Monash Uni helping farmers profit from food waste

Research has begun on helping farmers transform their food waste into profit while improving their business model thanks to a joint effort from Monash University’s School of Chemistry, IITB (India), the Food Innovation Centre and the agriculture industry.

Monash University is using a holistic approach to ‘biomass valorisation’ to help the industry extract high value components such as antioxidants, oils, pectin and protein from food disposal. Mangoes, pomegranate and pineapple skin, spent coffee grounds and almond ash.

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The food waste also extends to fresh produce that is disposed for not meeting the cosmetic standards of supermarkets.

Professor Tony Patti said the biomass valorisation looks at the entire fruit or vegetable, not just what is eaten, which is what currently provides value to the grower.

“The skins, seeds, kernels, leaves and off-cuts were seen as ‘waste’, adding to their disposal costs. These by-products are not waste, but a potential valuable resource, providing several components, identified as being of high market value,” Dr Patti said.

“Monash is working with Australian growers and businesses to diversify the potential market opportunities, including expansion into the pharmaceutical, cosmetic and pet food industries.

“Using this research, food and agricultural companies can tackle costly waste challenges, improve their environmental footprint and create a sustainable business that takes full advantage of growing demand in domestic and export markets for high quality food products,” he said.

Starbucks to eliminate single-use plastic straws by 2020

Coffee company Starbucks has announced it will phase out single-use plastic straws from more than 28,000 company operated and licensed stores by 2020.

The company said it will be making a strawless lid or alternative-material straw options available around the world. Starbuck anticipates the move will eliminate more than one billion plastic straws per year from its stores.

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Starbucks will also begin offering straws made from alternative materials, including paper or compostable plastic, available for customers by request.

Customers in Seattle and Vancouver will be the first to see the strawless lids implemented, with a global rollout to follow. The lids will arrive in Europe in select stores in France, the Netherlands and the UK.

According to reports, Starbucks is the largest food and beverage retailer to make such a global commitment.

President and Chief Executive Officer for Starbucks Kevin Johnson said this is a global milestone to achieve Starbuck’s aspiration of sustainable coffee served in more sustainable ways.

Nicholas Mallos, Director of Ocean Conservancy’s Trash Free Seas program says with 8 million metric tonnes of plastic entering the ocean every year, industries can’t afford to sit on the sidelines.

“We are grateful for Starbucks leadership in this space,” Mr Mallos says.

Director of Sustainability Research and Development and Material Science at World Wildlife Fund (WWF) US Erin Simon said Starbucks’ goal to eliminate plastic straws by 2020 represents the company’s forward thinking.

“Plastic straws that end up in our oceans have a devastating effect on species. As we partner with Starbucks in waste reduction initiatives such as Next Gen Consortium Cup Challenge and WWF’s Cascading Materials Vision, we hope others will follow in their footsteps,” Ms Simon says.

BioPak and Perth cafes combine to compost coffee cups

Cafe customers in Perth will be able to sustainably dispose of their coffee cups as part of Australia’s first national composting program for food service packaging.

Sustainable packaging company BioPak has partnered with Perth cafes to divert food scraps and packaging from landfill.

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Under the service, used coffee cups and compostable takeaway food packaging can be disposed of in specially designed collection bins placed in local cafes and workplaces.

The bins are collected weekly and sent to commercial facilities to be composted over eight weeks.

BioPak founder Richard Fine said the aim of the service was to ensure that the environmental benefit of compostable, single use disposable packaging could be maximised, helping customers in reducing the environmental impact of their business.

“In Australia, we send more than eight million tonnes of organic waste to landfill every year, including 1.5 million tonnes of food waste,” Mr Fine said.

“The problem with this is that when food waste decomposes in landfills, it releases methane, which is a greenhouse gas 80 times more potent than carbon dioxide, resulting in enormous damage to our environment.

“Switching to compostable food service packaging, including compostable coffee cups, can divert much of this material from going to landfill.”

Café owner Mike Pond has signed up to the service and said it would allow patrons to enjoy the convenience of disposable takeaway packaging, including coffee cups, while doing the right thing by the environment.

“This is a fantastic initiative, which we believe will help divert potentially tonnes of waste away from landfills and turned into composting that can be used for commercial-level agriculture – at no cost to our customers,” Mr Pond said.

“In fact the composting service will save us more than 20% a year in waste bills.”

“We are big supporters of the concept of a truly circular economy, using rapidly renewable and sustainably sourced material that return nutrients back into the soil at the end of their life.