Every year, six million tonnes of coffee grounds are sent to landfill, along with an estimated 56 billion single-use coffee capsules.
You’ll be very unsurprised to hear, this is incredibly bad for our environment.
Decomposing coffee grounds release the greenhouse gas methane into the atmosphere, while coffee capsules are known to take 150 years to decompose yet still have an estimated recycling rate of just 25%.
Not only is this stain on our environment, but it’s also a huge waste of an incredibly valuable resource.
Both coffee grounds and pods are recyclable when you go to the effort of doing so, and both can be incredibly beneficial to our economy when repurposed.
Many of you will be well aware that recycled coffee grounds can become the perfect fertiliser for your plants, a fantastic hair wash and that it’s natural oils can help create biofuels strong enough to power a bus.
But there’s still plenty of weird and wonderful uses for coffee waste you’re yet to hear of.
As more and more people begin to start repurposing their java and testing its true potential, the more bizarre the end results become.
From snazzy designer trainers to bespoke designer sunglasses, we explore a series of mind-blowing products, all made entirely out of coffee!
Recycled Coffee Companies
The Ford Coffee Car
When it comes to getting through those groggy early mornings, a lot of us seem to exclusively run on coffee to help caffeinate our way on through to lunchtime.
But while it’s currently only humans who need a big mug of joe to function, we may not be entirely alone in the near future.
Perhaps taking inspiration from our constant need for a caffeine dose, some car companies are now hoping to help our vehicles run on the power of java too.
However don’t start filling up your tank with espresso just yet, as it’s not exactly what your thinking!
While a new innovation from Ford Motors hasn’t quite cracked how to turn coffee into petrol, the American car company has still come up with a fantastic way to help increase sustainability in the motor industry…
By creating cars made of recycled coffee!
To create new car parts, the fathers of the Focus and Fiesta have started recycling millions of coffee husks – the hard outer casings of coffee beans that peel away during the roasting process.
The mustang-makers mix and meltdown these husks with plastic under high temperatures which results in the creation of a kind of bioplastic.
This bioplastic can be easily formed into car part shapes and is a lightweight alternative to parts used in standard manufacturing.
Ford believes these coffee car parts can help their car components become around 20% lighter, which in turn could greatly improve their rate of carbon emissions.
They’re currently only producing headlamp housings with their new innovation, but they’re hopeful it will also come to be a key material for their interior components too!
To bag themselves a never-ending supply of coffee waste, they’ve also surprisingly teamed up with fast-food phenomenon McDonald’s which may well kick start a ton of other new environment-saving innovations.
And given the golden arches sell around 822 million cups of coffee a year in the US, they’re probably only too happy for someone to come and help solve their coffee waste problem!
Coffee Tables… And More
Almost all of us own a coffee table in our homes, and for many, it’s the centrepiece of any good living room.
But how many of us own a coffee chair? Or maybe even a coffee desk?
Let us explain.
Furniture company Re-Worked is a not-for-profit company from the UK who specialise in ‘green’ designer furniture – furniture which uses actual coffee waste in its creation.
So when Re-Worked say they’ve made you a coffee table, they actually mean it – a table, made almost entirely out of coffee.
Their founder Adam Fairweather was originally the founder of the recycling initiative Greencup, a scheme which provided offices around the UK with Fairtrade coffee and then collected all their waste and turned it into fertiliser.
With Re-Worked, Fairweather is now using coffee waste again, but this time to create a hybrid material for furniture which he calls Curface (pronounced ‘surface’).
Curface is made up of around 60% coffee grounds and 40% recycled plastics, a composite which Re-Worked describes as having ‘a very high-quality tactile finish reminiscent of a combination of chocolate, leather and stone.”
Fairweather then uses this material as the basis for several pieces of furniture, including chairs, bar stools, and of course, coffee tables.
Although normal coffee ground waste itself is not an especially huge problem for the environment, Fairweather believes by using such a high-value waste product he is helping raise awareness of certain issues.
He told The Guardian in 2015: “There are already massive recycling programmes in the UK that manage organic food waste very well. My interest is that we can use materials that have a perceived value to them, to communicate and get people excited about the idea of sustainability and social change and environmental management.”
It’s exciting to imagine what Fairweather may come up with next, but for now, he’s certainly the king when it comes to upcycling coffee.
Coffee Pod Jewellery
A bumper pack of coffee pods is no one’s idea of a great anniversary gift, with the only exceptions being either your partner really, really loves an espresso or the romance is completely dead.
However one Portsmouth school teacher’s personal recycling mission has seen the humble coffee capsule go from basic foodstuff to high-end fashion, and the perfect gift for a loved one.
In a plot to stop her own coffee pod capsules ending up in landfill, Victoria Knight has begun transforming her waste into bespoke jewellery with her company, Coffee Pod Creations.
Knight has been making jewellery for decades, however only recently turned her hand to unlocking the beauty behind Nespresso packaging, taking advantage of the hundreds of different coloured pods on offer.
The aluminium used in the average coffee capsule is very versatile and easily manipulated, which has allowed Knight to craft everything from broaches to keyrings from her recycled coffee pods, their shiny metallic colours lending particularly well to earrings and necklaces.
But Knight’s aim isn’t just to increase her own sustainability and make a bit of bob on the side.
She hopes her environmental message is subtly spread to others through her jewellery, and that it will potentially inspire them to start creating their own trinkets from their coffee waste.
Because if she can do it, why can’t you?
Kickstarter Coffee Projects
For a lot of people, drinking a cup of coffee a day helps to boost their mental focus and to see things more clearly when they’re feeling sluggish.
However one eccentric entrepreneur decided his mug of joe wasn’t helping him see things quite clearly enough, and so he converted his coffee grounds into a pair of fashionable specs.
Based in Ukraine, OCHIS COFFEE eyewear produces stylish luxury sunglasses and eye-glasses made entirely from a mix of coffee waste and flax, bound together with vegetable oil.
The specs degrade 100 times faster than ordinary plastic sunglasses, and upon disposal, turn into fertiliser after just 10 years, making them a fantastic choice for the environmentally conscious.
Originally a Kickstarter project set up by company founder Maksym Havrylenko, the idea quickly soared in popularity amongst green seekers and raised over $13,000 in backers from around the world.
Havrylenko had originally experimented with numerous funny foodstuffs in a bid to create sustainable sunnies, including common household herbs, however, he soon decided coffee waste was the best choice due to its durable qualities and availability.
His finished product is a high-quality, biodegradable and water-resistant frame which when paired with innovative lenses, becomes a quirky but quintessential piece of eyewear.
Havrylenko has proved that sustainable products with no waste production can still be of incredible calibre, and his glasses help promote the manufacturing of cleaner wares.
But the greatest innovation about these espresso eyeglasses?
They actually smell like a hot cup of java!
The Coffee Hoodie
Come wintertime, I’m sure you’ll agree there’s nothing that heats you up faster than drinking a nice cup of coffee.
Utah company Coalatree, however, would beg to differ and have invented a piece of coffee clothing that proves you don’t just have to drink the stuff to feel it’s warming effects.
Using an environment saving combination of plastic bottles and used coffee grounds, Coalatree are the proud creators of the ‘Evolution Hoodie’, one of the most sustainable sweaters on the planet.
Another Kickstarter project, backers collectively donated over $500,000 dollars to the company after they were promised an eco-friendly, lightweight pullover and Coalatree did not disappoint.
Originally arriving in 2019, each Evolution Hoodie contains 3 cups of recycled coffee grounds and 10 recycled plastic bottles, resulting in a jumper that’s not only comfortable to wear, but also comfy on your conscious thanks to its waste-reducing production.
This is because the manufacturing process includes the use of sustainable technologies such as solar power and greywater recycling, the latter being especially important when it comes to making sustainable clothing.
The fashion industry is currently responsible for around 20% of the world’s entire water waste thanks mainly to its reliance on cotton, a natural fibre which requires around 10,000 litres of water irrigation to create just one kg.
However, with greywater recycling (collected wastewater that is uncontaminated) and the creation of its own unique fibres, the Evolution Hoodie doesn’t contribute to these issues.
Its unique fibres are also what make the hoodie far superior to your average sweatshirt.
By melting down and mixing coffee grounds with plastic, Coalatree has created fibres which are actually water-repellent, meaning the jumper is moisture-wicking and dries incredibly quickly in the rain!
This actually makes it far better for outdoor and adventure wear rather than casual loungewear, as its ability to also block six times more UV rays than a traditional hoodie makes it suitable for most weathers.
It’s uncertain whether coffee clothing is the future of fashion, but at least Coalatree has made an impressive start.
It’s not just in clothing where fashionistas are changing their ways though, as two eco-conscious sneaker entrepreneurs have also begun an initiative to fight back against the fashion industry and its terrible waste problem.
The waste in fashion has become so bad that the industry is now actually responsible for 4% of the entire planets yearly waste with off-cuts of 92 million tonnes, and with trainer brands being some of the most successful labels, this makes them one of the starring villains.
In response to the world’s current and seemingly unstoppable sneaker fetish, Finnish company Rens decided to release a pair of trainers of their own, which would be completely sustainable and tackle the issue.
Any guesses what they made them out of?
The brainchild of two Vietnamese designers, the Rens coffee trainer started life on Kickstarter where it’s backers donated around $550,000 to the cause, all of them desperate for a sustainable sneaker.
Founders Jesse Tran and Son Chu came up with their product after becoming frustrated by both the lack of quality trainers on the market and the increasing amount of waste produced by the fashion industry.
Their idea was to simply create a trainer that wasted no natural resources and yet was still stylish and fashionable to wear.
The result was Rens 100% waterproof coffee trainers, created from a combination of recycled coffee yarns and polyester.
One pair contains the equivalent of around 21 cups of joe and six recycled plastic bottles, yet they look just as good as a high-end pair of £300 pumps.
Who says being eco-friendly can’t be cool?
Thanks to coffee pod waste piling up in landfills across the globe, poor old Nespresso have taken their fair share of criticism over the past few years thanks to their large market share.
This was always going to be the case, and it’s meant the Nestle-owned coffee giant has had to work harder than most to try and change public opinion of their brand.
Due to standard recycling procedures being unable to tackle the average pod’s aluminium make-up, Nespresso has had to offer a personal recycling scheme to help it’s Nespresso consumers stay green.
However, when manufacturing their own pods, Nespresso requires premium aluminium, meaning they can’t actually use recycled pods to create new ones.
So the question then becomes: What on earth are they going to do with all this recycled material?
It’s taken a long time for Nespresso to get their act together, but the capsule colossus is finally beginning to upcycle somewhat successfully thanks to their growing partnerships with a few innovative companies…
Taking a more literal stance on what we mean when we say re-cycling, Swedish bike company Velosophy has created one of the more premium coffee pod products with Nespresso.
Cunningly branded the ‘RE:CYCLE’ bike, this groovy, vintage-style bicycle is made almost entirely from discarded Nespresso coffee pods.
It’s a bike that’s about as green as it gets and many of the vehicle’s funky design features proudly display its bizarre roots.
A plum frame is a knowing nod to Nespresso’s best selling Arpeggio capsule and a coffee pod-shaped bell also allows riders to ring out an environmentally friendly warning.
Amazingly, Velosophy doesn’t need much waste to manufacture one either.
The company only needs around 300 used coffee capsules to produce one bike, which is next to nothing when you consider the UK alone discarded 260 million pods in 2015.
That’s enough waste material for around 866,000 bikes.
But while Velosophy is never likely to produce quantities of that amount, they can still be rightfully pleased with their contribution to Nespresso’s recycling scheme.
Their two-wheeled coffee machine first came into fruition after their CEO Jimmy Ostholm learned of Nespresso’s other recycling campaigns and became intrigued by the possibilities of their capsule aluminium.
After obtaining some of their recycled coffee capsules, he and his team sought to discover the best way to convert such a lightweight material into a bike structure that would still meet safety standards.
And discover it they did, with RE:CYCLE being the fantastic result.
Ostholm hopes his work will inspire other entrepreneurs to work with recycled aluminium, so businesses can all begin tackling the single-use capsule crisis together.
Making a pen out of recycled coffee pods may not seem particularly amazing, and it certainly doesn’t seem necessary, but it turns out that Nespresso’s recycling partnership with pen company Caran d’Ache is actually killing two birds with one stone. (A metaphor environment lovers, don’t worry.)
Pens might look perfectly innocent, but the average biro is actually made from entirely non-biodegradable plastics, which clog up landfills and oceans just like their incredibly distant cousin, the coffee pod.
So Caran d’Ache and Nespresso have combined to combat both problems with the remarkable 849 Nespresso Ballpoint, made from recycled coffee capsules.
Made out of Nespresso’s Master origins India capsules, the pen comes in a metallic green shade and allow green schemers to put their ideas in writing without any guilt.
And of course, unlike the average biro, these aluminium pens are infinitely recyclable and can be repurposed for a multitude of reincarnations.
Just like the pod they originally came from!