Five companies using waste products in surprising ways

From ketchup byproducts being turned into bio-plastic to waste bread being used to brew beer, here are five innovative ways companies are re-thinking waste

Sustainability has become one of the most important factors for businesses both big and small, worldwide. And while many companies are implementing recycling and waste management systems that have worked for years, some people are thinking outside the box and coming up with sustainability schemes you might never have thought possible.

Turning tomatoes into plastics

The demand for plastics isn’t slowing. In fact, it’s growing at a rate that has troubled many companies for years. With market prices for crude oil swinging wildly, market leaders decided that the only way to tackle this escalating crisis was to get innovative.

Auto-giants Ford have been leading research into 100% bio-based plastics, teaming up with Heinz in a mutually beneficial union.

While producing their world famous ketchup, Heinz generates up to 2 million tonnes of stems, seeds and skins every single year. In a collaboration with plastics research specialists from Ford, the companies are striving to create a plastic material from plant byproducts which can be used in many aspects of automotive design and finishing.

The Coca-Cola Company, Nike Inc. and Procter & Gamble are also involved in the project, which will incorporate bio-plastic material into everything from packaging to clothing, making a huge dent in the impact of petrochemical-based products on the environment.

Traditionally, when the roads in the Wisconsin city of Milwaukee freeze over (as they are known to do in the harsh winters that scourge the American midwest), they would be treated with regular rock salt, an effective but expensive and environmentally damaging solution.

Elsewhere in the state, dairy manufacturers struggle to cope with the costs of dealing with thousands upon thousands of gallons of cheese brine: the salty liquid which is left over after the production of Wisconsin’s famous soft cheeses.

It took one leap of innovation to solve both problems: dairies donate brine to their municipality, eliminating the haulage charges associated with disposing of it themselves. The city then uses the byproduct to help keep the roads and highways safely de-iced, saving tens of thousands of dollars every year. The cheese brine even has a lower freezing temperature than the salt brine that had previously been used has – an added bonus.

The idea of using food byproducts as a means to increase road safety has spread across the globe, with Irish seafood company and Origin Green member Errigal Seafood donating large quantities of shellfish shells to their local council to be used as road grit in the winter months. The initiative is helping the company lower their waste outputs, as well as lowering the costs associated with treating treacherous roads across the north west.

Making beer with unsold bread

The goal of eliminating food waste has produced some of the brightest innovators of our time.

The “Brussels Beer Project” is led by one such group of pioneers The Belgium micro-brewers have teamed up with a local sustainability group to produce “Babylone”- a beer made using leftover bread which would otherwise have been thrown out.

Talented brewing specialists were able to reduce the amount of barley used in the brewing process and replace it with bread sourced from local supermarkets, a move which sees an average of 500kg worth of unused loaves find their way into 4000l of amber ale.

The simplicity and the benefits of this new method has attracted attention from breweries across the world, with many Origin Green members taking note of the Brussels Beer Project’s ingenuity and success.

Coffee waste into furniture

With so much coffee being consumed worldwide, many novel solutions have sprung up to tackle the amount of waste produced by coffee farms and suppliers.

Coffee shops offer used grounds as fertiliser to their customers, and coffee pulp from farms can be ground down to produce coffee flour, a new product which is high in anti-oxidants.

In addition to this, a British design company has developed a way to create stunning furniture comprising 60% recycled coffee grounds, sold in many cases to the same offices and shops that they were sourced from.

Re-worked, the design firm run by Adam Fairweather, implements innovative techniques to produce a range of furniture, sculptures and jewellery from used grounds which, if left to less inventive folk, would have ended up as landfill.

Using sugar beets to cool refrigerators

Anaerobic digestion, the process by which biodegradable waste materials are converted into energy or heat – has become a staple in the quest for greener industry.

The success of anaerobic digestion led supermarket giant Sainsbury’s to investigate new ways in which food byproducts could be utilised, leading to the implementation of eCO2: an alternative refrigerant which is derived from waste sugar beet.

eCO2 meets all the refrigeration requirements of CO2, but is manufactured in a sustainable, environmentally friendly way. The same manufacturer that supplies Sainsbury’s with sugar also supplies the refrigeration company with the waste beet material necessary for creating eCO2, which Sainsbury’s will use to cut their CO2 emissions by 30% by 2020.

Experts predict that the success of eCO2 for Sainsbury’s will spur other supermarket chains to follow suit, leading to a noteworthy reduction in carbon emissions on an annual basis.

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