The plastic issue is much bigger than coffee cups, of course. Retailers and food service companies have all been under the cosh, leading Iceland to become the first supermarket to pledge to eliminate plastic on all its own-brand products within five years.


Alternatives might be part of a long-term solution but in the meantime global plastic production continues to swell, reaching 322m tons in 2015 – a large chunk of which will be single-use and is therefore likely to end up in landfills or the sea if recycling rates don’t improve.

Keith Allaun hopes to put some of that excess to good use. His company, Powerhouse Energy, has developed a process for turning plastic, and other waste, into synthesis gas, or syngas, which can then be either used to generate electricity or converted into hydrogen and carbon monoxide, both of which have industrial uses. “We convert any waste plastic or tyres into small granules that we then run through an ultra-high temperature process that thermally degrades the material and converts it into an energy-rich gas,” Allaun says. “This is a completely closed cycle process that creates zero emissions.”

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