From coffee grounds to grand designs – talking about coffee shops and the circular economy at the RGS conference

Royal Geographical Society entranceIn London this week the Royal Geographical Society hosted its Annual Conference with an overarching theme of Geographies of trouble / geographies of hope. This year I presented some of my research in a session on Sustainablity, re-use and waste. The session encompassed a range of perspectives on the geographies of sustainability including research on topics from coffee, to plastic in Nepal, plastics and small island developing states to sanitation in India. While many of these presentations highlighted a series of problems around waste production, there was also glimmers of hope for how behaviours can change amongst a range of stakeholders to create a more sustainable future.

In the 15 minutes I had for the talk I tried to provide an overview of my current research project ‘From the Grounds up: exploring the coffee shop and the circular economy’ as well as some of the preliminary findings.

I’ve written on this blog before about some of the activities of the coffee shop industry and the circular economy, and some of these points were covered in the talk. After highlighting some more general ideas about the circular economy and where existing research has focused on this topic and the coffee shop industry I moved on to try and highlight some of the interesting activities taking place based on research focusing on the UK and Germany. Some examples included:

  • Cups made from coffee shop industry related waste – I had with me my Huskee cup, a reusable cup made from coffee husks, and I also talked about the Kaffeeform cups, made with recycled coffee grounds made by a company in Berlin.
  • I talked a little about new products made from recycled coffee cups, and the importance of waste management companies in transforming this form of waste. Coffee Notes are a type of notebook made from recycled disposable coffee cups. Coffee Notes is currently has a Kickstarter campaign to try and raise funds.
  • There are increasing numbers of organisations trying to do innovative things with coffee grounds. One of the most successful in the UK has been the coffee grounds recycling schemes established by Bio-bean which turns the coffee grounds into a range of biofuels. I was pleased to see when walking to one of the conference buildings one of Imperial’s coffee shops takes uses Green Cup Roasters and Recyclers which not only provide roasted coffee but services and processes to deal with the used coffe grounds afterwards.

I talked a little about some of the barriers and enablers for greater engagement in the circular economy for the coffee shop industry as perceived by businesses and consumers. This research is trying to explore some of these in more depth to begin to understand how greater engagement in the circular economy might be fostered, and the implications of this.

I’ve recently published a Centre for Business in Society White Paper on the coffee shop industry and the circular economy which covers some of the points in this presentation, and once fieldwork and analysis has been completed for this research a project summary will be made available – as well as a series of journal articles in the longer term future.

After hearing the talk several people came to talk to me with interesting things they had seen people doing related to coffee and the circular economy. I’m always interested in hearing about these, so if you know something that’s taking place with coffee and the circular economy from innovative designs to abstract uses for used coffee grounds, please do get in touch!

This entry was posted in circular economy, Coffee, coffee culture, Conferences, Disposable cups, Germany, Reports, Sustainability, UK and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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