Category: Journal

11 Oct 2018

On the road…

One of the best parts of working in the food waste industry is getting to go to cool food-themed events. Over the last couple of weeks our supply chain team – Julia and Katherine – have been to the Lunch! exhibition, huggg’s London launch party and the University of Birmingham, touching base with our existing coffee recycling partners and beginning conversations with new ones…

Lunch! – 19-20th September

Lunch! is the show that brings together the entire food-to-go industry under one roof. It was the perfect place to hear from leading industry speakers and provided the opportunity for invaluable networking. We saw lots of familiar faces as we met with many of our coffee recycling partners – the likes of Costa Coffee, Pret a Manger, Leon, Greggs, Small Batch Coffee Roasters, Boston Tea Party, FITCH Brew, Far Side and True Start!

huggg – 4th October – To celebrate their London launch, food-gifting app huggg threw a glittery, fun-filled launch party at Campus London. The huggg app allows you to easily send a ‘huggg’ – a gift of food or drink – to friends you think deserve it. We heard from their CEO Paul Wickers about how the idea of huggg came about and future plans for the company, as well as comedy from Imogen Rogers and donuts from Crosstowns to sustain us. Why not try it – download the app and make someone’s day!

University of Birmingham: Live Well Be Safe – 4th October. We’ve been recycling used coffee grounds from the University of Birmingham since May 2017, so we were delighted to join them on campus for their busy ‘Live Well, Be Safe’ event last week. A collaborative event organised by the Security Services, Sustainable Travel, Student Services and the Guild of Students, it aimed to provide advice and information to the university community on the themes of safety, sustainability and wellbeing. It was great to have so much interest from students and staff alike!

 

By Katherine Murphy, Business Development & Account Executive

14 Sep 2018

September trade shows

It’s been a busy few weeks for our sales and feedstock teams, exhibiting at three trade shows between Cologne and Birmingham, and covering both sides of our business: growing our supply chain to bring more coffee in, and growing our retailer base to sell Coffee Logs.

spoga+gafa in Cologne, Germany represented Coffee Logs’ first venture into the European market. From 2-4 September George, Matt, Xavier and Richard, our distributor for the Netherlands, spent the days talking Coffee Logs with garden retail buyers from all over Europe, and the evenings enjoying the sights of beautiful city of Cologne.

L-R: Xavier, Matt, Richard and George

Last September we exhibited at both Glee Birmingham, the UK’s biggest garden trade event, and RWM the resource and waste management show, and this year we were lucky enough to be able to repeat the experience. So last week we made our way to the National Exhibition Centre (NEC) for the second year in a row.

Thanks to winning the GIMA Innovators Seed Corn Fund at Glee 2017, we were able to avail of a bigger stand at this year’s Glee. On Day 1 our colleague Matt managed to chat to BBC’s Garden Rescue presenter Charlie Dimmock, and later was interviewed by Agents of Field, award-winning garden and food bloggers (watch the interview here) and over the course of the three days we met with many buyers from the UK’s garden retail sector.

Xavier and Steph on the stand at Glee
Too much coffee perhaps?

A few halls down, courtesy of Innovate UK, one of our key supporters, we had a stand in the Innovation City zone at RWM. Our supply chain team was kept super busy at our stand, and whenever we got a minute we went to see some fascinating talks – like innovative new recycling systems tackling the problem of plastic waste, and Costa’s coffee cup returns scheme. On Thursday our national supply chain manager Julia spoke to a packed theatre about our own coffee recycling and biofuels manufacturing processes.

Julia describes how bio-bean’s business model is an example of the circular economy

It was a great pleasure to network with existing and potential coffee collection partners, and it was heartening to see how many people were enthused by what we at bio-bean are trying to do. We came away with many exciting prospects for the business – huge thanks to everyone who came to see us!

 

And now…

We’re taking a little break from the road and focusing on Coffee Logs production ahead of what’s anticipated to be a very busy autumn and winter season. To stay updated on bio-bean on the road and at home, follow us on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn or Instagram.

 

13 Sep 2018

Coffee Logs refreshed packaging

We have always taken pride in how different Coffee Logs are compared to other fuel products. And the same applies to the packaging: Coffee Logs’ kraft paper and orange design stand out next to bags of coal and wood briquettes, while the PEFC certified, recyclable paper makes the bag as environmentally sustainable as the eco logs it contains.

However, having identified the need for some informational updates to the bag, earlier this year we commissioned the talented design agency Marmalade London to give our packaging a refresh. Marmalade had come up with the original design back in 2016:

The brief for the new look was to keep the kraft paper, distinctive orange stripe and logo from the original bag, but evolve the design to incorporate new visuals and iconography that would clearly communicate the product’s function and benefits.

The result: In the new design, Marmalade added an elegant flame containing the Coffee Logs logo, three icons that convey the benefits of Coffee Logs over other fuel products, black handles to match the logo, and a smart new typeface to explain the bio-bean story on the back and sides.

The upgraded Coffee Logs bag will soon hit the shelves of garden centres and supermarkets near you!

A look back…

As Coffee Logs approach their third winter season, we take a look at the evolution of these unique fuel briquettes, from concept in 2015 to best-selling fuel product in 2018…

Plain paper bags with stickers were used to send out the first samples of Coffee Logs to retailers.

 

In the early days of briquette production, bags were stitched by hand.

 

Coffee Logs were initially unwaxed, until we learned that adding a wax coating both makes them easier to both handle and ignite.

And today…

Coffee Logs 2018 edition – now with refreshed packaging and more durable, wax-coated logs that each burn for up to an hour. For more information and to find out where you can purchase Coffee Logs, click here.

10 Sep 2018

bio-bean according to our newest team member

By Katherine Murphy, Business Development and Account Executive

As a recent biological sciences graduate looking for a new opportunity, I came across bio-bean and was intrigued by the idea of creating new resources from coffee waste. So when an opportunity arose to work within the Feedstock team, I jumped at the chance. This is how I got on in my first couple of months at bio-bean…

When I arrived at bio-bean’s brand new offices in Aldgate, I received a warm welcome by the team, including Louie the office dog! And at true bio-bean pace, less than 24 hours later I was at my first event. Since then my calendar has been scattered with site visits, industry events and client meetings, each giving their own insight and different perspective to bio-bean and the industries in which it operates.

For anyone unfamiliar with the waste management and sustainability industries, as I was, both are areas where there is much to learn – and there can be a certain degree of confusion at first. I quickly discovered that MRF (pronounced Murph) isn’t just an abbreviation of my surname but also an acronym from Material Recovery Facility, and that RORO isn’t just a line from a popular children’s nursery rhyme but another acronym, this time for Roll On Roll Off skip.  

During my second week it was time to visit the factory at Alconbury. My lasting memory from my interview at Alconbury had been the humongous pile of waste coffee, ready to be processed once the factory was up and running. The site has continued to transform with every visit to Alconbury since then, with new machinery, modifications and pallets of Coffee Logs ready for shipping emerging each time. 

Holding various factory tours for our indispensable (pardon the pun!) waste management partners has been a great way to meet those helping us grow the coffee pile. It’s also useful way to keep track of site progressions from our site manager. 

 

I’ve also had the chance to meet providers of the all-important waste coffee grounds: the businesses that produce large volumes of coffee waste on their premises and send it to us for recycling. It’s the perfect opportunity to learn about collection from their perspective, hearing about their expectations and any reservations they may have. It’s been a pleasure meeting so many people who are so enthusiastic about recycling their coffee, and helps us learn how we can tweak our services to meet our customers’ requirements. 

Meanwhile, I’ve been attending events from industry pioneers like YFood and Cupclub. Combining these with learning how we use waste coffee at bio-bean, has really sparked my enthusiasm for working in a fast paced, innovative business that works hard to change practises for the benefit of the environment.

27 Jul 2018
cricket pitch

Com‘batting’ climate change for the sake of cricket

Among the bio-bean team there are quite a few cricket enthusiasts, while as an environmental company our aim is to help tackle issues like climate change. So we investigated the link between the two and what is being done about it…

By Christian de Vitry, Sales & Marketing Intern

Cricket has perhaps the closest relationships with the environment out of any sport in the world. Whether it’s on the streets of Delhi or on the pristine pitch at Lord’s, climatic conditions will always have a significant effect on how the game is played.

In England, rain is the main threat to the sport, causing nearly a third of its home One Day Internationals since 2000 to be played with reduced overs. Sure, bad weather isn’t exactly a new phenomenon here in Britain, but things are getting worse. Steve Birks, groundsman at Trent Bridge, recently said that “The rain is getting tropical, it is getting heavier” – indeed, with climate change on the rise, its effect on the game are starting to show. In 2015, the England Cricket Board estimated that extreme weather, directly linked to climate change, was responsible for over £3.5 million worth of damage across 57 cricket clubs in England and Wales.

The effects of climate change on cricket are being felt around the world. Last year, hurricanes Irma and Maria tore through the Caribbean, devastating much of the land including five major cricket venues. A drought in South Africa gave the Western Province Cricket association little choice but to cancel all club and school cricket. Similarly, in 2016, the Indian Premier League had to postpone 13 matches in the Maharashtra region due to drought.

Dominica Windsor Park Stadium after hurricane Irma
Dominica Windsor Park Stadium after hurricane Irma

But perhaps most striking of all was last December’s test between India and Sri Lanka. The match, held in India’s capital New Delhi, had to be held several times due to the levels of air pollution 12 times higher than the limit deemed safe by the WHO. Many of the players wore face masks in a desperate attempt to fight the effects of the toxic air – apparently to little effect, as four Sri Lankan players were reported to have thrown up.

So how is the cricket community reacting to these environmental threats?

A significant incentive to be more environmentally friendly comes from the International Cricket Council (ICC), with sustainability among a range of factors affecting a ground’s chances of being selected by the ICC as venue for international cricket matches.

Pollution levels 12x higher than WHO limits at the India-Sri Lanka test match in December 2017
Players wearing pollution masks to fight the effects of toxic air pollution

The KIA Oval, for instance, is working to tackle their single use plastic consumption by launching a reusable cup scheme, getting rid of all plastic straws, non-combustible cups and bottles and providing more water fountains around the ground. By partnering with us at bio-bean, the Oval is now moving to recycle all of its coffee waste from what is estimated to be million cups of coffee consumed on the ground every year.

From my personal experience of working at Lord’s, the home of English cricket, reducing the ground’s environmental footprint is evidently very important. Behind every bar, there were four different bins to separate and recycle different waste streams, as well as further efforts to reduce plastics, improve energy performance, reduce carbon emissions and minimise waste. Their recently developed Warner stand has an electricity-generating photovoltaic roof, as well as a water collection and recycling system.

Sustainable sport isn’t solely a cricket movement, but one gathering momentum all over the world of sport. In football, Juventus have recently unveiled their 2018-19 third kit, exclusively made from recovered ocean plastics. In ice skating, the National Hockey League has responded to threats of a shrinking skating season in eastern Canada through a comprehensive sustainability strategy including cutting water and energy consumption, composting its waste and counterbalancing over 900,000MW of energy since 2014. And global sporting associations for sailing, athletics, rugby, golf, triathlons and surfing have all pledged to support the UN’s recent campaign to eradicate single-use plastic in sport.

 

20 Jun 2018
close-up of bees

bio-bees

This week, a swarm of bees turned up at our Alconbury factory in search of a new home.

We called the Huntingdonshire Beekeepers Association and were able to arrange for someone to come and collect the bees. The bees were coaxed gradually a wooden hive box containing sweet treats. Our bio-bees have now been rehoused with a local beekeeper who had a brand new hive ready and waiting.

We also found out some interesting facts about bee swarms:

  • A bee swarm is a mass of bees clustered together on a post, tree or other structure. It’s a natural occurrence, most often found in Spring and the swarm may remain there for only a few minutes or as long as a few days while the bees look for a new home.
  • Swarming bees are not dangerous – they should be left alone and not sprayed with a hose, smoke or insecticide. If left alone, the bees shouldn’t harm you.
  • Bees are having a pretty tough time at the moment – weather conditions this winter means there are less colonies this year.
  • Most areas will have a local beekeeping club whose members are willing to collect swarms of bees and give them a new home. Find out more about what to do if you find a swarm here.

 

 

14 Jun 2018
Coffee Logs Production

Photo story: inside the world’s first coffee recycling factory

Over summer 2018 we’re making some mega changes to the machinery, the processes and the layout of our two former aircraft hangars that house our coffee recycling facility. These upgrades will ensure our processes are as efficient as possible and our carbon footprint as low as possible.

Given that it will soon look very different from its former setup, we thought we’d take a look back at this photo series by Miles Willis last year. Miles’ photography focuses on sustainability in the food sector, and we’d previously worked with him for a feature in Jellied Eel magazine. So it seemed like a good fit to have him come and photograph our coffee recycling factory.

The photos below demonstrate the journey from when coffee is tipped at our site through to Coffee Logs and coffee pellets ready for distribution to our retail partners.

Photo credit for all: Miles Willis photography.

Coffee waste from Costa Coffee stores is delivered on a daily basis in these trucks, through logistics company JNL.
Coffee waste from Costa Coffee stores is delivered on a daily basis in these trucks, through logistics company JNL.
Tipping at the factory
Tipping at the factory
Our colleague Shaun is factory production manager pictured with coffee grounds
Our colleague Shaun is factory production manager
The telehandler collects coffee from the pile and bucket by bucket, the material is processed and dried down to a low moisture content.
This bit of kit is one of several ‘sieves’ which the coffee grounds are passed through to decontaminate them.
Shaun drives the telehandler
Coffee pellets are created by compressing clean, dry coffee grounds mixed with a little binding agent. They can then be used in biomass boilers as an alternative to woodchip pellets.
The control centre! Small changes to temperature and pressure can have a significant impact on our products, and our team works hard to ensure consistency.
Quality checking on the briquetting line. Coffee Logs are made by mixing a small amount of sawdust with dried waste coffee grounds, then compressing them using specially modified briquetters.
31 May 2018
Bio-bean going single-use plastic free

bio-bean’s plastic-free challenge

 

We’ve all seen the heart-wrenching pictures: the seahorse clutching a plastic cotton bud, gulls with insides full of miscellaneous bits of plastic, and seals choked by plastic bags. We’ve seen the surge in global media coverage of our giant plastic problem since David Attenborough hammered it home with Blue Planet (distressing and awe-inspiring in equal parts). We’ve criticised everyone from the government to the manufacturers to the supermarkets. But we’ve probably all experienced that nagging feeling that we as individuals are also to blame, and therefore should be able to do something about it.

Image: What Lies Under by Ferdi Rizkiyanto

So Team bio-bean decided to jump on the zero-plastic bandwagon and try to give up single-use (i.e. disposable) plastic for a month. We decided that an outright ban would set ourselves up for failure before we even began, so we aimed to eliminate, but committed to significantly reduce our consumption of single-use plastic throughout the month of May. We set up a group chat to encourage each other and share best practices, failures, frustrations and ideas for alternatives.

Starting out as a small group, we soon grew until well over half of the business was involved. Some of us were confident that it would be easy (they were in for a bit of a shock) while others had already been cutting out plastic for some time, and knew all about its sneaky ability to find its way into absolutely everything.

Yup. Plastic in there too

We got off to an optimistic but slightly wobbly start, with the search for plastic-free lunch options yielding some questionable results (tinned soup and cans of tuna – learning later that sadly most tins are lined in plastic), as well as some more satisfactory ones, like burgers in biodegradable boxes and foil-wrapped sandwiches. Once we got into the swing of it, some smug new finds were touted about – reusable water bottles and coffee cups, cosmetics from Lush and market-bought fruit and veg – as well as some early frustrations due to a lack of forward planning (going home hangry after being unable to find a plastic-free snack in the corner shop). The more zealous among us confessed plastics that had been purchased long before the challenge started and cancelled magazine subscriptions due to plastic sleeves, while others were a little more slack (giving in to a hangover’s need for a takeaway, and learning very late in the day that polystyrene, however convenient, is also plastic…)

We signed petitions, we found dry goods refill shops in London (and were exasperated at the lack thereof outside of the capital), and we shared home remedies, like white wine and bicarbonate of soda to replace plastic-packaged cleaning products. We found new uses for old things: yoghurt pots, takeaway coffee cups and even ski boots transformed into flower pots; and plastic bags as a reusable alternative to cling film. We learned from some experts in the field – Martin Dorey’s No. More. Plastic. is full of brilliant tips – the best of which, we thought, was to research and commit to living within your council’s recycling capabilities.

You pay more when you try to care for both your health and the environment, as we learned from expensive farmer’s markets and artisan bakeries. There are cheaper, less healthy options of course (baked beans, anyone?) but still, 10 days in no-one had managed to be completely single-use-plastic-free. While we had learned a lot about the pitfalls and areas for improvement, it didn’t seem feasible to go 100% #zeroplastic forever and ever amen – at least not without some serious preparation.

But we persevered. Some of us converted to loose-leaf tea to avoid teabags that contain plastic, or switched from plastic bottles of olive oil to 5L tins. We had some happy realisations about staple products packaged in cardboard (like eggs and laundry powder) and less happy realisations that meat and fish are almost impossible to find without plastic wrapping. This was until we found out Morrisons now allow customers to bring their own Tupperware to the fishmonger and butcher counters…

looks like meat's back on the menu boys

Between picnics, barbecues and generally having to cater for friends who weren’t in on the challenge, many of us failed especially hard over the May bank holiday weekends. Those team members who lead a double life as a parent also had to compromise – young children are of course both materially very high maintenance (think nappies and wipes) and hard to say no to (think a 4-year-old’s birthday babyccino request).

We asked ourselves some big questions – does a toothbrush count as single-use plastic? Are pizza boxes really recyclable? (Yes and no, as it turns out) Are economics “ruining everything” (as someone phrased it) by keeping biodegradable plastics expensive and fossil-fuel-derived plastic cheap? We were shocked by the lack of information from councils on the recyclability of different materials, and by the false sense of security that what you’re putting in the recycling bin is actually getting recycled. We were unpleasantly surprised to learn that card and paper can be worse than plastic when factoring in the broader environmental footprint (how depressing).

But we had to draw a line in the sand and focus on plastic for now or we’d tie ourselves up in (probably plastic) knots. We used some of those horrifying visuals of plastic wreaking havoc on marine life to keep our eyes on the prize (the prize, of course, being peace of mind for our pious ways).

So here we are at the end of our 31-day challenge, but the journey certainly doesn’t stop here – we’re going to continue to reduce our plastic waste well into the future. You can’t un-see Blue Planet, and once you get started on a plastic-free journey it’s not easy or even desirable to return to selective ignorance. We’ve built new plastic-free habits into our everyday lives, realising there are so many small changes that can make a difference, and more conscious now of the range of alternatives available.

As one of our colleagues aptly pointed out, Rome wasn’t built in a day – and looking at how much we all managed to cut down in a short space of time, it’s not a bad start.

 

By Pippa Henderson

29 May 2018
Kevin McCloud interview at grand designs live

Our merry month of May

This month the bio-bean team has been hitting the road, participating in Kevin McCloud’s Grand Designs Live in London and exhibiting at sustainability expo edie Live in the NEC, Birmingham.

We’re really proud that our Coffee Logs have been selected by Kevin McCloud as one of his Green Heroes – some of the best environmental homeware products on the market. We were invited to demonstrate Coffee Logs to Grand Designs Live attendees, and our Business Development Manager Matt was interviewed onstage by Kevin McCloud (see image above). Matt was joined by fellow Green Heroes Piñatex, making a leather alternative from pineapple waste; Bamboo Bicycle Club, giving people the skills and the materials to build long-lasting, eco-friendly bicycles; Claire Potter who re-uses plastic waste to create chandeliers and much more; and Sebastian Cox who uses British timber and traditional methods to create bespoke furniture.

It was fantastic to have the opportunity to share the stage with such inspiring individuals and discuss our Coffee Logs with the design guru himself (and to shamelessly get his signature on a Coffee Logs bag!) Here’s Matt discussing how our coffee recycling forms a closed-loop, zero waste system:


Last week we exhibited at edie Live, a two-day expo bringing environment, resources and energy professionals together to share ideas on achieving a sustainable future. Over at stand N38 we were kept very busy with a near-constant stream of visitors! It was brilliant to engage with people who’d only just heard about coffee recycling and give them the tools to get started, as well as reconnect with current partners and some of the people who have been following our journey since the beginning.

L-R: Xav, Jules, Steph and Matt

We also went to see our partner Costa Coffee’s Energy & Environment Manager Oliver Rosevear speaking about recycling coffee cups and sending used coffee grounds to us for recycling. And we got to show off our brand new brochures and business cards – designed by our London office neighbours graphicks (and all printed on recycled paper, of course!)

To stay up-to-date with events and trade shows we’re attending, follow us on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and Instagram ☕ 

11 Mar 2018

Meet our coffee ground suppliers – Brighton

Having started out in London, bio-bean now collects waste coffee grounds from sites across Birmingham, Manchester and Brighton. And we’ll take any excuse for a road trip to visit some of the people around the country who have signed up for coffee collections, and are providing crucial raw material for our biofuels and biochemicals. Which is how we found ourselves in Brighton this week…

Paper Round Brighton

Paper Round carry out coffee waste collection on our behalf in the Brighton area, so we began with a visit to their facility in Lancing. The less contaminated the grounds are when they arrive at our factory, the easier it is for our team to process them into useful biofuels. Paper Round keep coffee waste separate from food, dry mixed recycling, glass and other waste streams using distinctive orange lids.

Flour Pot Bakery

Our next stop was The Flour Pot Bakery in Hove, where we sampled a couple of delicious coffees. One of Paper Round’s clients, Flour Pot was the first Brighton-based business to sign up to bio-bean’s coffee recycling service.

(Then we took a strictly work-related detour down to the seafront to look out at the water and Brighton Pier.)

Westlain House at The University of Brighton

Finally, we went to the University of Brighton’s Falmer campus. Coffee ground recycling forms an important part of the University hospitality department’s sustainability drive, which encompasses a range of waste reduction initiatives. Starting with Westlain House, coffee recycling will soon be rolled out at other sites throughout the campus.

In the notoriously Green Brighton, it was wonderful to meet some of the people whose commitment to sustainability is helping make bio-bean’s vision a reality.

Louise from Flour Pot Bakery with our colleague Julia
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