August 20, 2012
Waste From Starbucks Turned In To Laundry Detergents And Plastics
Lee Rannals for redOrbit.com - Your Universe Online
Starbucks is on the verge of something great, but this time it doesn't have to do with some drink that requires 28 syllables to order.
The U.S. coffee chain teamed up with scientists to find a way to turn its trash into a treasure trove of ingredients to help create everything from laundry detergents to plastics.
Scientists reported at the 244th National Meeting & Exposition of the American Chemical Society that they can use old Starbucks coffee grounds and stale bakery goods to create a biorefinery that produces an ingredient derived from sugars.
Carol S. K. Lin, Ph.D. and her team already had experience in developing the technology, but this new method of turning unused food into an ingredient could be a game changer. Biorefineries convert corn, sugar cane and other plant-based material into ingredients for bio-based fuels and other products.
However, Lin, who led the research, said there are concerns that the current biorefineries may increase food prices and contribute to food shortages. She said reusing Starbucks' waste would be an "attractive alternative" to using corn and other food crops.
The process involves blending the Starbucks waste with a mixture of fungi that excrete enzymes to break down carbohydrates in the food into simple sugars. After this, the blend goes into a fermenter to convert sugars into succinic acids, which can be used to help make products like detergents and medicines.
Lin told redOrbit at the press conference at ACS that essentially the wasted baked goods at Starbucks could also be converted into an ingredient used to help make surgical sutures - meaning if you trip and fall while fully indulging in your venti Soy no-whip double blended five pump caramel three pump white mocha frappuccinno with extra drizzle, you have both Starbucks to thank for your cut, as well as your stitches.
Starbucks Hong Kong produces nearly 5,000 tons of used grounds and unconsumed waste bakery items each year. Collecting these could not only help put a dent in keeping landfills clear in Hong Kong, but could eventually have a global affect as well.
Currently, Lin said the researchers are trying to determine whether a method could be developed to make this process profitable. If it proves to be profitable, then she said they already have large international companies that have great interest into taking this method and applying it themselves.
The scientists have already moved beyond Starbucks trash bins, and into the university's cafeteria. If global food companies like McDonalds and Subway were to get involved and utilize this new research, then it would be a giant leap into creating better sustainable sources.
Consumers who wish to help get involved in the project can purchase products under the "Care for our planet" campaign at Starbucks.
For those wanting to keep up with announcements happening at the ACS meeting, you can keep up with it on redOrbit.com, as well as go to http://www.ustream.tv/channel/acslive and watch press conferences live.