How to recycle your waste coffee grounds at work
As coffee enthusiasts, we tend to focus more on what type of coffee beans and blends we’re drinking and not so much on what happens to the coffee grounds once they’ve been brewed.
Our love of coffee in the UK leads to an estimated quarter of a million tonnes of waste coffee grounds each year that typically end up in landfill sites. That’s the equivalent weight* of nearly 2,500 blue whales.
Our ubiquitous lattes and cappuccinos, while they keep us caffeinated and connected, also create a considerable hidden waste stream. And when left to biodegrade, the coffee grounds emit harmful greenhouse gases including methane, a major culprit of rising global temperatures.
But we’ve created an innovative, scaled recycling solution to make the most of this material long considered as waste, by recycling it into valuable products for a circular economy.
The benefits of recycling waste coffee grounds
By diverting grounds from waste and recycling them we save 80% on CO2e emissions compared to letting them go to landfill. Which means that through our unique coffee recycling service, you have an opportunity to raise your business’s sustainability credentials and achieve zero waste targets.
Opting to recycle your spent grounds rather than discard them offers the additional benefit of reducing waste disposal fees. Wet, and therefore heavy waste coffee grounds can contribute to a hefty landfill tax set at £96.70 per tonne (as of April 2021). But at bio-bean we don’t charge a tipping fee, so typically there is a saving to be made by recycling grounds through our service.
“The idea that our coffee grinds are being turned into fuel to heat local homes is really exciting and we hope this inspires other companies to find ways to recycle and reduce waste in their local areas too.” Says Katherine Laden of Harris + Hoole, a speciality coffee shop chain.
How does the coffee recycling service work?
We work with waste management and logistics companies to collect spent coffee grounds from businesses at every scale – from coffee shops and office blocks to airports and instant coffee factories.
Some businesses with a large network use a backhaul model, while smaller organisations and independent coffee shops can receive appropriately sized wheelie bins or caddies and have their waste grounds collected by their waste management company at the same time as their general waste.
The type of collection depends on the volume of spent grounds your organisation generates, its location and available logistics. But we aim for collections to occur within existing waste collection rounds in order to avoid putting additional vehicles on the road.
When your segregated spent grounds are collected, they’re then delivered to our facility in Cambridgeshire, where we decontaminate, process and dry the grounds, renewing them for reuse in sustainable products to benefit both people and the planet.
Where is the service available?
We currently recycle spent coffee grounds collected from London, Birmingham, Manchester, Brighton and a few other, smaller locations. And we’re seeking to collaborate on sustainable collection models in more locations.
How can I find out more?
Dry recycled coffee grounds – a sustainable raw material for product development
Behind every cup of coffee, there are wet grounds unnecessarily discarded and which, if left to biodegrade will emit methane, a greenhouse gas 34 times more potent than carbon dioxide. This despite the fact that the wasted coffee grounds contain residual value that can be exploited to benefit both people and planet. But there is another option.
Fortunately, there is a way to make use of this wasted resource and reduce these greenhouse gas emissions. By diverting the grounds away from landfill sites and renewing them into raw material for sustainable commercial and industrial applications, spent coffee grounds can enjoy a second life.
The rising consumer demand for sustainable products, accelerated by the climate crisis, is fuelling product innovation. And at bio-bean, we’re pleased to see the flow of new products coming to market that use spent coffee grounds as a core ingredient.
The challenge for product innovators in using spent coffee grounds is the lack of access to a consistent and secure supply of contaminant-free, dried grounds. This can inhibit many innovative start-ups from scaling up and evolving as businesses.
We’ve spent years diligently developing a unique supply chain, securing collections from businesses across the UK for a steady, high-volume stream of spent coffee grounds.
The difficulty with recycling spent grounds at scale is in removing both the contaminants and moisture. But we’ve developed proprietary methodologies which allow us to process large volumes of coffee waste for reuse. And we are now the world’s largest recycler of spent coffee grounds!
When spent grounds arrive at our Cambridgeshire factory, we put them through a decontamination process before drying them to pre-set moisture levels. Our unique process allows us to provide a consistent, bulk raw material to businesses seeking to create transformative change through innovation. With the ability to process to bespoke specifications we can further refine the product to meet specific demands of a particular customer. And our technology guarantees a uniform product, meaning a consistent particle size and bulk density.
There are several benefits to using recycled coffee grounds in product development. Clean and dry recycled grounds are a sustainable material that can help products appeal to eco-conscious consumers, contributing directly to business growth. And using recycled coffee grounds can contribute to savings on greenhouse gas emissions compared to using conventional materials which are often petro-chemical based.
Are you a business or product innovator interested in using spent coffee grounds as your next sustainable building material? Get in touch to find out more.
An outlook into bio-bean’s innovative solutions and future plans, interview with Bio Market Insights
Our co-Director and CCO, George May, discusses our sustainable solutions ahead of World Bio Markets Conference in March 2020.
Looking beyond the dictionary: what does sustainability mean
Sustainability is no doubt having its day, trending across the media, business and cultural landscapes. But sustainability is a complex concept that encompasses much more than just environmentalism, and a great deal of greenwashing takes place under its banner. The lack of a clear understanding of what the term represents risks reducing it to a mere cliché, void of meaning for consumers and businesses alike.
Different perspectives on sustainability
It’s worth noting that the meaning of the term ‘sustainability’ does change based on the domain or field where it is being applied.
Corporate sustainability was defined in a research paper in 2002 as meeting the needs of a firm’s stakeholders without compromising future stakeholders.
Engineering sustainability was described in 2009 as allowing people globally to meet basic needs while improving their quality of life and increasing opportunities for future generations.
There is also a general definition for agricultural sustainability: the use of the agricultural ecosystem to ensure that it maintains biological diversity, vitality, and regeneration so that it can fulfil the requirements of today and the future without harming other ecosystems.
Regardless of the lens through which sustainability is viewed, there are consistencies throughout. Each of the above definitions addresses the needs of the future as well as the needs of the present.
But one of the biggest issues with the term itself is its ambiguity. ‘Sustainability’ can be interpreted in various ways to fit the needs of those who are citing it, and it can be measured with inconsistent indicators across industries, prompting one to question how sustainable a reported activity truly is.
Frameworks of sustainability
Over the years, there have been numerous attempts to create a framework of sustainability. A framework addresses this issue of ambiguity, ensuring that businesses have a clear path toward achieving sustainable goals. For example, the Six Rs is a popular framework created by the group Practical Action to allow product designers, manufacturers and consumers to evaluate a product’s proximity to sustainability.
The framework requires that we consider the following:
● Recycle: create new products out of old materials
● Reuse: use materials for new purposes
● Reduce: cutting down on the amount of material or energy used
● Rethink: design in a way that considers all forms of sustainability
● Repair: design products that are fixable, or use resources that do not damage the environment
● Refuse: discover substitutes that are more suitable and less harmful to the environment
Another framework of sustainability is the ‘Quantifiable Definition of Sustainability’, or QDS. QDS is considered the most robust of the available frameworks because it takes into account the historical debate and definitions within the sustainability literature. It was conceived by ecological economist Robert Costanza and asserts that a development is sustainable if it meets the minimum threshold of performance in the following domains:
● Environmental domain
● Economic domain
● Social domain
The environmental domain is based on both renewable and non-renewable resources as well as levels of pollution and waste. For example, it suggests you should only use renewable resources at a rate no faster than their rate of regeneration. In terms of pollution, harmful chemicals should be emitted no faster than natural systems can absorb.
The economic domain is met when finite resources are not treated as wealth, but rather are equitably distributed and efficiently allocated. The idea is to promote the use of those resources in an efficient and responsible way that provides long-term benefits and establishes profitability.
The social domain refers to the basic human needs that should be met worldwide. This includes everything from clean water and clothing to healthcare and education.
QDS is arguably the most useful definition of sustainability today due to its versatility. However, it still has notable limitations and issues. One mistake often made in using the QDS framework is considering the three conditions to be mutually exclusive. This isn’t the case. Researchers instead suggest that people are not fully aware of how the three parts of the framework combine to form the true concept of sustainability and argue that QDS offers a succinct, holistic perspective that is applicable across multiple disciplines.
QDS is perhaps the closest we can get to a true definition of sustainability, and even this does not provide all the answers. However, it’s important for businesses to analyse what frameworks like this do explore and what they do not. In doing so it is possible to ensure that the appropriate measures and lessons can be taken and applied from each framework available.
There are countless research articles and thought leadership posts on the concept of sustainability. The reality is that none provide the full answer. As such, it’s important for us all to continue to develop our understanding of sustainability and to seek out innovative ways to incorporate it into our business models.
At bio-bean, we view sustainability as a call to operate not only to benefit both people and planet, but also with longevity and real impact. Sustainability is at the heart of everything we do, and for us means taking responsibility for how we consume resources and how we develop our economy for the longer term.
Coffee Logs: sustainable solid fuel from recycled coffee grounds
In the UK our coffee drinking habit and the production of instant coffee generate an estimated 500,000 tonnes of spent coffee grounds each year. But what happens to all those grounds once we’ve finished brewing and processing?
Typically, spent coffee grounds are discarded with general waste and sent to landfill where they degrade and emit methane, a greenhouse gas with considerably more global warming potential than carbon dioxide.
Here at bio-bean, we divert spent coffee grounds away from landfill or other inefficient disposal methods and recycle them into new sustainable products. One such product is our solid biomass fuel for consumer use: Coffee Logs. Our process of diverting and recycling waste grounds into these eco-friendly fire logs saves 80% of the CO2e emissions versus the grounds being sent to landfill, and 70% if they were sent to anaerobic digestion (AD).
By recycling waste coffee grounds into Coffee Logs, not only do we save on emissions, but we harness the untapped energy contained in the grounds to give them a second life as a useful product. Spent coffee grounds have a naturally high oil content and therefore a high calorific value, making them an ideal energy source.
Before compressing the waste grounds into compact logs, the grounds go through an engineered drying process that allows us to ensure the moisture content of each log is around 10%, the perfect moisture for burning.
This, in combination with the naturally high calorific value, allows Coffee Logs to burn 20% hotter and longer than kiln-dried wood. They burn, on average, for an hour depending on the appliance efficiency and its airflow control.
Coffee Logs are compact and designed for use in domestic enclosed appliances, such as wood-burners and multi-fuel stoves. Each log is made from the grounds of around 25 cups of coffee, which we receive from a wide range of businesses across the country, from independent coffee shops, high-street chains and office blocks, to railway stations and most recently London Stansted airport.
Coffee Logs are packaged in fully recyclable, wet-strength paper bags containing 16 logs and are available online and in-store through retailers across the UK, including supermarkets, DIY stores and garden centres.
The positive environmental impact of recycling spent coffee grounds into fire logs, combined with their high-quality burn profile, makes Coffee Logs a sustainable alternative winter fuel.
Want to know more about Coffee Logs? Get in touch here.
Photo Credit: Ignite Stoves & Fires.
We welcome spent coffee grounds from London Stansted airport
We’ll be recycling around 150 tonnes of spent grounds annually, saving +85 tonnes of CO2e emissions.
bio-bean and the UN Sustainable Development Goals
To mark United Nations Day our Director and CFO, Peter Griffiths, has written a blog to explain how we at bio-bean align with the Sustainable Development Goals.
If you were to find Richard Curtis, Queen Mathilde of Belgium and Jack Ma in a temporary office building at the edge of a now disused RAF runway alongside two former aircraft hangars that house bio-bean’s coffee grounds recycling plant, the UN Headquarters in New York would feel a long way away and the concept of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) even further .
And yet within the corrugated iron walls of the above-mentioned aircraft hangars – hangars that once housed the U2 spy plane – we at bio-bean are working at a new frontline. A frontline that those who conceived of the SDGs would, we believe, find inspiring and aligned with their thinking when they launched the Goals.
For, in our considered opinion, bio-bean’s coffee grounds recycling plant and our extensive research and development into maximising the value extracted from coffee grounds encapsulate a number of the SDGs. Indeed, when we read through the 17 SDGs, goal after goal chimes with the company’s values and our own goals. How many of the SDGs are we clearly aligned with, we ask ourselves. Four, six, eight or more? Good Jobs & Economic Growth, Innovation & Infrastructure, Sustainable Cities & Communities, Responsible Consumption & Production and Life on Land are all goals that unquestionably our work contributes to. But there’s also Gender Equality, Clean Energy and Climate Action that we believe are relevant and are facets of what we do.
We didn’t plan it this way. Until today we’ve never consciously referenced our activities to the SDGs, let alone sought to generate our mission or objectives from the Goals. But the fact that, seemingly independently, we have found ourselves so closely aligned with the Goals is a source of great optimism. Optimism not only that our purpose, to create big change that lasts, can be impactful far beyond just our direct stakeholders, but also that the SDGs are a tool that resonate in unlikely parts of the globe – such as a former home to spy planes – by addressing the activities being undertaken by small businesses such as our own.
While sustainability is at the heart of everything we do, our alignment with the SDGs was not a conscious effort. But when we recently undertook a company values exercise, a very consistent set of beliefs and drivers for why people work at bio-bean and how they perceive the company emerged. Much like our unlikely location, our team is made up of anything but what one might imagine a tech start-up business team to consist of. We are an industrial scale recycler and manufacturer. We give good jobs, produce sustainably, innovate and give substantial consideration to our community because doing so is important to our management, motivates the people who work for the company and helps us achieve the best results possible.
Our insight into the SDGs is that doing the right thing for sustainable development is the right thing for a well-run business to do, and that as our recent work to define our values taught us, the aims of the SDGs are embedded within so many of our employees, even those who may never have heard of them.
bio-bean food-grade spent coffee grounds are kosher and halal certified
bio-bean has achieved both kosher and halal certifications this month for our food-grade spent coffee grounds, which we use to create natural flavouring products for the food and beverage industry.
The halal and kosher certifications apply specifically to food-grade spent coffee grounds collected via our unique and first-of-its-kind supply chain model, which features spent grounds from a traceable and segregated source. Our supply chain keeps the spent coffee grounds within the food cycle throughout the collections and processing procedures.
What does kosher certification mean?
Our kosher certificate attests that our food-grade spent coffee grounds are pareve (neutral) and satisfy the biblical doctrine of the Jewish religion, making them suitable for use in food and drink products destined for Jewish consumers.
We obtained the kosher certification from Badatz Igud Rabbonim (BIR) after completing successful checks attesting that our food-grade spent coffee grounds and processing environment are free from:
• all dairy-derived materials;
• all meat derived materials;
• all fish-derived materials, including shell food; and
• grape-derived materials.
What does halal certification mean?
Our halal certificate is a guarantee that our spent coffee grounds comply with the Islamic law and therefore are suitable for use in finished products destined for Muslim consumers.
We obtained the halal certification after completing a successful series of tests, and in our case attests that our food-grade spent coffee grounds and processing environment are free from:
• alcohol, such as ethanol, and all liquid and solid intoxicants;
• all insect-derived products such as shellac, cochineal etc;
• human-derived products such as L-cysteine;
• blood and blood-derived products such as plasma;
• all animal-derived products such as fats, oils, gelatine etc., unless obtained from halal sources or specifically authorised by the UK’s Halal Monitoring Committee (HMC); and
• ingredients produced from genetically modified organisms.
Why are kosher and halal certifications needed?
The kosher and halal markets represent a lucrative opportunity for food and beverage manufacturers as they are expected to reach a combined $9.7 Trillion (£7.8 Trillion) by 2025. However, trading in kosher and halal markets requires having the appropriate certifications in place.
In our globalised market, obtaining halal and kosher certificates enables food and beverage manufacturers to label their finished products accurately and to, therefore, expand their sales to additional consumer segments.
Jo Doyle, our HSEQ Systems Leader said: “We’re proud to have achieved kosher and halal certifications as these will enable our clients to use the food-grade spent coffee grounds we process in a greater number of end products, offering Muslim and Jewish consumers comprehensive traceability.”
You can find more information on our natural flavouring products derived from food-grade spent coffee grounds here.