Zero Waste Week: There’s no such thing as waste coffee!
This week marks the 14th annual Zero Waste Week: a prime opportunity to shed light on our collective manufacturing and consumption habits and the innovative alternatives that are making sustainable choices accessible and impossible to ignore.
In brief, Zero Waste Week is an international awareness campaign providing a focus for anyone looking to reduce their volume of waste. The campaign challenges and encourages participants to make pledges for new habits and exchange ideas for upcycling and recycling. This campaign, and others like it, plays a crucial role in raising the global awareness and support required to create the large-scale behaviour change needed for a significant and sustainable impact.
According to the World Bank, we currently generate over 2 billion tonnes of solid waste globally each year, with projections reaching 3.4 billion tonnes by 2050. Almost 40% of that waste is disposed of in landfills where it generates harmful greenhouse gas emissions, such as methane, contributing to climate change.
There are significant efforts being made globally to cut waste from plastics, food and textiles, but what about the hidden waste streams that go unnoticed?
Coffee doesn’t have to be wasteful
Let’s take, for example, coffee. The world’s love of coffee means that globally we consume over 2.25 billion cups of coffee every day. The UK alone accounts for 95 million of those daily cups. And with an estimated average of 11 grams of fresh ground coffee going into each cup, a staggering 9 million tonnes of ground coffee are brewed round the world every year, resulting in an estimated 18 million tonnes of wet, waste coffee grounds. But once the coffee’s been poured what happens to all those spent grounds?
Typically, spent coffee grounds are dumped into general waste and sent to landfill where they emit methane – a greenhouse gas 25 times more potent than carbon dioxide and one of the primary causes of global warming. This level of detrimental waste is a calamity in itself, but as the world’s love of coffee is unlikely to wane, it’s crucial we find ways to recycle, renew and reuse this byproduct.
bio-bean’s sustainable solutions for coffee waste
Here at bio-bean, we’re proud to be the world’s largest recycler of coffee grounds. We work with companies, big or small, in the UK to transform these spent coffee grounds into value at an industrial scale, giving new life to this material previously considered waste.
Over the years we’ve developed the technology and processes to upcycle spent coffee grounds into a range of sustainable bio-product solutions for both consumer and industrial markets.
We extract residual compounds from food-grade spent coffee grounds, producing a natural, sustainable flavouring ingredient for the food and beverage industry. Our bulk raw material, Inficaf, is perfect for product innovations in industries such as bio-plastics, cosmetics and automotive friction. And our biomass solid fuels exploit the naturally high calorific value of spent coffee grounds, providing sustainable alternatives to carbon-heavy coal and virgin biomass.
Our coffee recycling and renewals service reduces the financial implications and inefficiencies of traditional disposal methods, whilst achieving significant environmental benefits. Since starting in 2013, we’ve recycled nearly 30,000 tonnes of spent coffee grounds, saving businesses money, reducing waste and subsequent greenhouse gas emissions, and contributing to the circular economy.
Achieving zero waste might sound easier said than done, but the simple step of recycling your business’s spent coffee grounds is a good place to start. Contact us to get started today.
bio-bean is sponsoring Flavorcon
With our newest product offering, a natural flavouring extracted from food-grade spent coffee grounds for the food and beverage industries, we’re sponsoring and attending Flavorcon in November 2019. Hosted in Cincinnati, Ohio, in the US this year, Flavorcon is a two-day conference and exhibition focused on organoleptic science & technology, ingredient trends, market insights, and product development for the flavour industry.
All presented by global thought leaders, this tailored event attracts attendees from around the world, including flavour, food and beverage innovators, connecting technical and business expertise with the latest insights into trends, ingredients, formulations, research and technology.
Our Company Director and Chief Commercial Officer, George May, will be speaking at the conference on Monday, 11th November, at 11:50am. He’ll be discussing how spent coffee grounds contain residual value that we’ve harnessed into a sustainable natural flavouring component for foods and beverages, and how our sustainable alternative to virgin or synthetic products offers improved environmental performance, clean labelling and the potential for unique flavour profiles.
We’ll be exhibiting at the conference as well. Stop by booth 416 to sample our latest product and to hear more about our bio-bean Naturals flavouring innovations.
Flavorcon runs 11-12th November. For more information about the conference and to register for tickets, visit the show’s website.
Is recycling waste coffee grounds the best choice?
The UK drinks 95 million cups of coffee every day, creating around 500,000 tonnes of waste coffee grounds every year. So what happens to all that waste coffee, and is there a better choice?
Of course some businesses set aside a small volume of their waste coffee grounds for customers to take home as garden fertiliser. In small amounts the grounds can also make a great homemade exfoliant.
But typically, heavy wet coffee grounds often end up in general waste, which usually goes to landfill. In the UK, a landfill tax (currently around £88.95/tonne and increasing to £94.15/tonne from 1st April 2020) is levied on landfill site operators, who pass this cost on to their customers via higher collection fees. Additionally, waste management companies regularly charge for contaminated dry mixed recycling.
Not to mention the environmental damage of sending waste coffee gorunds to landfill, where they emit harmful greenhouse gases including methane. Methane is 34 times more potent than carbon dioxide over a 100 year period, and one of the leading causes of climate change.
Waste coffee grounds can also be sent off to anaerobic digestion plants where, in the absence of oxygen, microorganisms break down biodegradable material for managing waste or producting fuel. But this isn’t ideal, either. Some AD plants don’t like a high volume of used coffee grounds in their process as the grounds tend to sink to the bottom of the ‘belly’, inhibiting the rate of biomethane production.
Alternatively, waste grounds are incinerated for purposes of energy generation. While incinerating coffee grounds is better than sending them to landfill, it is still not the best use of this resource (not least because they are wet). Incinerating spent coffee grounds does not harness the material’s full potential.
However, at bio-bean we are able to fully utilise this discarded resource by removing heavy, wet coffee grounds from the wider waste stream and recycling them into a number of sustainable, circular-economy focused, high-performance bio-products. Not only does our coffee disposal and recycling service generate significant savings for businesses, it also saves on emissions.
An independent life cycle assessment completed for bio-bean shows that sending coffee grounds to our factory for recycling into our branded solid fuel briquettes, Coffee Logs, generates 80% less CO2e emissions than sending them to landfill, and 70% less CO2e emissions than sending them to AD.
One of our longest standing customers is Costa Coffee, the leading UK coffee retail chain (bought by Coca-Cola in 2018) with whom we have been working for over 3 years, recycling over 10,000 tonnes of spent coffee thus far. Oliver Rosevear, Head of Environment at Costa, says “our ground-breaking work with bio-bean has enabled us to put thousands of tonnes of Costa coffee grounds to work, diverting 37% by weight of all our waste and thus saving 4,500 tonnes of CO2e emissions. This has made a real impact to our environmental credentials, helping to gain us the official status of the UK’s most ethical coffee shop.”
It is clear that recycling waste coffee through bio-bean is the best commercial and environmental choice for coffee disposal.
Spent coffee grounds: a sustainable solution to virgin and synthetic extracts
The flavours and fragrances sector is a vast industry that will continue to pull significant resources from our planet, but F&F houses will not compromise on the quality they offer their customers. There is growing demand for natural alternatives which can deliver the same profiles as synthetic additives, but with a more sustainable model than virgin sourced materials.
Where the process of roasting green coffee beans generates the volatile chemical compounds responsible for coffee’s famed flavour and aroma, brewing the coffee grounds does not fully exhaust those compounds. In fact, spent coffee grounds still retain up to a third of the volatile aroma compounds as contained in the fresh roasted beans, making them an ideal feedstock for sustainable natural flavouring products and displacing the need for virgin and synthetic products.
Through the implementation of our innovative supply chain model, we work within the existing logistics infrastructure in the UK to collect spent coffee grounds from businesses at every scale, ensuring the grounds remain within the food chain throughout the entire collection and renewing process. With these food-grade spent coffee grounds we are producing natural flavouring products for deployment in the food and beverage industry.
Spent coffee grounds lend themselves perfectly to being processed as a separate raw material feedstock. They are a naturally clean feedstock, segregated at source by baristas and bean-to-cup machines, and are readily identifiable. From the barista preparing the coffee and depositing the used grounds into specified food-grade coffee bags through to bio-bean manufacturing our natural flavouring products, the grounds stay within the food chain.
Once the grounds reach the processing plant, they are screened to the required specification and undergo a patent-pending green extraction process. This process separates the before-mentioned residual volatile aroma compounds from the spent grounds, yielding high-quality extracts for application as sustainable, natural flavouring components in foods and beverages. We are thus able to introduce coffee’s original, natural and non-depleted chemical compounds back into the supply chain as an ingredient which has a plethora of applications across multiple FMCG sectors.
So how do our natural flavouring extracts from spent grounds differ from virgin coffee extracts? While some of the key compounds responsible for the characteristic coffee flavour and taste are extracted at the brewing stage, the residual compounds that we are able to efficiently extract give our products a unique profile and composition. This massively widens the scope of potential product applications compared to traditional extracts from virgin coffee beans.
What bio-bean receives as a raw material are coffee grounds, previously seen as waste, containing the bulk of the more desirable and abundant compounds found in coffee, which include pyrazines – the second most abundant class of compounds present within coffee, contributing to its key characteristic flavours. Our proprietary extraction methodology allows us to selectively extract these compounds and ensure that the ratios of this key group of aroma compounds are maintained.
By displacing currently used virgin and synthesised ingredients that drain the world’s natural resource base, we are connecting the two ends of the linear economy into a circular model. Oliver Rosevear, Head of Environment at Costa Coffee (the leading UK coffee retail chain with whom we’ve been working for over 3 years), says “Costa is looking forward to investigating the potential of bio-bean’s natural coffee flavourings within our own products, as this would complete the circular journey of our grounds.”
Sustainable business no longer optional
Sustainability: the latest buzz word. From fair trade sourcing to single-use plastics, the environmental, economic and health impacts of retail products are under growing scrutiny. When it comes to what they put into and onto their bodies, consumers are increasingly demanding greater responsibility and transparency from both businesses and governments. People, planet and profit are hot on the agenda as impacts from climate change, overstretched natural resources and the swelling global population are reaching untenable limits. These hot topics are becoming immovable front-page news with the need for decisive action becoming ever more immediate and absolute.
With influence from corporate giants like Paul Polman, former Unilever chief executive, calling for businesses to champion the UN Sustainable Development Goals, through to 15-year-old Greta Thunberg organising the global school strike for climate, momentum is reaching all corners of the globe at a rate hereto unseen. As Polman has said, “it is time to move from ‘CSR’ – corporate social responsibility – to ‘RSC’ – responsible, social corporations. Frankly, the citizens of this world are demanding this. ‘Less bad’, which is still the CSR camp, is simply not good enough anymore.”
Businesses big and small are responding to this consumer demand for greater sustainability, examining their supply chains, production, facilities and policies to create effective, impactful solutions to satisfy all stakeholders. Plastics are being reimagined, alternative energies are being deployed, chemical and synthetic ingredients are being pushed aside for fair trade, natural and organic options to take the lead.
From clean labelling to improved waste management, businesses are increasingly incorporating sustainability into their strategies. The United Nations’ 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, set in 2015 and adopted by country leaders around the world, sets out 17 Sustainable Development Goals as a call for action by all stakeholders to ‘promote prosperity while protecting the planet’. The Resolution adopted by the UN General Assembly states: “We are determined to take the bold and transformative steps which are urgently needed to shift the world on to a sustainable and resilient path. As we embark on this collective journey, we pledge that no one will be left behind.”
Many businesses have responded to this call for action by setting their own sustainability agendas and pushing forward with progressive and innovative change to the status quo. However, there are many still dragging their feet. An eight-year review of corporate sustainability conducted by MIT Sloan Management Review and The Boston Consulting Group demonstrated that whereas 90% of executives find sustainability to be important, only 25% of businesses have sustainability built into their business model. “Only a handful of standout companies are demonstrating that sustainability can be a driver of innovation, efficiency, and lasting business value.”
At bio-bean, sustainability is at the heart of everything we do. We’re about creating a real difference for our world by sustainably innovating through coffee waste. And we believe behaviour change, particularly throughout industry, is the absolute central tenement to sustainability and to seeking to reverse, or at least slow down, the past damaging effects of our global economy.
In other words, good business and sustainability can no longer be considered mutually exclusive. They are one in the same: positive sustainable action just makes good business sense.
bio-bean is exhibiting at Glee
In just under two weeks, our Coffee Logs sales team are heading to Glee (Garden, Leisure, Equipment, Exhibition), the UK’s largest and most valuable garden and outdoor living trade show.
Glee is a showcase of fresh and exciting new products, innovations and inspiring insights within the garden retail sector. The team will be exhibiting our consumer retail brand of solid fuel briquettes – Coffee Logs – which are sold in DIY stores, supermarkets and garden centres across the UK.
Coffee Logs are a sustainable, high-performing fire log made of recycled coffee. They burn with high efficiency in multi-fuel stoves or wood burners (20% hotter and longer than kiln-dried wood!) and are an ideal solution for displacing conventional fossil fuels and imported wood.
Glee will be running 10-12th September at the NEC in Birmingham. Buyers, stop by stand 6S19 for more information about our coffee fire logs and to sign up for our prize draw to win one free pallet of Coffee Logs.
For more information about Glee and to register for your free ticket, visit the show’s website.
Pellet fuel made from waste coffee grounds offers a sustainable solution for industry
It has become clear that burning carbon-heavy fossil fuels in the form of coal, oil and gas is no longer an option given the state of our climate, and that we must continue to find innovative and sustainable methods to generate energy. One such method is biomass. Using this bio-fuel to generate heat is not only cost effective, but a powerful tool in moving towards a low carbon economy.
Typically we think of biomass fuel in the form of wood logs, chips or pellets but there are many other sources of renewable low carbon fuel, many of which have the benefit of being a by-product of other industries. Therefore they are deemed advanced / second generation biofuels. And as we look for ways to transition from fossil fuels to lower carbon alternatives, we start to discover innovative uses for a number of residues formerly perceived of as waste.
Some examples across industry include: olive pomace – the waste from olive oil production; paper pulp recovered from paper mills; oat husk and coconut shells from the food processing industry; and cotton waste from textile manufacturing. Quick, fast-growing land crops such as straw and miscanthus are also increasingly used for biomass energy generation.
These are just some of the alternative raw materials that are being pelletised to create clean, low-carbon energy.
But at bio-bean, we’ve found another alternative: recycled coffee grounds. Heavy, wet grounds are the unavoidable waste from the production of a cup of coffee. And with 95 million cups of the hot beverage drunk every day in the UK alone, that means nearly half a million tonnes of waste grounds are created every year. These grounds, once decontaminated, dried and pelletised, become a ‘super’ fuel: highly calorific, consistent and well suited to burn in large commercial and industrial-sized boilers. They are also Sustainable Fuel Register accredited and therefore eligible for the RHI.
Our coffee pellets are used to heat commercial green houses, to dry cereal crops and create process steam in large-scale dairies. In most cases traditional oil or gas boilers have been removed and replaced with modern, efficient biomass boilers. Anywhere there is a need for large quantities of thermal heat there is a place for renewable low carbon biomass energy. And our coffee pellets offer the perfect, sustainable solution, diverting as much waste coffee grounds away from landfill as possible, displacing fossil fuels and helping to decarbonise industrial businesses across the UK.
The significant value of spent coffee grounds
Updated 2nd July 2021
Coffee – the ubiquitous drink that transcends all political and geographical boundaries, bringing the world’s morning warriors and late-night labourers together in a ritual daily sigh of caffeinated relief. The world population drinks over 2.25 billion cups of coffee every day. The UK alone is responsible for 95 million of those cups. With an estimated average of 11 grams of fresh ground coffee going into each cup, around 381,000 tonnes of ground coffee are brewed every year, resulting in an estimated quarter of a million tonnes of wet, waste coffee grounds. But once the coffee’s been poured what happens to all those spent grounds?
Typically, spent coffee grounds are dumped into general waste and sent to landfill where they emit methane – a greenhouse gas 25 times more potent than carbon dioxide over a 100-year period, and one of the primary causes of global warming. This level of detrimental waste is a calamity in itself, but as the world’s coffee drinking habit is unlikely to wane, let’s take a closer look at this material we’re treating as waste and examine what we’re really throwing away in those grounds.
There is residual value in spent coffee grounds
The process of roasting green coffee beans generates hundreds of volatile chemical compounds responsible for the unmistakable flavour and aroma of the world’s favourite hot drink. Not to mention the oils, caffeine and range of other beneficial compounds (such as antioxidants) that exist within the beans. Brewing the coffee grounds, as it turns out, does not fully exhaust those compounds within. In fact, spent coffee grounds still retain up to a third of the volatile aroma and flavour compounds as contained in the fresh roasted beans.
Spent coffee grounds also make for a versatile and sustainable bulk raw material. They can be used to displace virgin or synthetic, often petroleum-based elements in plastics, printing inks, cosmetics, textiles and more.
Coffee grounds are also high in calorific value, meaning they burn hot… very hot. In fact, when compressed into fire logs they burn 20% hotter than conventional dry wood fuels. And they avoid the carbon-heavy footprint associated with coal or mass-imported wood logs.
In other words, there is still significant value remaining in spent coffee grounds – value which to date has not yet been fully realised.
Throwing away this precious natural resource that still has broad and significant value and applications across a number of industries is a superfluous act of consumption that perfectly demonstrates the take, make, dispose approach of our current linear economic structure. Sure, low volumes of spent coffee grounds can be great for fertilising domestic gardens, but until the past few years, spent coffee grounds have been largely overlooked as a valid, sustainable resource on an industrial scale.
bio-bean’s solution for valorising spent coffee
Enter bio-bean. We’re the world’s largest coffee recycling company, processing thousands of tonnes of spent coffee grounds every year into sustainable bio-products for a circular economy.
We work within the existing logistics and waste management infrastructure in the UK to collect these spent grounds from businesses at every scale, from leading coffee chains and large transport hubs to office buildings, instant coffee manufacturers, restaurants and small independent cafés. Once the grounds are tipped at our facility in Cambridgeshire, we process and upcycle them, ready for reuse in a variety of products for both industry and consumers.
There really is no such thing as waste, only value that hasn’t yet been extracted.
For more information on our coffee recycling service, visit the Renewals page on our website.