Starbucks is recycling coffee beans to make milk for its coffee.
The coffee giant is using Menincon’s fermentation technology that allows the used grounds from Starbucks stores in the Tokyo area to be converted into feed for the diary cows that produce the milk that goes into Starbucks stores’ specialty drinks.
The company says it was looking for a better use than plant compost for the hill of beans its stores across Japan produce each day. Although compost is a green disposal method, composting coffee grounds (known as bean cake) leaves significant nutritional value unused.
Japanese contact lens manufacturer Menicon has been experimenting with fermentation technologies since 2011. The work is an offshoot of materials research toward new contact lenses.
One lactic acid fermentation technique Menicon developed worked with bean cake. So, in a joint effort with the Veterinary Medicine Department of Azabu University, Menicon developed a cattle feed (suitable for long-term storage) that results in milk with a lower somatic cell count, a key quality indicator in dairy products.
Last year Menicon and Starbucks, along with Sanyu Plant Service, jointly applied for a patent on the process used to produce this lactic acid-fermented feed.
Starbucks is also working on turning the used grounds, along with its bakery waste, into laundry detergents, bioplastics and other products.