Used Coffee Grounds and Stale Muffins: The Secret of Our Next Biofuel?

Starbucks funds research to turn its food waste into bio-based fuel.
Could this biorefinery be the answer to turning waste into fuel? Starbucks is banking on it. (Photo: The American Chemical Society)
Aug 25, 2012
A Bay Area native, Andri Antoniades has previously worked as a fashion industry journalist and a medical writer.

At the anual meeting of the American Chemical Society (ACS) this week, Starbucks announced it’s donating  its used coffee grounds and old pastries to a “biorefinery.” The company hopes to discover how to change its food waste into a key ingredient used for making every day products.

The ACS site reports Starbucks―specifically Starbucks Hong Kong―will also provide funding to the Hong Kong-based biorefinery led by Carol S.K. Lin, Ph.D. In collaboration with the environmental nonprofit, The Climate Group, Dr. Lin was inspired to devise a transformative process for food waste that might provide an alternative to biofuels like corn. The ACS site explains:

"Using corn and other food crops for bio-based fuels and other products may not be sustainable in the long-run. Concerns exist that this approach may increase food prices and contribute to food shortages in some areas of the world. Using waste food as the raw material in a biorefinery certainly would be an attractive alternative."

MORE: Is Starbucks as Green as Its Logo?

Dr. Lin explained,  “Our new process addresses the food waste problem by turning Starbucks’ trash into treasure — detergent ingredients and bio-plastics that can be incorporated into other useful products. The strategy reduces the environmental burden of food waste, produces a potential income from this waste and is a sustainable solution.”

GreenIdeal reports that if Starbucks and its biorefinery are successful, it will be a landmark moment for the planet. After all, Americans alone throw out $165 billion worth of food every year.   Less trash would  mean less incineration, which would translate into less pollutants. And bio-plastics could replace traditional plastics, which use petroleum, a nonrenewable fossil fuel.

Are there other alternative sources for fuel that you'd like to see studied? 

Show Comments ()

More on TakePart

Thousands Share Their Messages of Support With Navajo Nation’s ‘Water Lady’