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Starbucks, Plastic Fantastic: This Energy Innovator is Increasingly Attractive

From plans to turn coffee grounds and uneaten pastries into bioplastics to energy efficiency competitions among its stores, Starbucks understands that the future is sustainability and that companies demonstrating cost-cutting energy efficiency and innovation will have the investment advantage.

After a rough spell that began with a change in CEO, the company is now scrabbling back up the rungs and it’s all about energy—from energy drinks to energy efficiency, and the unveiling of its single-brewer coffee maker doesn’t hurt, either.

Starbucks’ latest newsworthy innovation is still experimental, but promising. Starbucks Hong Kong has engaged a biochemical engineer to come up with a way to turn all those used coffee grounds and unconsumed pastries into chemicals that would be used to make bioplastics. So far, this has been a success. The research is being supported by the Climate Group, of which Starbucks Hong Kong is a corporate partner.

Specifically, engineers are blending pastries and other baked goods destined for the trash with fungi that secrete enzymes, which in turn break down the carbohydrates in the pastries to simple sugars which are then fermented and exposed to bacteria. The end result is a succinic acid that can be used in bioplastics production, as well as in the production of other substances, such as medicines and laundry detergents.

Starbucks biorefining efforts not only produce useful and efficient chemicals,…

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