Turning coffee waste into coffee cups

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In Australia, a Macquarie University PhD student believes he’s come up with a way to turn coffee waste into biodegradable plastic coffee cups by turning coffee grounds into lactic acid, which can then be used to produce biodegradable plastics. Coffee waste has been used in the United Kingdom for biofuel to power buses.

Dominik Kopp said in the press release that “50 per cent of coffee grounds are made up of sugars, which are ideal candidates to convert into valuable bio-based chemicals, or chemicals derived from plant- or animal-based feedstocks rather than crude oil. We assembled a synthetic pathway to convert the most abundant sugar in the coffee grounds, mannose, into lactic acid.”

Their method was inspired by a metabolic pathway that is thought to exist in an evolutionarily ancient organism, which lives in hot and extremely acidic environments. His next step will be to further refine his conversion pathway, and improve the yield of lactic acid.