Future of the Environment

This start-up is making a palm oil alternative from used coffee grounds

Dan Streetman, vice president of wholesale and coffee buyer for Irving Farm Coffee Roasters, holds a handful of La Bendicion coffee beans from Nicaragua at Irving Farm in the Manhattan borough of New York September 23, 2014. For the first time in three years, Streetman is buying coffee beans in bulk from Colombia, exploiting low comparative prices and reflecting new flexibility by U.S. roasters who had become over reliant on a single country for premium arabica. Streetman, the buyer for New York City-based specialty roaster and retailer Irving Farm Coffee Roasters, stopped ordering from the South American country in 2011 as disease devastated crops, supplies became erratic and prices soared. Instead he bought more from El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras. Now, leaf rust fungus, known as roya, is threatening Central America's crops, lifting the cost for many of those grades above Colombia's for the first time in more than eight years, according to Reuters data on physical coffee prices, which are expressed as differentials above or below New York futures. To match story USA-COFFEE/ROASTERS     Picture taken September 23, 2014.  REUTERS/Carlo Allegri (UNITED STATES - Tags: BUSINESS AGRICULTURE COMMODITIES) - GF2EA9N1JLO01

Brew the future. Image: REUTERS/Carlo Allegri

Douglas Broom
Senior Writer, Forum Agenda
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The world drinks more than 2.25 billion cups of coffee every day. Brewing that much coffee generates half a million metric tonnes of used grounds in the UK alone. Globally, more than 6 million tonnes of this waste goes to landfill.

Image: Mintel

Working in coffee shops while studying at university in Scotland, Fergus Moore and Scott Kennedy saw the scale of waste first-hand. So they set up Revive Eco, a Glasgow-based company dedicated to ending what they say is “a catastrophic waste of resources”.

They have already designed products to improve soils and are now extracting oils from coffee waste, which they say are of comparable quality to commercial alternatives.

A sustainable alternative to palm oil is among the products Moore and Kennedy are working on. They say their oil is environmentally friendly and has potential applications in food, drinks, cosmetics and pharmaceuticals.

Palm oil has been blamed for the destruction of rainforests in Malaysia and Indonesia. Greenpeace says rising global demand is leading to an area the size of a football pitch being cut down every 25 seconds in Indonesia’s rainforest to make way for palm oil plantations.

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Revive Eco has already won awards, including earning the founders the title of Young Scottish Entrepreneurs of the Year. They have been selected as finalists in the 2019 Chivas Venture social start-up awards with a prize fund of $1 million.

“For us, success is a blend of like-minded individuals striving towards creating a more circular way of living and working together to build a greener future,” Kennedy says. “We’re changing the coffee industry for ever.”

Image: Ellen MacArthur Foundation

A report by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation for the World Economic Forum’s Platform for Accelerating the Circular Economy (PACE) says global cities could generate annual benefits worth $2.7 trillion by 2050 if they created a circular economy for food.

The report calls for an end to “the ‘linear’ nature of modern food production, which extracts finite resources, is wasteful and polluting, and harms natural systems”.

Revive Eco has partnered with Scottish recycling start-up Cauda to organise collection of coffee waste from cafes, restaurants and offices across Scotland.

As well as reducing CO2 emissions from landfill, Moore and Scott say their business will become a major source of sustainable natural oils.

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Future of the EnvironmentClimate ChangeSustainable Development
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