycling with any leftover food eligible for donation packed up for the Oregon Food Bank. Throughout the day, 14 CES staff members walked the aisles and stood at waste stations throughout the show helping attendees sort their waste into the proper bin.
“Our staff is already extremely knowledgeable, but what’s great about this project is that students are learning and getting better at each event—it’s great to see,” said Bethany Davidson, CES’ Zero Waste Team Lead.