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.
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.”
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.