Turning coffee grounds into coffee cups

Coffee grounds could be used to create biodegradable plastic coffee cups thanks to new research from Macquarie University.

The process converts the spent coffee grounds into a lactic acid which is then turned into a plastic, however the method is still being refined by researcher Dominik Kopp.

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Because 50 per cent of coffee grounds are made up of sugars, they can be converted into bio-based chemicals.

The method was inspired by a metabolic pathway that is thought to exist in an evolutionary ancient organism, which lived in hot and extremely acidic environments.

“Australians consume six billion cups of coffee every year, and the coffee grounds used to make these coffees are used only once and then discarded,” says Mr Kopp.

“In Sydney alone, over 920 cafes and coffee shops produced nearly 3,000 tonnes of waste coffee grounds every year.

“Ninety-three per cent of this waste ends up in landfill, where it produces greenhouse gases that contribute to global warming.”

Mr Kopp sources the coffee grounds from one of the shops on Macquarie’s campus and took them back to the lab.

“We assembled a synthetic pathway to convert the most abundant sugar in the coffee grounds, mannose, into lactic acid,” he says.

“Lactic acid can be used in the production of biodegradable plastics, offering a more sustainable and environmentally-friendly alternative to fossil fuel-derived plastics.

“You could use such plastics to make anything from plastic coffee cups to yoghurt containers to compost bags to sutures in medicine.”

His next step will be to further refine the conversion pathway and improve the yield of lactic acid.

“I think my project is one of many interesting approaches on how to use synthetic biology in a responsible manner for the development of a more sustainable and greener industry that doesn’t rely on crude oil,” says Dominik.

“The simple idea that we are converting waste into a valuable and sustainable product is extremely exciting!”

Planet Ark provide councils packaging recycling label webinars

Planet Ark is increasing its efforts to educate Australians about Australasia Recycling Labels, including councils and educators.

In partnership with the Australian Packaging Covenant Organisation (APCO), the Australasian Recycling Label has entered into a new phase which will allow more companies to adopt it. Organisations such as Australia Post, Blackmores, Nestlé, Unilever and Woolworths have already pledged their commitment to the label.

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It has been designed to be easy to understand and show what needs to be done with each piece of packaging to dispose of it in the best way.

Because councils play an important part in the recycling process and are the source of the evidence base used by the label, Planet Ark is hosting a series of free webinars in the coming weeks.

Council and waste industry staff members that are interested can sign up by clicking here.

Webinars are planned for the following dates:

  • August 28 – 11am AEST
  • September 4 – 11am AEST
  • September 12 – 1pm AEST
  • September 20 – 1pm AEST

Monash Council top collector of unwanted paint for Paintback

Monash Council has collected the most paint in Australia this year for national product stewardship scheme Paintback.

The council was the first in Victoria so sign up to the Paintback scheme in 2016 and has since returned the most paint across Australia for two years in a row.

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In 2017/2018, the transfer station in Notting Hill collected 345,590 kilograms of paint, with more than 86,700 customers using the service at the station.

Paintback’s service is provided for no cost to residents looking to dispose of their unwanted paint, as it is funded by a 15 cents levy added to the price of paints.

City of Monash Mayor Paul Klisaris said he couldn’t be prouder of the community’s use of the Paintback scheme to keep paint and its packaging out of landfill.

“The takeup of this program proves that our transfer station is a well-utilised community resource and that people want to do everything possible to send as little as possible to landfill and reuse and recycle wherever possible,” Cr Klisaris said.

“This is a great initiative led by the paint industry and shows leadership in responsible disposal and innovative reuse of its products.”

Paint packaging and waste liquid are separated under the program, with the containers being recycled. The waste paint can be used in a number of ways, including for energy recovery for solvent and liquid/solid separation for water-based paint. Additional research into finding new ways to use unwanted paint is also being funded by the industry.

Paintback Chief Executive Karen Gomez said the City of Monash was an early adopter of the Paintback scheme and welcome trade partners with open arms.

“It goes to show you what a positive attitude, with shared- responsibility can achieve,” Ms Gomez said.

War on Waste season 2 fights bottles, straws, e-waste and more

The first episode of Craig Reucassel’s War on Waste season two will broadcast on the ABC at 8:30 pm on Tuesday 24 July.

More than 4.3 million viewers watched the original series in 2017, which sparked one of the ABC’s most successful social media campaigns with a video on dumping edible bananas reaching 20 million views.

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Season two’s first episode will look at new issues around plastic water bottles and straws, and e-waste.

It will also delve deeper into previously discussed issues of food waste and Australia’s recycling crisis.

A giant footprint made of plastic packaging was created on Sydney’s Manly beach to highlight the amount of single-use plastic that ends up in waterways.

With more than 10 million plastic straws being used every day in Australia, Mr Reucassel joins forces with the minds behind the #strawnomore movement to challenge pubs and fast food chains to ban the straw from their venues.

The show will also look at Australia’s fastest growing waste stream, e-waste. With tonnes of discarded computers, mobile phones and electrical goods ending up in landfill, Mr Reucassel highlights the dangers of the toxic elements within them leaching into the environment.

War on Waste season two also sees Mr Reucassel going undercover to expose the amount of food that is wasted when eating at restaurants.

Waste Contractors and Recyclers Association of NSW Executive Director Tony Khoury said the issues of disposable water bottles will be placed under the microscope.

“Last year’s series saw tremendous media coverage extend to disposable coffee cups, single-use plastic bags, household food waste and the wasteful policy of retailers,” he said.

Mr Khoury said collectors and processor can help the war on waste by providing better education for waste generators, provide a range of recycling options, use modern equipment, transport all waste and recyclables to a lawful facility and invest in training for workers.

“We all can lobby the NSW Government to invest more of the $700 million collected from the waste levy into waste management programs and much needed infrastructure to divert more waste from landfill,” he said.

Image credit: ABC

McDonalds to phase out plastic straws by 2020

McDonalds to phase out plastic straws by 2020

McDonald’s Australia has announced it will phase out existing plastic straws from it 970 restaurants around the country by 2020.

It is currently working with local suppliers to find viable alternatives and will start a trial of paper straws in two restaurants from August.

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The move is part of the company’s global effort to identify sustainable alternatives to its current single-use plastic straws.

The trial will also help McDonald’s reach its goal of making its guest packaging from entirely renewable, recycled or certified sources by 2025.

McDonald’s Australia Director of Supply Chain Robert Sexton said as one of the world’s largest restaurant businesses, the company has a responsibility and opportunity to make significant change.

“Together with the global business, we have been working for some time to find appropriate alternatives. We know plastic straws is a topic our customers are passionate about and we will find a viable solution,” he said.

Alongside the moves to eliminate plastic straws, McDonalds is also currently trialling cup recycling through a partnership with Simply Cups. The trial launched in April in eight restaurants and includes segmented dining room bins to separate liquids, plastics, paper cups and general waste.

“Beverage cups are a unique concern when it comes to recycling through normal paper recycling facilities due to the inner plastic lining,” Mr Sexton said.

“By separating the cups through designated bins, we can ensure cups are diverted to the right facility to recycle this material. Our trials will provide useful learnings that will help to determine next steps for potential wider restaurant implementation.”

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.

APCO conduct brand audit for 2025 recycling target

The Australian Packaging Covenant Organisation (APCO) will conduct a brand audit of several thousand Australian businesses about the need to comply with sustainable packaging obligations.

The National Environmental Protection (Used Packaging Materials) Measure 2011 (NEPM) has set the target for packaging to be 100 per cent reusable, recyclable or compostable by 2025.

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It was announced by Australia’s Environment Ministers in April 2018, with APCO developing a national roadmap to deliver on these targets. The brand audit is one of APCO’s initiatives designed to ensure businesses are meeting their sustainable packaging obligations.

The audit will incorporate businesses from a range of sectors, including food and beverage, pharmaceuticals, printing, and toy and sporting goods wholesale.

Businesses liable under the NEPM include any organisation with an annual turnover of $5 million or more that is either in the supply chain of consumer packaging or a retailer that is a manufacturer, wholesaler or importer, or offers its branded products to customers.

APCO Chief Executive Brooke Donnelly said businesses play a crucial role in making this target a reality.

“Reaching the landmark target set by Environment Ministers will require a complete transformation of the way our society thinks about packaging – recognising it as a valuable resource and not just waste that is destined for landfill. We know we can do it, but we can’t do it alone,” Ms Donnelly said.

“There are a number of basic packaging requirements that all Australian businesses are required to meet – and these are outlined in the NEMP. One of our responsibilities is to notify the businesses who aren’t meeting these basic obligations and provide them with the tools, resources and pathways to track and improve their packaging sustainability,” she said.

APCO will begin a two-month consultation process with APCO Members and key stakeholders to improve understanding about what the industry is required to do to reach the target.

Unilever Australia on track for sustainablity targets

Unilever Australia has announced it is on track to meet 80 per cent of its Sustainable Living Plan commitments, which include improving the health and wellbeing for 1 billion people and reducing the company’s environmental impact by half.

The plan originally launched in 2010 and aimed to decouple the company’s growth from its environmental impact, while increasing the company’s positive social impact.

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Some key commitments include sourcing 100 per cent of all grid electricity used in manufacturing with renewable sources by 2020, becoming carbon positive in its manufacturing operations by 2030 and making 100 per cent of its plastic packaging recyclable, reusable or compostable while increasing the recycled plastic content in its packaging by 25 per cent by 2025.

Unilever Australia and New Zealand CEO Clive Stiff said the company has made good progress towards the targets in Australia and globally and that consumers were increasingly aware of the impact the products they purchase have on the environment.

“We also want to be transparent about how much more work there is still to do. This is critical when we are witnessing a crisis of trust in institutions in Australia and across the world. We believe business must play a leading role in restoring trust, and that at the heart of trust lies transparency,” Mr Stiff said.

“We also know that the biggest challenges facing our nation and our world can’t be addressed on our own. There is an ever-increasing need for us to work in partnership to drive transformational change across our value chain. To do so will require a new level of transparency across the board and business must be part of the solution.”

Coles to halve food waste by 2020

Coles has announced it will halve food waste across its supermarkets by 2020, make all packaging of Coles Brand products recyclable and reduce plastic wrapping on fruit and vegetables.

The company has pledged to divert 90 per cent of all supermarket waste, including food, cardboard and plastic, from landfill by 2022 and donate the equivalent of 100 million meals to people in need by 2020 by redistributing surplus food.

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The supermarket giant is also planning to begin phasing out the use of single use plastic bags in its stores on 1 July.

Removing double plastic packaging for fruit, selling bunched vegetables like kale and silver beet without plastic and removing plastic packaging from Coles Brand bananas are among the initiatives planned to reduce plastic waste.

Replacing the packaging for meat and poultry products with recycled and renewable materials and replacing single use fresh produce bags with 30 per cent recycled content are also part of Coles commitments.

The company will also provide its customers with an option to recycle soft plastics at every Coles supermarket across Australia, which can be turned into outdoor furniture and road base.

Coles Managing Director John Durkan said Coles wanted to lead the way in its commitment to the environment.

“We know that 69 per cent of customers say that we need to actively reduce waste and landfill through recyclable packaging and find alternative uses for waste,” he said.

“We are delighted to be the only Australian supermarket to sell own brand water bottles that are both 100 per cent recyclable and 100 per cent made from recycled materials. Now we are the first major food retailer in Australia to announce a target to make all of our own brand packaging recyclable by 2020, ahead of the Federal Government’s target of 2025.”

The company also plans to connect every Coles store with Food rescue program SecondBite, meaning surplus edible food from supermarkets will be redistributed to people in need.

Mr Durkan said connecting an additional 130 supermarkets to SecondBite will also divert further waste from landfill.

“By 2020, we want to provide the equivalent of 100 million meals to Australians in need. Since 2011, we’ve donated around 72 million meals to SecondBite and Foodbank so we’ve still got 28 million meals to go.”

Coles has also pledged that it will label all Coles Brand products with recycling information to assist consumers when it comes to disposing of their waste.

Nestlé aim for products to be completely recyclable by 2025

Nestlé has announced its goal to make 100 per cent of it packaging recyclable or re-usable by 2025.

The news comes in response to the company’s opinion that there is an urgent need to minimise the impact of packaging that ends up in landfill or as litter.

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To achieve this goal, the company says it will focus on eliminating non-recyclable plastics, encourage the use of plastics that allow for better recycling rates and eliminate or change complex combinations of packaging materials.

Nestlé said in a statement that it is committed to playing an active role in the development of collection, sorting and recycling schemes.

The company also said it would work with chain partners and industry associations to explore different packaging to reduce plastic usage and to facilitate recycling.

Labelling products with recycling information and promoting a market for recycled plastics were also steps mentioned to develop a circular economy.

Nestlé Chief Executive Officer Mark Schneider said, “Plastic waste is one of the biggest sustainability issues the world is facing today. Tackling it requires a collective approach. We are committed to finding improved solutions to reduce, re-use and recycle. Our ambition is to achieve 100% recyclable or reusable packaging by 2025.”