Rather than dump its coffee grounds and unsold baked goods into landfills or incinerators, Starbucks is trying to be more productive with its food waste – by transforming it into plastic and laundry detergent.
At a biorefinery set up by the City University of Hong Kong, scientists are testing some of the 4,500 tons of stale pastries and coffee bean bits produced annually by Starbucks Hong Kong, according to the American Chemical Society.
The organic matter is blended with a mixture of fungi, where enzymes break down carbohydrates in the food into simple sugars. The concoction is then sent to a fermenter, where bacteria convert the sugars into succinic acid – a material that can then be formulated into a range of products -- including detergent.
A presentation at the chemical group’s national convention in Philadelphia this month argued that diverting some of the 1.3 billion tons of food trashed worldwide each year is good for the environment (hat tip to the New York Daily News).