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Recycling on the rise at the Expo

Staff at the Portland Expo Center are working hard to keep exhibit waste out of landfills, and this year may be its best yet.

Last fiscal year, Expo boasted a 57 percent diversion rate. Staff worked with vendors and promoters to recycle and repurpose more than 171 tons of materials, from glass and cardboard to concrete and organic compost.

Operations Manager Jim Caldwell attributes Expo’s rising diversion rate to a staff that offers friendly guidance to exhibitors and helps cut down on landfill-bound waste behind the scenes.

“The key is our people,” said Caldwell. “Year after year, our staff just keep getting better at what they do.”

And that can be difficult. Caldwell said that it’s up to event vendors and guests to scrap their displays and often elaborate setups in a number of recycling drop-off spots within the center. Scrap metal, Styrofoam, wood and even rocks typically have separate bins, depending on the event. If
not looked over closely, a few misplaced pieces of glass or scrap metal will eliminate an entire bin from being recycled offsite.   

“Cross contamination is what really hurts us. All it takes is someone not reading the labels on the bins,” he said. “That’s where our crew really makes the difference.”

Caldwell’s small staff works tirelessly during shows to keep the waste flow clean and organized, occasionally even pulling out contaminates
for the sake of the batch.

A prime example he offers is the popular Portland Home & Garden Show. In 2009, the venue’s diversion rate for the event was only 5 percent. Last year, a
strong effort by staff rocketed that rate to 82 percent.

And that’s what makes Expo’s story of diversion one of success.

At almost a 56 percent diversion rate for the first three quarters combined, the center is close to topping last year’s record before the end of the fiscal year.

But continuing to cut down on waste won’t happen without work. Caldwell is now creating a plan to meet new diversion targets in the coming years. “We’re at a point where I ask, ‘How did they do it again this year?’” he said, “I want to keep that going.”

In the end, he said, having strong recycling and reuse numbers is not only good for the environment, but it shows that the Expo Center
is committed to its mission.

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Date: 
Friday, June 7, 2013