If there is one thing that many of us are good at, it’s wasting food. Thankfully, scientists are working on a new “biorefinery” to turn all that wasted food into other products.

Representing its client Starbucks Hong Kong, The Climate Group approached the American Chemistry Council’s Carol S. K. Lin, Ph.D. last summer to inquire as to whether or not the research project she was working on – a biorefinery – could be used to help the coffee giant divert part of its waste stream away from landfills and convert into something useful. In Hong Kong alone, 5,000 tons of spent coffee grounds and uneaten baked goods are disposed of each year, so one can only image how large this waste stream is on a global scale.

Lin and her team agreed to do the research and successfully tested the system in their laboratory. First, the biorefinery blends the organic waste material into a fungi mix that breaks down carbohydrates into simple sugars. This mixture then goes into a fermenter where bacteria converts the sugars into succinic acid. Succinic acid is an all-important key ingredient in laundry detergents, sweeteners, medicines, cosmetics, and bio-plastics. The acid is at the top of a Department of Energy list of ingredients which could be converted from sugars into other products.

As for Starbucks Hong Kong, putting this system in place would significantly cut down on the amount of waste the company sends to landfills as well as reduce pollution from incineration plants. Hopefully Starbucks worldwide will get on board and in-turn encourage other businesses to use the system, significantly cutting down on all the negative environmental effects from the food we throw away each year.

“We are developing a new kind of biorefinery, a food biorefinery, and this concept could become very important in the future, as the world strives for greater sustainability,” said Lin, reporting on her work at the 244th National Meeting & Exposition of the American Chemical Society.

[via Science Daily]

Image Credit: Carol Lin, Ph.D.