Ryan Cooper

Ryan Cooper

Ryan Cooper

Speaker | Rubicon Global

Atlanta, GA | 434-284-3056 | ryan.cooper@rubiconglobal.com

USCC Member

Ryan Cooper is a Waste Diversion Manager and Global Organics Recycling Lead for Rubicon, a technology company that provides waste, recycling, and smart city solutions to businesses and governments worldwide. Ryan joined Rubicon in 2015, and is responsible for designing, implementing and managing organics recycling programs at Rubicon for small and large customers across North America.

Ryan earned his BA in Globalization from Hampshire College in Amherst, MA and his Master of Science in Regenerative Studies at California State Polytechnic University, Pomona, where his thesis focused on municipal anaerobic digestion and composting. Ryan holds a position on the Membership Committee of the US Composting Council and is passionate about organic agriculture, renewable energy, permaculture design, urban and regional planning, and sustainable development.

Presentation Title: Compostable Foodservice Ware – A Restaurant’s Perspective

Session: Evolving Perspectives on Compostable Food Serviceware

Time: Tuesday, January 29, 8:15 AM – 9:45 AM

Presentation Summary: Restaurants today have lots of questions when it comes to their food service packaging. Creating sustainable solutions for the cups, bowls, utensils, is indeed a challenge. Is recyclable the way to go? If they make everything compostable, doesn’t that make everything easier?

Well…yes and no.

Hypothetically, making all foodservice ware compostable means there is only one bin at the front-of-the-house and the streams can’t get contaminated. Unfortunately, there are still a number of issues:
–People still bring in other materials from outside. Stadiums and other closed access venues have a distinct advantage from this perspective, but there are always materials you can’t control for. Often, even those who adopt compostable foodservice ware still serve some items which may be recyclable or not, and these materials contaminate the organics stream
–Lack of infrastructure is a persistent problem. More and more organics recycling programs are popping up nation-wide, but they are still not available in all areas, which creates difficulties for brands that are trying to maintain as uniform a catalog of products as possible.
–Anaerobic digestion is not a great fit with certified compostable foodservice packaging. In composting facilities, this type of packaging is commonly sorted out and landfilled.
–Another issue being discussed within the industry is PFAS, per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, which is an issue for fiber-based bowls and plates, etc.

Add issues like these to the common list of culprits such as manufacturers that make false claims about their materials and are not actually certified compostable.

Compostable food service ware allows for the easy recycling of both food scraps and the serving dishes they come on. However, lack of infrastructure and doubt about compostability even when infrastructure does exist, restrains large-scale adoption of these materials. At a time when the food scrap recycling industry is gaining steam, decisions regarding the compostability of food service ware are at a crossroads. Attendees will hear about the unfiltered perspective of those that are making procurement choices.