Compostable Plastics: Opportunities and Challenges

USCC Webinar: Compostable Plastics: Opportunities and Challenges

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Compostable plastics are being hailed as the route to zero waste and vilified as causing more harm than good in both recycling and landfilling. What exactly are “compostable plastics”?  Are they different from “bioplastics”?  Is “biodegradable” different than “compostable”?

This webinar will explain what compostable plastics are (and are not), where they are being successfully used, and examine some of the key challenges, such as identification and labeling, certification and standards, infrastructure development and consumer education.

Featured speakers:

Ramani Narayan: The Science of Compostable Plastics

Professor Narayan will explain the fundamental science behind plastics biodegradability and compostability and how that provides the basis for the harmonized International Standards that are in place. It will allow you to guard against misleading claims, learn to ask the right questions, and be knowledgeable about the Standards and their proper application and use. You will learn to differentiate between biodegradable and compostable plastics with biobased-renewably sourced plastics and the value proposition for each.

Dr. Ramani Narayan is University Distinguished Professor at Michigan State University in the Department of Chemical Engineering & Materials Science.  An expert in the area of bio-based polymeric materials, his research encompasses design & engineering of sustainable, biobased products, biodegradable plastics and polymers, biofiber reinforced composites, reactive extrusion polymerization and processing, and end-of-life options like biodegradation and composting. Dr. Narayan Chairs the ASTM Standards committee on biobased and biodegradable plastics as well as being the Convener of several ISO committees on the same subject. He is Scientific Chair of the Biodegradable Products Institute (BPI).

Steve Mojo: Uses and Successes

Mr. Mojo will present case studies and examples of the successful use of compostable plastics in a variety of applications, such as bags, cups and cutlery, and how such applications can facilitate increased diversion rates for festivals, companies and municipalities.

Steve Mojo is the Executive Director at the Biodegradable Products Institute. Steve specializes in certification of compostable products and is an industry expert in environmental marketing claims and biodegradable materials.


Jerry Bartlett: Operational Challenges

Despite being labeled as biodegradable or compostable, many products do not actually break down during composting.  This is the challenge that composters face when asked to accept these materials at their facilities.  As manager at Cedar Grove Composting, asked to process source-separated organics from Seattle and beyond, Mr. Bartlett has helped devise various systems to keep their compost clean.  His presentation will explain what they are doing, and still needs to be done to bring the promise of compostable organics to fruition.

Jerry is the Chief Environmental and Sustainability Officer for Cedar Grove Composting and managed operations or environmental affairs for the last 12 years. He has 22 years of experience in the environmental industry, during which time he has managed projects involving environmental audits, hazardous waste management, ISO 14000 (environmental management system), waste recycling options, industrial wastewater permitting, onsite hazardous waste treatment, environmental litigation support, and disposal option development.  Jerry has a B.S. in Park Management and M.S. in Environmental Planning.


Michele Young: Moderator

Michele is the Organics Program Manager for the City of San José’s Environmental Services Department, where she is developing an integrated organics strategy for the City’s Zero Waste Plan and Green Vision. Current projects include Organics to Energy infrastructure development, redesign of the City’s commercial collection and processing systems, food waste collection for residences, schools and the airport, and support for compost research and marketing. Michele chairs CORC, the California Organics Recycling Committee, and co-chairs the USCC’s Compostable Plastics Task Force.