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UK Starbucks Turns Waste into Furniture

By Larraine Roulston:

Pentatonic, a company that designs household furniture, is entering the field of crafting home furnishings by upcycling plastic trash. Their abundant resource is gathered from post-consumer plastic such as water bottles and old smart phone screens. Usable items are being created through Trashpresso which is a mobile solar-powered recycling plant built by Miniswiz, an upcycling Taiwanese tech company. The company is now partnering with Starbucks UK to turn its coffee cup lids and Frappuccino cups into furniture for the Starbucks’ cafes —aiming to eventually expand the practice to all Starbucks stores across Europe.

Trashpresso is a miniaturized recycling plant where citizens can deposit their unwanted plastics. The process yields raw material-grade, disinfected, single material, pure, usable items which can then be remanufactured into furniture and homeware. What’s more, when customers wish to discard furniture, Pentatonic is offering a buy-back guarantee on all of its products. Jamie Hall, Pentatonic cofounder, stated, “However long the consumer wants them, we’ll buy them back at the end of their life and turn them into something new because it’s one material.”

While visiting my family in Victoria, British Columbia, I visited a nearby Starbucks. At this location, a large cylindrical bin situated near the door offers customers three containers: one to separate discarded paper and plastic cups for recycling; one for food for composting; and one for trash. To prevent contamination of the recycling and organics bins, staff often are required to separate the contents into their proper categories before placing them into city recycling/compost collection containers located in the parking area.

It’s unfortunate that disposable cups are the norm and that a sit down customer has to ask for a reusable ceramic cup. The company does give a 10 cent discount to those who bring in their own thermos or mug.
Starbucks also has been known to offer spent coffee grounds for people requesting them for their own gardens. In the city of Vancouver, approximately 2.5 million beverage cups end up in landfills every
week. City staff and environmental groups are looking for a solution, one of which might be the refund-deposit system.

An energy issue to consider is the disposal of the unconsumed brew.According to Daniel Viola in his article “13 Things You Should Know About Saving Water,” printed in a September 8, 2016, Reader’s Digest, a single cup of coffee requires approximately 140 liters of water to cultivate and produce. Think of all the big name coffee shops that advertise that their coffee is freshly brewed and that they dump it if not sold within a short time. Java lovers, too, should be mindful about the amount they consume each day and not carelessly toss this beverage aside.

As disrupting global weather patterns become increasingly common, innovative industries are beginning to take on leading recycling roles to deal with our disposable society. Recycling plastic into reusable furniture is one huge step to prevent it from accumulating in our landfills and oceans. Reducing the use of straws and reusing cups, however, trumps recycling. It would be great, as well, if coffee stops actively advertised that a straw will be given only upon request,and that patrons are encouraged to bring their own mug. This would help alter public attitudes and habits, thus making our war on waste a little more manageable.

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Larraine writes children’s illustrated adventure books on composting and pollinating. Visit www.castlecompost.com

About Larraine Roulston

A mother of 4 with 6 wonderful grandchildren, Larraine has been active in the environmental movement since the early l970s. When the first blue boxes for recycling were launched in her region, she began writing a local weekly newspaper column to promote the 3Rs. Since that time, she has been a freelance writer for several publications, including BioCycle magazine. As a composting advocate, Larraine authors children's adventure stories that combine composting facts with literature. Currently she is working on the 6th book of her Pee Wee at Castle Compost series, which can be viewed at www.castlecompost.com. As well, Larraine and her husband Pete have built a straw bale home and live in Ontario.

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