Innovations to Recycle Spent Coffee Grounds

Innovations to Recycle Spent Coffee Grounds

The coffee industry creates the second most traded good in the world, coffee. An estimated 90% of brewed coffee ends up as Spent Coffee Grounds (SCG). Up until recently, companies have been sending their grounds to the landfill. To maintain coffee’s immense presence in daily life, we must understand the impact the industry has on our environment and learn to recycle spent coffee grounds in new and innovative ways.

Maybe Familiar with Methane?

Methane, a powerful greenhouse gas, is the primary component of natural gas. Methane comes from the burning of fossil fuels, digestive processes of animals, and decomposing waste. In addition, landfills create the third biggest source of man-made methane emissions. Compared to carbon dioxide, methane is 30 times more harmful. Organic materials, or compostable items, comprise the largest component of municipal solid waste.

Coffee Can Absorb Methane Recycle Spent Coffee Grounds Achilles Coffee Roasters

Researchers in South Korea are utilizing the absorbency qualities of coffee grounds. Christian Kemp shows that spent coffee grounds have the capability to store large amounts of methane. Scientists combine the coffee grounds with potassium hydroxide, or lye. Then, they activate the mixture by heating it to 800 degrees Celsius. In less than a day, the team created a material that captures large amounts of carbon and methane. And, seeing as spent coffee grounds are everywhere, the materials are inexpensive. Coffee is a great absorber, allowing steps like filtering and washing in other methods to be eliminated. Recycling spent coffee grounds also makes a faster alternative to other carbon captures.

Kemp has shown that the same method could be used in natural gas-powered vehicles. The coffee ground mixture stores methane at low pressure, making it ideal to remove gas emissions from vehicles. This process creates the potential to eliminate the need for a gas tank.

Water for Coffee, or Coffee for Water?

In Italy, scientists from the Istituto Italiano di Tecnologia are using coffee sponges to filter heavy metals from water. Despina Fragouli and her team added sugar and silicone to spent coffee grounds. This created a sponge-like product. When soaked in water, the sugars escape so that the coffee can bind to metal ions in the water. After testing, researchers could conclude that the coffee sponge had the same efficiency as any commercial water filters on the market.

“It’s very important that we find new resources to make polymers-materials that are reusable and that can replace the petroleum-based materials we currently use.”Despina Fragouli

Coffee Doesn’t Just Fuel Us

In the United States alone, people drink about 400 million cups of coffee a day. That creates a lot of spent coffee grounds that could be repurposed. A U.K. based company called Bio-bean is reusing the coffee grounds to make biofuel. Each year, the U.K. wastes 500,000 tons of coffee grounds. First, Bio-bean combats this problem by partnering with existing waste management companies. These partners collect grounds from numerous locations and transport them to Bio-bean’s factory. There, workers recycle spent coffee grounds by extracting the oils and combining them with other fats. Then, Argent Energy creates biodiesel from these oils and combines it with mineral diesel. The B20 biodiesel formula provides 10-15% less CO2 emissions than regular diesel. Through Bio-bean, fleets of buses in London now run on the B20 biodiesel made from coffee.Recycling Spent Coffee Grounds into Biodiesel

Bio-bean makes a whole lot more than biodiesel from spent coffee grounds as well. They make coffee logs as an alternative heat source. These eco coffee logs are used in stoves and open fires and contain 20% more energy than wood. The company also makes biomass pellets. Scientists form these pellets from a byproduct of making the B20 biodiesel.

“The company is even exploring the possibility of selling these pellets back to coffee shops to be used to roast coffee or boil water, which would create a true circular economy, with waste becoming the input power for the production activities that created it.”-Duncan Pike,Roast Magazine

Coffee Grounds Recycling Loop

In 2007, Japanese government enforced a law that businesses in the food industry must reduce or recycle 50% of their food waste. This created many questions for the coffee giant Starbucks. So, Starbucks gathered a team, led by Yoshihito Nakagawa, to find a solution. The team conducted extensive research and decided to recycle the spent coffee grounds as feed for cattle. The company Menicon designed a lactic acid bacteria to break down coffee grounds turning it into cattle feed. This feed contains antioxidants from the coffee which helps prevent infections. The antioxidants also improves milking efficiency in cows. On the other end, Starbucks goes further by buying back the milk from the cows they created feed for.

When Starbucks doesn’t use spent coffee grounds for cattle feed, they use them to make fertilizer. In a matter of 5 years, the coffee giant recycled 1,300 tons of coffee back into the food system. Ultimately, the Japanese food law allowed about 82% of food waste to be reused. Moreover, through the help of larger companies like Starbucks, the food industry can help create more sustainable resources.

Recycle Spent Coffee Grounds at Home

Unfortunately, these companies use larger factories and advanced technologies to create these products from coffee. However, you can find ways to recycle spent coffee grounds on a smaller scale. Consumers easily tend to their own compost piles in the comfort of their own yards. Also, innovators create body scrubs, flea repellent, and even meat tenderizers. Therefore, consumers as well as larger companies can continue to contribute to a greener world by recycling spent coffee grounds.

Fixing The Great Pacific Garbage Patch

The Great Pacific Garbage Patch

In the North Pacific Ocean there are over 79,000 metric tons of floating debris. Humans have created this immense patch of trash which mainly consists of plastic. In addition to the huge amount of debris, scientists are concerned about the ability of the plastic to break down properly. In this modern day, humans are becoming more aware of alternatives to their current plastic consumption. However, efforts need to focus on getting rid of the trash we’ve already created. Therefore, scientists are creating a fix for the Great Pacific Garbage Patch.

Convenience or Crisis?

The first fully synthetic plastic took over in 1907. Leo Baekeland introduced Bakelite as an alternative electrical insulator. During this time, the United States was growing exponentially. Also, following World War II, the United States placed an immense emphasis on preserving natural resources. Scientists found numerous ways to make a plastic substitute for everything humans had previously known. With innovations such as nylon and plexiglass, U.S. plastic production during the 1950s increased by 300%. In almost every growing market, mass production of plastic through products like packaging, single-use items like straws and even replacing steel in cars created extreme convenience.

The possibilities of plastics gave some observers an almost utopian vision of a future with abundant material wealth thanks to an inexpensive, safe, sanitary substance that could be shaped by humans to their every whim.” –Science History Institute

Human Error in Innovation

However with great power, comes great responsibility. With all the excitement of an infinite world, manufacturers had no way to predict the impact that plastics would have. During the 1960s, the world’s awareness of environmental problems began to grow. This is also when plastic debris was first noticed to be contaminating oceans. Discovered in 1997 by Charles Moore, the Great Pacific Garbage Patch is the largest pile of floating trash.

Gyres Rule The Great Pacific Garbage Patch

But how did a patch of trash larger than the size of Texas go unnoticed? Before the 1970s, Americans had no real concept of the environmental impact of plastic pollution. In 1974, citizens of University City, Missouri offered the first curbside recycling program in the country. Before this, for more than 50 years of plastic production, proper plastic disposal had been almost nonexistent. Even more so, recycling plants that received recyclables mixed with trash sent all of it to landfills, with much of it ultimately finding its way to the waters.

The Science Behind Gyres

An ocean gyre is a system of circular ocean currents formed by the Earth’s wind patterns and the forces created by the rotation of the planet.”National Geographic

Fixing The Great Pacific Garbage Patch
Gyres create circular motions causing the debris to move to the center of the systems. In the center of the gyre, a stable point is reached where the plastic accumulates. And though these systems are natural forces, plastic is not. Therefore, the material that does not break down, remains stuck in the center of the gyre. People throughout the world make and use plastic. That means that gyres move water polluted by plastic across the globe. Ultimately, these natural systems have created not just the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, but five ocean areas that are now growing with plastic.


The Ocean Cleanup

In 2013, an 18 year old Boyan Slat founded The Ocean Cleanup. This non-profit organization is decreasing plastic marine debris through advanced technologies.

The Reality Through ResearchFixing The Great Pacific Garbage Patch

When the Great Pacific Garbage Patch was realized, scientists described the mass as “an island of plastic”. Although researchers have found large plastic debris, that is not all that is found. Although plastics do not degrade, they do break into smaller, thinner pieces. Sunlight creates chemical reactions which also cause the plastic to emit harmful toxins into the water. The National Ocean Service describes these microplastics as “small plastic pieces less than five millimeters long which can be harmful to our ocean and aquatic life.” The microplastics are nearly impossible to see and mistaken by marine life as food.

Through extensive research, The Ocean Cleanup obtained 1.2 million plastic samples from the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. Researchers gathered this plastic by dragging large nets behind 30 vessels through a portion of the area. It took interns over two years to study and classify every piece of plastic. They concluded that over 80kg of plastic grew into an area 3 times the size of France.

Hope On The Horizon

Boyan Slat has a plan for all of that plastic. The Ocean Cleanup will launch their plastic-collecting technology for the first time, starting September 19, 2018. Acting as a coastline, a 2,000 foot floating tube will attract surface debris. Then, boats will carry away this debris to be sorted and recycled. The Ocean Cleanup claims that this effort will clean up half of the debris in 5 years.

Critics of Slat’s technology show concern that collecting the plastic will not be enough. Jennifer Provencher believes in creating more methods to stop the flow of plastics into the ocean more so than eliminating the waste. Other critics say it would be wiser to focus on alternatives to petroleum-based plastics instead. In addition, the world must adapt to have better waste removing practices in the first place.

However, Boyan Slat and The Ocean Cleanup remain hopeful. With a design that considers marine life, the plastic-collecting technology is the biggest effort yet to eradicate the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. Our world has been creating and polluting plastics for far too long. On September 19th, the way the world deals with plastic in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch will change. With the help of this technology, we can begin to change the way we impact the earth we live on.

The Truth About Partially Hydrogenated Oils (PHO’s)

The Partially Hydrogenated Truth

Whether you’ve heard it from your doctor or your health-nut friend, partially hydrogenated oils are not good for you. As of June 18, 2018, the Food and Drug Administration prohibited most manufacturers from adding partially hydrogenated oils (or trans fats) to their products. However, the food industry is complicated and can be difficult to understand. So, here is the partially hydrogenated truth about fats in the food industry.

The Rise and Fall of Trans Fats

In the 1950’s following WWII, manufacturers made margarine; an alternative to butter with a longer shelf-life. Margarine also doesn’t require the use of cow products, making it a lot cheaper to make. Then, specialists began to catch on to saturated fats.

“Saturated fats are molecules that have no double bonds between carbon molecules because they are saturated with hydrogen molecules.”American Heart Association 2016

Both saturated and trans fats reside in animal products like beef, lamb, and dairy. However, the majority of trans fat consumed today are a product of manufacturing. When oils are hydrogenated, unsaturated fats combine with hydrogen molecules, creating trans fats. Food manufacturers use partially hydrogenated oils to increase texture and shelf-life of foods.

Coming Back to HealthAchilles-Coffee-Roasters-Partially-Hydrogenated-Truth

Hydrogenating oils increases the trans fat and saturated fat content of the product. Both types of fats increase “bad” LDL cholesterol while decreasing “good” HDL cholesterol levels. Increases in bad cholesterol can have negative effects on heart health. Also, trans fats and saturated fats can contribute to Type II diabetes and stroke. These fats reside in most baked goods, chips, crackers, doughnuts and animal products.

Up until the 1990’s there wasn’t a whole lot of information on trans fats. That’s why, even to this day, they remain in somewhat of a grey area.

The best way to avoid trans fats is by reading labels. Marketing in the food industry can be misleading and sometimes unclear. Occasionally, food manufacturers will advertise their product as having “No Trans Fats”. However, according to the FDA, companies could claim no trans fats if their product had 0.5 grams or less per serving. For instance, I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter claims 0 grams of trans fat. Compare that, to the ingredient list that lists partially hydrogenated soybean oil as the third ingredient. So, by reading the Nutrition Facts Panel consumers can clearly see what is going into the product they’re buying.Achilles-Coffee-Roasters-Partially-Hydrogenated-Truth

Fighting Against Big Food

So, what’s with the ban? Beginning in the 1990’s, nutrition advocacy groups started to put pressure on the industry to remove partially hydrogenated oils. And some 10 years after that, the FDA began enforcing manufacturers list trans fats, saturated fats, and cholesterol on food labels.

The National Academies of Sciences’ Institute of Medicine stated in 2002 that any increase in intake of trans fats increase heart disease risk. Meaning, no safe level of trans fat in the diet exists. Following this statement, in 2013 the FDA announced considering removing PHOs from the Generally Recognized as Safe (GRAS) list for foods. They received full support from consumers. However, the institution met much resistance from food manufacturers.

Big food manufacturers have relied on partially hydrogenated oils to make their products more appealing for decades. Not to mention that not using them would most likely create a higher cost to the companies. This is what has caused most of the deception in labeling and marketing. Following 2006 a number of food companies began to voluntarily reduce their use of trans fats. This in part was due to health advocacy groups unveiling the effects of these fats. McDonald’s came out with information that they found a trans-fat free oil to implement in all stores by 2008. Prior to 2008, when only some stores had the oil, employees were instructed not to disclose which stores had the good stuff. This is just one example of misleading information and deceptive marketing in the food industry.

Team No Trans Fats

In 2015, the FDA finally released that partially hydrogenated oils were not considered GRAS.

“Removing PHOs from processed foods could prevent thousands of heart attacks and deaths each year.”U. S. Food & Drug Administration 2018

This doesn’t apply to all food manufacturers, but includes the majority. For foods manufactured with non-petitioned uses for PHOs, compliance should have been met by June 18, 2018. If foods were manufactured prior to this date, companies must comply by January 1, 2020. For petitioned uses of PHOs, manufacturing of foods using them must comply by June 18, 2019. Therefore, chances are trans fat will still be able to be found in foods as late as 2021.

The Takeaway About Partially Hydrogenated Oils

The partially hydrogenated truth is that PHOs cause serious health problems. They increase cholesterol levels, which in turn increases our risk of stroke and heart disease. These bad fats cause inflammation throughout the body. Big food manufacturing companies are against banning fats because they are cheaper to use. Although trans fats still exist naturally, we as consumers can control that easily. Implementation of a ban on PHOs in food manufacturing is the first step to getting rid of them entirely.

Fitting Fruit into Your Morning Coffee Ritual

Fitting Fruit Into Your Morning Coffee Ritual

We all know that an apple a day keeps the doctor away, but why? According to the USDA, the optimal recommendation for fruit intake is 5 servings per day. Leading busy lives, it can be difficult for people to maintain those 5 servings each and every day. Therefore, here are a couple reasons why it’s so important to fit fruit into your morning coffee ritual.

Fueling Antioxidant Power

So, why exactly is it that 5 servings of fruit per day is recommended in a healthy diet? Coffee is the biggest source of antioxidantsΒ that people get in the western world. Antioxidants themselves are chemical compounds that help to prevent numerous diseases like diabetes and heart disease. However, there are numerous antioxidants, and coffee only has one type. This is where fruit comes in. For a healthy diet, it’s important to ensure you’re getting a variety of fruits and vegetables because each one has different nutrients and antioxidants.

For example, the antioxidant level of oranges, measured by ORAC value is 1819, while bananas are only 725. Apples have a high antioxidant level ranging from 2500 to 4300 depending on the type of apple. According to ScienceDaily, Red Delicious apples contain the most antioxidants out of all the variety of apples.

Coffee Complements Fruit Benefits

There are numerous reasons why fitting fruit into your morning coffee ritual is beneficial. Due to their high water and fiber content, fruits keep you fuller longer. Fruits are also low in calories, making the combination promote weight loss. Apples and citrus fruits specifically, tend to give you a better sense of satiety than other fruits. Again, this shows the importance of creating variety within your daily fruit intake.

Including fruit in your morning coffee ritual can boost sources of antioxidants

Orange 101

Although the origin of oranges is unclear, it is said that they have been seen cultivated in Asia thousands of years ago. The most common benefit of oranges and other citrus fruits is the high vitamin C content. One large orange contains all of your daily needs for vitamin C in one serving. Oranges are also a great source of thiamin (B1), potassium and folate. All of which are great as disease fighting agents.

Banana Boosting Benefits

Get more antioxidants at your local coffee shop with your morning coffeeFitting fruit into your routine can be easier if it helps you get through the day. Bananas contain the amino acid tryptophan, vitamin B6 and potassium which all help boost your body’s energy levels. The fiber and starches in bananas regulate blood sugar levels in the body. These components also promote healthy digestion by feeding the bacteria in your gut. For Type 2 diabetics bananas are also a good choice because they help with insulin resistance. Even though bananas contain many nutritional benefits, the sugar content may create some adverse effects. However, eating a banana is better than not eating anything at all.

All For Apples

Include fruit with your morning coffee and get more antioxidantsThe main benefit of including apples in your diet is the antioxidant power that they give. Apples have some of the highest antioxidant levels alongside berries. They are high in fiber, water and carbohydrates which helps you feel full longer promoting weight loss. Another great benefit of apples is their aid in preventing cancer. This is in part due to their antioxidant power. Apples can create adverse effects for people with digestive problems like Irritable Bowel Syndrome, avoiding FODMAP foods. These foods contain simple carbohydrates which are difficult for people with digestive problems to digest. However, if you don’t have problems such as this, fitting fruit into your morning coffee ritual can be extremely beneficial.

Fight For Fruit

With benefits that help to prevent numerous diseases, it’s almost a no-brainer to eat more fruit. However, in the Western world people commonly live more on-the-go lifestyles which can be a barrier to eating as much as we need. But, if it’s kept in mind all of the benefits of these foods and how they can affect you on a daily basis, hopefully more people will begin to fit fruit in their morning coffee ritual.