Celebrating Eco-Progress: Starbucks

I’ve lived in the Pacific Northwest, 90 miles north of Seattle, for close to 20 years, and in this corner of the world it’s almost unbearably cliché to blog about how much I love coffee.

Suffice to say, despite my February 2011 rant against my state’s coffee fetish

…I LOVE the java!

And, despite my preference for supporting local businesses, I even admit to loving that multinational megacoffeecorporation, Starbucks. (What can I say? I’ve tried many, many coffees from all kinds of roasters, some good, some bad, some ugly, but I always know, when I walk into a Starbucks, that I will like what they serve.)

And while they can certainly be doing more, Starbucks has incorporated sustainable practices in their operations, for years, and today I read about another new initiative, perfect for a new installment in my Celebrating Eco-Progress series.

Via GOOD.is:

Starbucks Is Funding Research That Would Turn Food Waste into Useful Stuff

Who’s got tons of old coffee grounds headed for the trash? Starbucks. And who’s got great ideas for repurposing waste? Scientists. It’s a promising match.

A team of researchers at the City University of Hong Kong are working on a new “biorefinery” that would turn food waste into something useful, and it’s been getting funding from Starbucks Hong Kong, which produces 5,000 tons of spent grounds and bakery waste each year.

According to a press release, the biorefinery (above) uses a mixture of fungi, which excrete enzymes that break down carbohydrates (like the ones in those coffee grounds) into simple sugars, which then go into a fermenter to become succinic acid. That succinic acid can then be used as an ingredient in a wide variety of products, including detergents, bio-plastics, and medicines.

Starbucks has been giving away, free of charge, sacks of spent coffee grounds since 1999, for use in composting, but this new effort is exciting for the decidedly larger positive impact it could have.

Way to go, Starbucks! Keep up the good work!

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