Coffee remains one of the most popular drinks in the world, with global consumption increasing from year to year.
It is one of the most traded commodities, and permeates every aspect of our lives, with about 2.25 billion cups of coffee consumed around the world on a daily basis. A cup of coffee in the morning has become a familiar morning ritual for most, and offices with coffee machines are commonplace. High quality brews can be dispensed by coffee vending machines and are no longer limited to coffee shops with trained baristas.
However, with so much coffee consumed globally, there is an important element of the industry that has become overlooked: coffee ground waste management. Over six million tonnes of coffee grounds end up in landfills. This has a negative impact on the environment as the decomposition of coffee grounds is releasing methane into the atmosphere, and has serious implications for global warming.
Companies around the world have tackled coffee ground waste management and found ways to recycle coffee residue to minimise the negative effects on our environment.
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Besides beans, the pulp of the coffee fruit, which usually is counted as waste, can be used as a nutritious alternative to whole grain wheat flour.
Apart from being eco-friendly, this gluten-free option is supposed to have five times the fibre than that of whole grain wheat flour, and three times more iron than fresh spinach.
In addition, baking products made from coffee flour can help to reduce organic waste, providing an additional source of income for coffee farmers.
Companies like The Coffee Cherry Co. are gaining traction globally, as they upcycle coffee cherries to reduce waste. It has collaborated with Japan’s largest bagel chain Bagel & Bagel, as well as a pizza restaurant called No. 4 Cafe to provide the gluten-free dough.
Coffee logs are a sustainable, alternative type of fuel, which are produced directly from coffee grounds. This 100% carbon neutral biofuel burns longer than wood and produces more heat for kitchen stoves and fireplaces.
As an example, 25 cups of coffee are needed to make carbon-neutral coffee logs. It is thus possible to find a second life for coffee waste, which generates 80% less emissions than if they were sent directly to landfill.
Biofuel company bio-bean is a notable pioneer in the industry of coffee recycling. They have partnered with various companies to help achieve sustainability targets.
For example, the Møller Centre at the University of Cambridge, a leadership development and conference centre, uses bio-bean to help reduce waste disposal costs and meet its sustainability targets by recycling the deposited coffee grounds from their coffee machines to create coffee logs.
Moreover, a tea and glasshouse restaurant in the UK called Petersham Nurseries gives its coffee grounds a second life after disposal, by turning the waste into coffee logs. The shop not only significantly cuts down on waste disposal costs, but also benefits from making a second round of profit by selling the logs to customers.
When brewing a fresh cup of coffee, not all oils from coffee beans have been released into a cup. The majority of microelements, especially some particular oils, remain unexposed within the coffee grounds and are being thrown away after being brewed.
Those unused oils can be extracted and used as biofuel with the help of chemical reactions.
For instance, bio-bean stated that 2.55 million cups can support a fully operating bus for an entire year.
It is also possible to produce 200 litres of biofuel from one tonne of the beans.
In addition, Lancaster University is currently working to reduce the method of turning waste coffee grounds into biofuel from a two-step process to a one-step process.
With these kinds of advancements, coffee as biofuel is becoming more realistic, particularly as this kind of fuel is usable without needing to alter engines or gas tanks.
Coffee Cups and Mugs
Urbanization and the fast-paced lifestyle have resulted in more people using disposable items, such as paper and plastic cups. Companies like the German Kaffee Form have made use of the waste to create sustainable coffee mugs and take-away coffee cups.
These mugs and cups are made entirely out of recycled coffee grounds, beechwood fibers, starch, waxes and oils, cellulose, natural resins, and wood, and come in a range of sizes to cater to different coffee types.
Kaffee Form collects the coffee ground waste from cafes all around Berlin, and then sells their cups to cafes around Europe, as well as end-consumers.
Making Sustainability the Norm in the Coffee Industry
The coffee industry is worth over $100 billion, and there is no sign of that stopping. There is a big focus on finding ways to make a perfect brew each time, and now we need to establish how to manage coffee waste management better.
With so much potential for improving sustainability practices and standards, these first steps companies like The Coffee Cherry Co., bio-bean, and Kaffee Form have made are pivotal.
The sustainable coffee movement encourages full transparency and the implementation of certifications, in order to keep track of changes and processes, but also to keep companies accountable.