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 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 500,000 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 34 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.
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.
Coffee grounds are also high in calorific value, meaning they burn hot… very hot. In fact, they burn 20% hotter and longer than conventional dry wood fuels. And they avoid the carbon-heavy footprint associated with coal.
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.
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, with plans to triple the volume of grounds processed over the coming 2-3 years.
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.
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.