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How our used coffee grounds can help save rainforests

We'd like to raise a mug to a company that, like us, is passionate about coffee and the environment.

The brainchild of two university graduates, Revive Eco has been given £375,000 in funding to commercialise its pioneering process which turns used coffee grounds into a “sustainable alternative” to palm oil – the world's most widely used vegetable oil, the production of which is one of the biggest causes of deforestation.

The Daily Record reports that Fergus Moore and Scott Kennedy came up with the idea while studying at The University of Strathclyde and working in coffee shops in Glasgow.

They developed the concept as part of a second-year project to extract and purify the natural compounds in coffee leftovers. This can be converted into an alternative to palm oil – which is estimated to be in 50 per cent of packaged supermarket goods, including cake, chocolate, biscuits, margarine and frying fats. The funding will help the budding company to scale up from a lab-based project to an “industrial-scale process”.

Mr Moore told the Record: “We feel like it can change the entire way we look at waste. As soon as a bi-product like coffee grounds is described as waste, it loses all value and ceases to be a useful material in most people’s eyes.

“We want to push industries away from this linear way of doing things, and towards a more circular mindset where these materials are captured and used to produce further value. And this goes across the board, for food, manufacturing and technology.”

And they will have plenty to go at, with the UK producing an estimated 500,000 tonnes of used coffee grounds every year, which currently costs about £80 million to dispose of.

The environmental costs of palm oil are huge, with 66 million tonnes being produced annually, mainly from trees cut down in tropical rainforests in Malaysia and Indonesia.

Revive Eco's goal is to “reduce the strain on the palm industry and allow it to thrive without the continuous deforestation required to keep up with demand”.

People's love of coffee isn't going to diminish, and this sounds like a sustainable way of recycling coffee waste, as well as reducing the number of palm trees that need to be cut down to produce palm oil.

When we invented Degono, we wanted it to be as sustainable as possible and the used coffee grounds, which emerge from our easy-clean double filter completely dry, can go straight on to the flower beds to provide natural nutrients, or go on to the compost heap.

Used grounds can also help to make face scrubs and exfoliants, and are a great hack for getting rid of bad smells, as well as cleaning pots and pans.

We obviously do our bit on a much smaller scale, but it is great to see companies putting environmental concerns at the heart of what they do. And we wish Revive Eco every success in turning what has become a damaging and unsustainable market into an environmentally friendly alternative.

And those behind it hope the coffee grounds technology can be applied to other large niche waste streams such as breweries and distilleries.

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