Recent research shows, much to the dismay of coffee lovers, that climate change could destroy key areas where Arabica coffee plants are grown in the next half century. What's more, climate change stands to threaten coffee crops from almost every major coffee producing area on the face of the Earth. Consequently, global coffee consumption is rising steadily and so is the amount of waste that is produced both from coffee production and from coffee use; 20 million tons of coffee waste is thrown away each year. In response to this, some companies have begun to reuse coffee waste for agricultural purposes or transform coffee waste into pellets for clean energy.
A small startup based out of Berlin has found a new take on this growing problem. Instead of tossing coffee waste like used grounds, Kaffeeform is finding ways to turn them into coffee cups and saucers.
Julian Lechner, product designer for Kaffeeform says that he was wracked by how to reuse the coffee waste being produced daily. He thought about how to preserve and reuse coffee grounds as he spent some years in Italy studying industrial design. After 3 years of experimenting with coffee waste as raw material for several ideas, speaking with experts and scientists and many attempts to create products from coffee waste, he came up with the idea to use recycled coffee grounds and renewable raw substrate as building material for cutlery.
Coffee grounds are collected from local shops around Berlin, where the startup still operates; they are then dried to ensure that no mold forms, packed and shipped. A single cup and saucer can be made from the waste created from six cups of espresso coffee. The cups and saucers are made from plant fibers, coffee grounds, wood grains, and biopolymers (from plant cells). 40% of the material is from used coffee founds collected in these local coffee shops, which totals up to 6 kilograms (about 13 lbs) daily.
The mixing of the biomaterial is done in a small factory settling where all materials are mixed then heated until they can be molded into forms for cups and saucers. The mix of composite materials strengthens the integrity of the cup so that it can withstand multiple washes and everyday use. According to their site, the cups should be able to be used, washed and handled like regular cups for years.
Kaffeeform introduced their product at the Amsterdam Coffee Festival this May. Today, however, their products are available on their online store and in Berlin at Hallesches Haus and Foundry. The cups can also be purchased outside of Germany throughout Northern and Western Europe.
As the global coffee consumption is steadily growing, the coffee grounds that are basically waste will be available en masse. Kaffeeform uses this wasted resource, to create a sustainable and eco-friendly alternative... Who knows what will be the next product out of Kaffeeform – at least the imagination has no limit!
The products available in their online store start at €14,90 (approximately $17.57) for one espresso cup and saucer, however, they are also working on a new product called the Weducer cup. The Weducer cup is set to be launched by December 1st and is a reusable, take-away coffee cup. It's of course made from recycled coffee grounds and the design is made based on classic take-away cups, with a corrugated surface similar to cardboard holders for hot beverages. The corrugated surface provides both insulation to protect the user from hot beverages and an improved grip. A wood-based variation of the cup will also be made available; that design will be made from wood flour sourced from local sawmills. By keeping cup production local, they avoid high costs for the consumer and also avoid burning more fossil fuels by paying trucks to transport materials for long distances.
Kaffeeform's products are: dishwasher friendly, lightweight, durable, slightly coffee scented, food safe, free of BPA, eco-friendly, made for unlimited consumption, unique looking, made for carbon neutral disposal and biodegradable. They can be recycled like regular household waste or returned to the company to be reused. We're all eagerly looking forward to the launch of their new product and the continuation of the sustainability behind their current ventures.