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Trending: New Use for Coffee Grounds, 'Uber for Trash' Among Latest Innovations in Waste Reduction

Image credit: 3Dom USA

You might already be using them in your garden or they might be fueling your commute — but now you can use them in your 3D printer: Coffee grounds seem to be wasted less and less by the day, thanks to waste-to-energy and upcycling efforts across the globe.

Wound Up is a new wire filament for 3D printers that uses a composite of recycled coffee grounds and works with any PLA-compatible 3D printer, co-created by 3Dom USA and c2renew. As an added bonus, using the coffee waste byproduct gives the filament a rich brown colour and more organic texture. As 3Dom proudly points out, “A cup printed with Wound Up™ is a true ‘coffee cup.’”

Wound Up is the first in a line of bio-based products developed by the partnership. The products are expected to use less plastic than conventional filaments, and are sold on 3Dom’s Eco-Spools, which are 100 percent bio-based plastic reels. The product is manufactured and tested in the USA.

As the popularity and applications of 3D printing continue to grow, so will the demand for plastic. Many companies, including IBM, Google, Arup, Autodesk, and Reef Arabia, are using this opportunity to create better, more sustainable products, while bioplastics and post-consumer plastic bottles have been gaining scale and viability as 3D-printing filaments.

Another new product that reduces plastic use and waste is the TIO, the brainchild of two German industrial designers, Ben Beck and Fabian Ghoshal, who reimagined the toothbrush in an effort to reduce the waste that these everyday products create. TIO successfully beat its €40,000 fundraising goal on Kickstarter in June.

“We decided to take the matter into our own hands, and make a sustainable toothbrush we’d love to use,” reads the Kickstarter campaign page.

“Everyone has a connection to the toothbrush,” Beck recently told PSFK. “And you throw away toothbrushes a lot.”

TIO has a replaceable head, which is the only part of the product that has packaging (to protect the hygienic part of the toothbrush). The team estimates the reusable body of the brush saves 70 percent of plastic waste, while the minimal packaging saves an estimated 60 percent of packaging waste, compared to conventional toothbrushes. The packaging also doubles as a travel cap.

The entire product and its packaging are made from bioplastics, sourced from a supplier based outside of Stuttgart, Germany. The team pledged to apply for a Biobased certification from Vinçotte. Backers are expecting to receive their new toothbrushes later this year.

Meanwhile, there will soon be “an Uber for trash” app for on-demand trash pickup. Rubicon Global manages a network of independent waste haulers, who bid on picking up trash from commercial customers such as 7-Eleven and Wegmans. Customers pay Rubicon based on the amount of money it saves clients through fewer pickups and the amount of recyclables it sells off. Now Rubicon hopes to expand to the residential commercial market through a mobile app, which is currently in beta testing.

The software will allow consumers in select cities to have their garbage picked up within a day or so, although some customers will only have to wait a few hours. The company’s goal is to offer pickup within a half hour.

Rubicon’s system uses software, sensors and manual sorting to figure out what parts of a company’s waste stream can be recycled and resold; it is unclear how similar technology will be applied to residential customers. The company raised $30 million in late 2014 and has since announced it is raising a new $50 million round to help expand and develop the app. The founding CTO of Uber, Oscar Salazar, has been hired as Rubicon’s chief technology advisor to support the app’s launch.

“This is where we’re going to begin experimenting with new and alternative technologies that many other businesses have shied away from, because of their reliance on landfills,” Nate Morris, CEO and co-founder of Rubicon, said following the $30 million raise. “We’ll experiment with how we can make waste obsolete.”

Hannah Furlong is an Editorial Assistant for Sustainable Brands, based in Canada. She is researching the circular economy as a Master's student in Sustainability Management at the University of Waterloo and holds a Bachelor's in Environment and Business Co-op. Hannah… [Read more about Hannah Furlong]

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