Sustainability Pioneer: An Exclusive Interview with J.D. Lacayo, Founder of AMS•Compostable

AMS Compostable TEAM
Mar 13, 2024By AMS Compostable TEAM

Today, we have the privilege of speaking with Joseph Daniel Lacayo, an Industrial Engineer and former Manager at Procter & Gamble, the world’s largest consumer goods company. He has over two decades of experience in global manufacturing and for the past 15 years, he has been dedicated to sustainable products, among which stand up LED lights, wind and solar energy, electric cars, and charging stations, and of course, compostable packaging as alternatives to single-use plastic. Since 2014, he has been the driving force behind AMS•Compostable, a trailblazing brand dedicated to combatting the global plastic crisis with innovative, compostable and truly eco-friendly solutions.

Hello, and thank you for joining us today. Can you share with our readers a little bit about your background and what inspired you to start AMS•Compostable?

Thank you for having me. Sure! I am an Industrial Engineer with a strong passion for nature. Being born in Costa Rica, a country known for its commitment to sustainability, has significantly influenced my values. Throughout my career, I have accumulated over two decades of experience in global manufacturing, with a focus on sustainable products for the past 15 years. My role as a Purchasing Manager at P&G provided me with invaluable insights into creating products that are both environmentally conscious and economically viable. AMS•Compostable was launched from my deep connection to nature and my belief that sustainability and economic prosperity can coexist harmoniously. My primary goal has always been to develop products that demonstrate the seamless integration of economy and sustainability, showcasing that one does not have to be compromised for the other.

AMS•Compostable is gaining recognition for its authentic compostable products. What sets your brand apart from others in the market?

 AMS•Compostable stands out for our unwavering dedication to producing compostable products that not only meet high sustainability standards but also prioritize the end-of-life cycle. Unlike traditional plastics that leave behind toxic residues, our solutions break down naturally into organic matter, leaving no harmful traces behind. Just to give you and idea; over 65% of our product portfolio is certified as OK HOME COMPOST products, meaning that it doesn’t require any industrial facilities to decompose. That is huge! This commitment to a circular economy and being a pioneer in OK HOME COMPOST Products sets us apart as a brand that truly cares about the planet and innovation.

JD Lacayo AMS Compostable

How do you see AMS•Compostable making a significant impact on reducing plastic pollution?

Disposable or take-out utensils were created to enhance our quality of life. However, their short lifespan poses a significant challenge. These items are typically used just once but can take hundreds of years to degrade, contributing to the global plastic pollution crisis. While initially introduced alongside a recycling industry, the current lack of effective recycling processes exacerbates the issue of plastic pollution. AMS•Compostable products aim to offer a solution that preserves our quality of life without harming the planet by integrating the best of both worlds.

What are some of the key values that drive AMS•Compostable as a brand?

That’s a great question. At AMS•Compostable, we are driven by values of sustainability, innovation, and environmental responsibility. These values guide our product development and business practices every step of the way. Currently, we are pioneering new technology utilizing bacterial fermentation to replace PLA, with the goal of ensuring that 100% of our products are home compostable! This groundbreaking innovation reflects our unwavering passion and enthusiasm to maintain our position as a leading brand in the market.

Furthermore, we place equal importance on fostering long-term relationships, loyalty, and teaming up with our strategic partners, all while staying true to our mission and deep-rooted commitment to sustainability and sound economic practices.

In other interviews you have mentioned the importance of more distributors joining the cause of promoting eco-friendly products. Could you elaborate on the significance of distributor involvement in advancing the adoption of compostable solutions?

Certainly! First and foremost, I want to express my gratitude to all distributors for their unwavering commitment and hard work. Distributors play a vital role in driving the country's economy by bridging the gap between products and end-users. At AMS Compostable, our core competence lies in the large-scale production of premium eco-friendly products. This is why we highly value partnerships with reputable distributors who have the necessary infrastructure to effectively reach the end consumers.

Recent surveys, such as those conducted by IBM in collaboration with NRF and the Baker Retailing Center at the University of Pennsylvania, emphasize the increasing consumer demand for sustainable products. Between half to two-thirds of consumers are willing to pay a premium for eco-friendly alternatives, representing a significant 50 to 66% of the market. Therefore, collaborating with distributors who are eager to transition from traditional plastic to our compostable solutions presents a straightforward yet impactful business strategy.

I extend an open invitation to all food service distributors to join our initiative, embrace the shift towards sustainable products, and enhance their profitability without compromising their core objectives. Let's work together to make a positive difference and shape a greener future for all.

JD Lacayo Founder AMS Compostable

How do you envision the future of AMS•Compostable in the context of the global shift toward more sustainable living?

We will always be at the forefront of sustainability, working hand in hand with private companies, governments, and organizations interested in sustainability and economic development. By expanding our business relationships with other key players in the supply chain, we aim to generate a greater impact that benefits everyone, especially our Mother Earth and future generations.

What are some challenges you have faced in promoting compostable alternatives, and how have you overcome them?

Great that you asked that, it’s an excellent question. One of the current major challenges is greenwashing. When we started this a decade ago, the plastic industry did not pay us any attention. Now, they see that we are growing rapidly, driven by end users who have a genuine interest in consuming eco-friendly products. As a result of this, the plastic and styrofoam industry has introduced unethical practices such as greenwashing. For example, they may add a brown coloring agent to make a product appear organic while maintaining its toxicity, or use packaging with a tree and green colors labeled as biodegradable. They claim  that the plastic is biodegradable, and technically they can do this because technically everything degrades, but the question is how long it takes: 500, 1000 years?! No one really knows! These practices affect the evolution of truly environmentally friendly products. 

The key difference in a compostable product is its maximum disintegration time without leaving any toxic residue, which is 180 days, no more. That’s a game-changer and a uniquenes of  authentic compostable products. So, next time you see compostable or certified ASTM D6400 products, you can be sure that the product will leave no toxicity behind after 25 weeks.  Through transparent communication and ongoing advocacy, we strive to overcome these challenges and promote a greater market share of authentic compostable solutions

We often see you involved in pro-planet social causes. Recently, you organized a beach cleanup initiative and you are currently involved in turtle protection efforts. Could you share a bit about that and how they tie into AMS•Compostable’s mission?

Of course! I firmly believe that every action, not matter how small, can make a significant impact. That's the essence of beach clean-ups. Just removing a single plastic bottle from the ocean could potentially save a turtle or a fish, or prevent it from harming  the ecosystem for years to come. Isn't that invaluable? Your actions could mean saving a life!  My deep passion for nature drives me to fully engage and support it in a meaningful way. Whether it’s through our beach cleaning initiatives or collaborating closely with environmental organizations, these hands-on experiences serve as a poignant reminder of the critical need for sustainable involvement. Through our active participation in these activities, we reinforce AMS•Compostable’s commitment  to fostering a cleaner, greener future.

Joseph D Lacayo JD Lacayo AMS Compostable

Lovely, thank you for what you do! To start wrapping up: What message would you like to convey to individuals and businesses looking to make a difference in combating plastic pollution?

Definitely! My message is simple yet powerful: every small action counts! Whether you're a consumer opting for compostable alternatives or a business embracing sustainable solutions, your choices hold the power to catalyze significant change, on a massive scale! Together, we can drive a transition towards a circular economy that minimizes waste, allowing the planet to flourish. Think about it: It's a profound feeling to envision telling your grandchildren in 20 years that you played a role in preserving the Earth and making the right choices!

As a final message and to wrap up: What would you like to convey to prominent brands that still heavily rely on single-use plastic items like bags, disposable plates, cups, straws, and cutlery?

To all the esteemed brands using excessive single-use plastic items, I urge you to consider the environmental consequences of your choices and the power you hold to drive positive change. Forget all the fuzz you’ve heard. With us it is very simple! Embracing compostable solutions is not only feasible but also essential in today's world. Utilize our decade-long expertise to seamlessly transition your plastic disposables into compostable alternatives that are guilt-free, and position your brand as a sustainable leader . Together, we can preserve our planet for future generations and uphold the integrity of your brand through sustainable practices.

Thank you for sharing your insights and passion for sustainability with us. We commend AMS•Compostable for leading the way in creating a greener, plastic-free future.

This concludes our interview with the founder of AMS•Compostable. Stay tuned for more inspiring stories and initiatives from leaders in the fight against plastic pollution.

beach clean up