The city will comply with a Metro Council directive aiming to prompt more sustainable food disposal practices.

Restaurants and other food-serving establishments in Forest Grove will soon be required to separate food scraps from other waste.

The food waste requirement ordinance was adopted unanimously by the Forest Grove City Council on Monday.

It mandates businesses, schools, grocery stores, hospitals and other places that prepare and serve food to collect food scraps controlled by employees or other workers. Food scraps controlled by customers don't fall under the ordinance.

The decision allows the city to comply with a 2018 Metro Council ordinance that directed local governments to adopt such policies by July 31, 2019. The city was granted an extension by Metro in August.

Food is the single largest contributor to garbage in the Portland area, according to Metro — almost one-fifth of garbage taken to landfills is food waste. The policy aims to reduce that proportion and increase the sustainable disposal of food waste.

Forest Grove found it in the public interest to adopt the food waste requirement, which was reviewed by the Sustainability Committee, but it didn't recognize Metro's legal authority to mandate local governments to enact the requirements, the ordinance said.

The City Council adopted the ordinance without discussion.

At their meeting on Aug. 12, councilors had concerns about enforcement and fines for violations. Administrative Services Director Paul Downey said violators could be fined up to $1,000 but added enforcement will first focus on education and assistance.

Although local governments in the Portland area including Tualatin have adopted food waste requirements this year, Metro hasn't been successful in finalizing plans to convert food scraps into renewable energy — as food decomposes, it produces methane, which can be used to generate electricity.

Last December, Metro scrapped its plan with garbage service Waste Management to build a food waste processing facility in North Portland after the two parties couldn't agree on how much Metro would pay.

Food waste is currently trucked to a biodigester in Junction City or to composting facilities in Aumsville and Adair Village.

Forest Grove identified 38 establishments that would be required to comply with the new policy.

Places that fall under the requirement will be phased-in on a three-group time schedule based on the amount of food waste they produce. Establishments producing more than 1,000 pounds of food waste per week are in the first group and must comply by March 31, 2021.

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