Coffee waste – more precious than gold


Bio-bean collects coffee waste and turns it into a valuable resource.


For many of us the journey of the coffee starts and begins at the coffee shop each morning. But there is way more to it than just the barista who prepares the majestic liquid many rely on to wake up and begin their day.4


Waste coffee grounds are delivered to bio-bean's Alconbury factory. © bio-bean limited

Coffee has long been a drink that people admire and it is no wonder that there are tons of it being produced every year. The supply chain behind all well-known and private coffee houses is complex and requires special skills and knowledge. Trained professionals travel around the world to gather the best produce and the industry gives work to millions of people. Farmers in many African countries heavily rely on coffee to make a living and escape poverty and crime.

Trained professionals travel around the world to gather the best produce...

Usually when we talk about coffee’s supply chain we look at how farmers grow it, how much they are paid and how the beans make their way to large facilities where they are being sold and then delivered to factories, stores and our homes. The other end is generally being underestimated as coffee waste is less aroma-filled and interesting.


British born

The British born company bio-bean works specifically at what is perceived as the end of the cycle where coffee is put in large plastic bags and dumped at the back of most stores. Matt Keniston, Head of Waste Coffee Recycling with bio-bean, explains how coffee can be used for many more products after its original purpose.

Once the customer is served, their coffee waste is collected in plastic bags that are stored usually in the back of most coffee shops.

bio-bean work with multiple partners from the coffee and logistics industry to create a unique supply chain that can process large amounts of waste in an effective way. The journey of the coffee waste depends on where it is sourced from. Large clients of the company are high street coffee chains like Costa Coffee, the universities in Cambridge and Birmingham, Network Rail and many more. Once the customer is served, their coffee waste is collected in plastic bags that are stored usually in the back of most coffee shops. From there they await collection by logistics companies specialising in handling waste materials. The waste is then transported to facilities to be finally shipped to the bio-bean plant.


Coffee Logs are perfect for woodburners and multi-fuel stoves. © bio-bean limited

Upon entering the plant the waste needs to be separated from the plastic bags. Although the separation process is not complicated it can be slowed down due to other types of waste finding their way into the chamber. The whole work is disrupted only by a single bag of inappropriate waste like paper for example, explains Matt Keniston.


Better than gold

If everything goes according to plan the coffee waste is then dried to remove all moisture from it. This stage is critical and the company is dedicated to drying out its most precious material carefully. In order to keep the production line as CO2-negative as possible bio-bean doesn’t use fossil fuels for the drying. At the end of the stage the coffee waste resembles a thick paste and can be used for different products. The company has started extracting valuable compounds from the coffee that can be used as extracts in different industries and are a basis for common goods like fragrances. However, the most popular product that is produced is Coffee Logs.

Each log is made from the grounds of 25 cups of coffee.

bio-bean partners with waste management companies to collect coffee grounds at every scale. © bio-bean limited

Compared to traditional fuels and wood logs, Coffee Logs are much more efficient. They produce more heat, burn for longer and displace the need for conventional virgin wood and fossil fuels. Each log is made from the grounds of 25 cups of coffee. Two of them can last hours longer than normal logs. There is no smell, assures Keniston. Coffee Logs are perfect for woodburners and stoves, and are available to purchase from Morrison’s, the online retailer Ocado, B&Q, Amazon and garden centres across the UK.


Industrial usage

Apart from the logs the company produces biomass pellets used by industrial companies to power their biomass boilers. They provide the same benefits as the Coffee Logs and save a lot of the cost.

Finding the first customers and partners was not an easy task. As pioneers in the field bio-bean had to overcome many obstacles. Keniston says that he spent the first years talking to people and explaining what the company does. At first many saw it as a novelty but after six years bio-bean has established itself and more organisations are reaching out.

Companies that have a strong eco-friendly attitude are gaining popularity and improving their image.

There are many benefits for those that decided to work with a company like bio-bean. As the price of sending waste to landfill is constantly increasing, using a company that can recycle and reuse the waste is becoming a desired option. Another important factor that drives many firms to recycle the coffee is the growing customers’ awareness of how waste is being processed. Companies that have a strong eco-friendly attitude are gaining popularity and improving their image.


No waste

In the years to come the company became an important part of the supply chain in an industry that produces hundreds of thousands of tons of waste each year. Not reusing it means that the waste coffee grounds are typically sent to landfill, where they emit dangerous greenhouse gases such as methane, which is 28 times more potent that carbon dioxide.

The company operates under the philosophy that there is no such thing as waste and only ‘materials in the wrong place’.


bio-bean's factory can recycle 50,000 Tonnes per year. © bio-bean limited

As Keniston says, bio-bean is careful how it uses its most precious material and ensures coffee waste is not being carelessly disposed. All of that means that there is a need for special equipment that can operate on maximum capacity constantly. For that reason bio-bean have developed their own machines.

The company operates under the philosophy that there is no such thing as waste and only ‘materials in the wrong place’.

However, during the first year they heavily relied on equipment from other industries, as is a frequent case when you make your first steps in uncharted territories. The machines used in the beginning were quickly damaged by the coffee waste due to erosion, and that led to the creation of more durable and effective instruments to perform all the different stages.

In order for all that magic to happen bio-bean has employed a range of specialists with skills that cover logistics, managing, chemistry, recycling, and many more. The process, although sounding simple, requires knowledge and people who can understand the substance and its qualities.


Mature phase

Finding funding is another important step that companies like bio-bean need to address. Keniston explains that the first years saw the company operate more like a start-up but as it has managed to establish itself on the market and find trusted partners the organisation is now entering a more mature phase. Many investors have come to the company and it has recently managed to secure a large investment.

Looking into the future bio-bean is focused on how it can improve its current operations and convince more people to join their cause to use coffee in unorthodox ways. Keniston doesn’t believe they will enter another market as all efforts are on exploring coffee. However, he hopes that one day households can also become part of the network. Even though each of us produces a small amount of coffee waste compared to large organisations, when combined, households are a major player in the industry. How to collect private houses’ coffee waste is still an open question but Keniston believes that nothing is impossible.

#biobean #coffewaste #logistics

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