If Starbucks isn’t your go-to for mocha frappuccinos, you’re probably living on another planet. Known for its wide range of flavors and misspelling names, the coffee chain is the largest in the world. With coffee moguls inventing edible coffee capsules, Starbucks still needs to step up its sustainability game. At GeekWire’s annual summit, protesters demanded recyclable cups from the food giant, creating a Cup Monster made with Starbucks products.
“If Starbucks CEO Kevin Johnson is serious about transforming his company into a tech leader, he must first solve his company’s biggest environmental liability: the 8,000 [plus] cups that go into landfills every minute of every day,” said Stand.earth spokesperson Ross Hammond.
What makes Starbucks cups mostly un-recyclable is its inner plastic lining. While the company claims to incorporate post-consumer fibers into its cups, recycling methods vary among different states.
“It’s important to note that what is recyclable varies significantly by municipality and sometimes even by store. We pay local private haulers across the country to collect and recycle hot cups along with our other recyclable products, compost and trash.”
Extremely recyclable? Sort of recyclable? Regardless of how recyclable Starbucks thinks its products are, there is always room to be more eco-conscious.
The existence of eco-friendly, weather-resistant structures such as Thailand’s bamboo building are evidence that designers are saving the planet. To drive a point, MIT students are embedding irradiated water bottles into cement to make concrete more robust and sustainable.
The research revealed that exposing the plastic to gamma radiation actually made it stronger. The irradiated plastic was then ground into a powder and mixed with cement. The subsequent concrete was up to 20 percent stronger than concrete made without the irradiated plastic.
Engineers found the added plastic (only 1.5% of the concoction) made concrete significantly denser. If you’re skeptical about incorporating the mix into future room renovations, don’t worry — it isn’t radioactive. Furthermore, using plastic will potentially relieve a few dozen landfills.
“Concrete produces about 4.5 percent of the world’s carbon dioxide emissions,” says [MIT professor Michael] Short. “Take out 1.5 percent of that, and you’re already talking about 0.0675 percent of the world’s carbon dioxide emissions. That’s a huge amount of greenhouse gases in one fell swoop.”
Environmentalists might campaign for a plastic-free society — but it isn’t the easiest option. Perhaps, now, it’s all about redirecting your waste to where it will be most useful.
Nowadays, “one man’s trash is another man’s treasure” has never been truer. We’re turning garbage into anything from furniture to vodka, and it seems we can push the limits even further. Engineering group Arup is proving just that, proposing the use of food waste in building materials.
The report aims “at demonstrating that a different paradigm for materials in construction is possible.” This could be done by diverting, in part, organic waste that is traditionally managed through landﬁll, incineration and composting to become a resource for the creation of construction engineering and architecture products.
According to Arup, bananas can produce textiles, while mushrooms can grow actual towers. It seems, with food waste, it’s best to let one’s imagination run wild — and for good reasons.
Using food waste for building materials would help create a circular economy where organic waste, instead of being disposed, is the main resource… This would help ameliorate rising levels of waste and shortfalls of raw material, as well as providing the industry with cheap, low carbon materials.
Looking to renovate your home? No need for concrete fillers — just use rice!
When it comes to recycled packaging, cosmetics brand LUSH is practically a veteran. It has repurposed 27 tons of ocean plastics and made donations to conservation groups. Now, manufacturing company Procter and Gamble is following suit, launching Fairy Ocean Plastic bottles made entirely from recycled materials.
As many as 320,000 of the 90% recycled and 10% ocean-plastic bottles are set to be released in the UK in 2018, with the overriding aim of raising awareness of the issues of growing ocean plastic levels.
As a leading brand, Fairy will likely have a significant impact on consumers and competitors alike. To ensure the success of Fairy products, P&G has also partnered with recycling group TerraCycle.
“The issue of ocean pollution is a pertinent one, we hope other brands will be inspired to think creatively about waste and make the circular economy a reality.” [said Tom Szaky, CEO of TerraCycle.]
With plastic waste projected to outnumber fish by the year 2050, P&G hopes that Fairy will stunt the process. If anything, it will prevent some 8,000 tons of plastic from reaching landfills. It’s a start!
Mount Trashmore, a landfill-turned-energy-hub in Massachusetts, seems to be encouraging other states to follow suit. (And it looks to be working!) Florida, recently hit by a massive storm, is using Hurricane Irma waste to fuel its power grid.
Combustion reduces the solid waste to ash, and the heat that’s produced runs steam generators. Much of the waste left in Irma’s path will burn, the energy released adding to local communities’ electricity.
While incineration isn’t the most environmentally-friendly method of trash disposal, it’s getting somewhere. Newer technologies are managing pollution, removing mercury and dioxin from waste. A 20% increase in garbage seen after Irma may be problematic, but at least the Department of Environmental Protection is doing something about it.
The county’s 565,000 tons of trash a year produces about 45 megawatts of power, or enough to run about 30,000 homes. “It pays for itself,” Byer said of Hillsborough’s waste-to-energy facility.
A hurricane’s trash is Florida’s treasure.
Apps donating excess meals to the needy and farms functioning exclusively for food banks are making it a lot easier to tackle waste issues and world hunger. Sustainable soup kitchen La Soupe, run by Cincinnati chef Suzy DeYoung, also wants in on the action.
Last year, the group saved an estimated 125,000 pounds of produce from the landfill, serving 800 quarts a week through 47 participating agencies around [the] city during the school year.
To collect leftovers, volunteers use donation delivery apps and contract with produce suppliers. Of course, soup kitchens can serve whatever meal is most practical to make. But DeYoung believes that soup is still the way to go.
“You can stretch it, meaning if all you have are potatoes and onions you can make a lot by adding water versus just giving somebody a potato,”
Potatoes aside, soup is most viable for households with limited appliances. Public donations and community grants are La Soupe’s primary source of funding. Regular shoppers can also buy meals on a pay-what-you-can basis. La Soupe is just one of many looking to change the world, one bowl at a time.
Many groups are taking action towards the worldwide landfills issue. Cosmetics brands are recycling trash to use in packaging. Smart labels are reducing plastic waste. Now, the infamous Massachusetts “Mount Trashmore” has been transformed into an energy hub.
Local officials estimate the new clean energy infrastructure installed on-site will offset the carbon emissions of more than 12,000 cars annually and will generate more than $300,000 in annual revenue for the city.
The solar panel arrays line Massachusetts highways and commercial plots. Landfills cause an increase in methane and pollute groundwaters, which has apparently created enough initiative for Brockton natives.
Over the next twenty years, these highway clean power plants are estimated to generate at least $15 million of revenue for the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.
It may be a handful–okay landfill of money, but we can’t allow dollar bills to be the driving force of change. It’s about time we truly get clean out of concern for the planet–not our bank accounts!