There’s no such thing as waste coffee!
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 goes to landfill where it generates harmful greenhouse gas emissions, such as methane, contributing to climate change.
Globally individuals, businesses, and governments are making significant efforts 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 98 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. This results 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. Or they’re sent to anaerobic digestion or incineration, disposal methods which don’t utilise the full potential of the grounds as a resource.
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 in the UK, large and small, to transform these spent coffee grounds into value at an industrial scale, giving new life to this material previously considered waste.
Since starting in 2013, we’ve recycled over 30,000 tonnes of spent coffee grounds!
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 plastics and bio-plastics, cosmetics, automotive friction, packaging, and more. And our biomass solid fuels, including Coffee Logs, exploit the naturally high calorific value of spent coffee grounds, providing sustainable alternatives to carbon-heavy coal-based fuels, virgin biomass, and imported wood logs.
Our coffee recycling and renewals service reduces the financial implications and inefficiencies of traditional disposal methods, whilst achieving significant environmental benefits. Our solution saves businesses money, reduces waste and subsequent greenhouse gas emissions, and contributes to the circular economy.
To us, there’s no such thing as waste coffee. Rather, it’s only a resource typically sent to the wrong place.
Start the simple step of recycling your business’s spent coffee grounds by contacting us today.
This blog has been updated from the original, posted 9th September 2020.
Is recycling waste coffee grounds the best choice?
The UK drinks 98 million cups of coffee every day, creating around 250,000 tonnes of waste coffee grounds every year. So what happens to all that waste coffee, and is there a better choice?
What typically happens to spent coffee grounds?
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 £98.60/tonne) 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 grounds to landfill, where they emit harmful greenhouse gases including methane. Methane is 25 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 (AD) plants with other food waste where, in the absence of oxygen, microorganisms break down biodegradable material for managing waste or producing 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 combined with food waste are sometimes 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.
bio-bean’s coffee recycling solution saves money and greenhouse gas emissions
Of those three disposal methods, AD makes best use of the grounds. At bio-bean, however, we are able to do even better. We 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 greenhouse gas emissions.
We don’t charge a gate fee at our recycling facility. So by removing heavy, wet grounds from general or food waste, there is a potential financial savings for businesses who choose to instead recycle their grounds through us.
And an independent life cycle assessment recently completed for bio-bean shows that sending coffee grounds to our factory for recycling into our various products produces 228% less CO2e emissions than sending them to AD!
Even nationwide coffee shop chains choose bio-bean
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 6 years, recycling nearly 23,000 tonnes of their spent coffee thus far. Oliver Rosevear, former Head of Environment at Costa, said “our ground-breaking work with bio-bean enables us to put thousands of tonnes of Costa coffee grounds to work, diverting 37% by weight of all our waste and thus saving 5,100 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.
To find out more about recycling your business’s spent coffee grounds, contact your waste management provider or get in touch with us today.
This blog has been updated from the original, posted 29th August 2019.
Natural coffee flavour extract from spent coffee grounds: a sustainable ingredient solution
The flavours and fragrances sector is a vast industry that pulls significant resources from our planet. So as awareness of climate change spreads, and the need for sustainable change has become critical across all industries, there is now growing demand for natural alternatives which can deliver the same profiles as synthetic additives, with no compromise on quality, but with a more sustainable model than virgin sourced materials.
Spent coffee grounds retain flavour and fragrance compounds
The process of roasting green coffee beans generates the volatile chemical compounds responsible for coffee’s famed flavour and aroma. But 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. This makes them an ideal feedstock for sustainable natural flavouring products by 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 can produce natural flavouring products for deployment in the food and beverage industry.
Spent grounds are a clean raw material feedstock
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 residual volatile aroma compounds from the spent grounds, yielding high-quality extracts for use as sustainable, natural flavouring ingredients 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 vast range of applications across multiple FMCG sectors.
Spent coffee grounds are a sustainable solution to virgin and synthetic flavour extracts
So how do our natural coffeee 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. Through our proprietary extraction methodology we selectively extract these compounds and ensure that the ratios of this key group of aroma compounds are maintained.
By displacing conventional 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.
To find out more about our natural coffee flavouring extracts from spent coffee grounds, visit the Natural Flavours page on our website.
This blog has been updated from the original, posted 29th August 2019.
A sustainable biomass pellet fuel made from spent coffee grounds
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 by-product from the production of a cup of coffee, most often which are wastefully discarded. And with 98 million cups of the hot beverage drunk every day in the UK alone, that means around a quarter of 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.
This blog has been updated from the original, posted 28th August 2019
The significant value of spent coffee grounds
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 98 million of those cups. With an estimated average of 11 grams of fresh ground coffee going into each cup, around 393,500 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 decompose and 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.
In some cases spent grounds are sent to anaerobic digestion along with food waste. But at high volumes, spent coffee grounds have been shown to inhibit the desired biomethane production. Not to mention they sink to the bottom of AD ‘bellies’ and require scooping out and discarding afterall.
As the world’s love of coffee 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, packaging, 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-based smokeless fuels 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.
This blog has been updated from the original, posted 28th August 2019
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.
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.