Ending food waste
Addressing the world’s biggest environmental challenges cannot happen without focusing on food production. In line with the values and spirit of the Good Samaritan Act of 1996, Rubicon believes the American private sector and business community have an obligation to focus on excess food production and wasted food.35 This essential activity generates one quarter of global greenhouse gas emissions.36 The cumulative effects are similarly stark:
The United Nations estimates that loss and waste of food contributed to between eight and 10 percent of global warming between 2010 and 2016.37
There is growing awareness among the general public, and consequently among our customer portfolios, about the relationship between wasted food and emissions. As a result, we are seeing growing interest in our organics recycling services.
Between 2018 and 2020, we saw a 56 percent increase in the number of sites, a 79 percent increase in organics volumes, as well as a 71 percent increase in the number of customers. This growth has allowed us to expand our organics footprint and develop partnerships with a number of organics recyclers who are making meaningful social and environmental impacts.
Growth of Rubicon's Organics Business: 2018–2020
One company that is benefitting from these partnerships is Beyond Meat. The company, whose plant-based meat alternatives are available at tens of thousands of food service and retail locations worldwide, has consolidated its circular practices through a Rubicon-designed organics recycling initiative. Beyond Meat houses its products in cold storage facilities owned by another Rubicon customer. Thanks to that referral, Rubicon was able to design a process to divert Beyond Meat’s food waste bound for landfills to depackaging facilities instead.
As part of the process, organics recyclers separate the food waste from its packaging and convert it into resources such as animal feed, renewable natural gas, or compost. Since the project began in 2020, Rubicon has helped Beyond Meat avoid 513 metric tons of CO2 emissions.38 In addition to the far-reaching environmental benefits, this process is cost competitive with landfilling—another incentive for food producers to look for innovative ways to make their systems more sustainable.
gallons of ethanol
POUNDS of recycled aluminum
Atlanta’s State Farm Arena, the home of the Atlanta Hawks, has been driving a positive impact in the Atlanta community for years. Operations staff at the LEED-certified arena sought Rubicon’s help in finding an environmentally friendly solution for expired soda and beer, a result of events cancelled because of the pandemic. Together, State Farm Arena and Rubicon developed and executed a way to transport expired products offsite, and as a result, converted the beverages into biofuel and recycled the aluminum. The reuse project resulted in 643 gallons of ethanol and 396 pounds of recycled aluminum.
Keeneland, an internationally renowned racecourse in Lexington, Kentucky, and the thoroughbred industry’s leading auction house, is focused on becoming a sustainability leader in the thoroughbred industry. As a constant innovator, Keeneland engaged Rubicon as its exclusive sustainability partner in order to minimize their environmental footprint. The work ahead will be considerable: Keeneland is the site of many well-attended events such as spring and fall race meets, thoroughbred auctions, numerous special community events, and next year’s 2022 Breeders’ Cup World Championships. In total, Keeneland can see hundreds of thousands of visitors and house more than 300 horses at a time, translating to many complex and high-volume waste streams. Rubicon’s partnership with Keeneland involves looking at all operations and implementing a sustainable materials management program with a spectator-facing mixed recyclables program, a food scrap donation and diversion program, and numerous food service improvements, such as replacing non-reusable, single-use materials like polystyrene cups and minimizing other single-use containers. Rubicon will also assist with implementing non-landfill material recovery options for harder-to-recycle materials, such as tires and e-waste. Rubicon has already assisted Keeneland with organics guidelines focused on food waste and food donation protocol and in recycling 184 bales of OCC, most commonly referred to as cardboard—helping to capture thousands of dollars in rebates.
In a separate effort, Rubicon has helped manage a national retail chain’s waste stream, including plastics, metal, and organics. When the retailer began distributing its own milk, Rubicon helped the company create distribution centers to convert expired milk into energy, fertilizer, and animal feed. Rubicon diverted more than 17,000 tons of dairy waste from the landfill by redirecting the majority of the material to regional producers of animal feed. Compared to a landfill scenario, this helped avoid more than 9,000 tons of CO2e (carbon dioxide equivalent) emitted into the atmosphere—equivalent to nearly 2,000 passenger cars off the road for one year.39