Coffee is the second most consumed beverage in the world after water. But under the dark liquid surface, there is a secondary protagonist, with a little-known story and whose ending takes place in landfill: coffee grounds.
Coffee grounds are responsible for high management costs and CO2 emissions. Coffeefrom® is a circular and social economy start-up based in Italy, which since 2021 transforms coffee grounds from the food industry into new materials and design products. Thanks to a Made in Italy supply chain, the first output is a bio-based material composed of coffee waste used as a by-product and bioplastic (PLA).
Led by the social enterprise Il Giardinone, the project is the result of the involvement of the food industry, design, the Chemistry Department of Politecnico di Milano, Fondazione Politecnico, Bear Plast srl (moulding) and Nevicolor incorporated Nexeo Plastics (compounding), brought together in a virtuous model of industrial symbiosis. Thanks to this circular supply chain, Coffeefrom® develops new research projects to assess the application feasibility of materials.
After 2 years of research, and in collaboration with the design studio Whomade, in 2021 the first product in Coffeefrom®-PLA was released, a set of cups and saucers for an espresso, where material, object and function coincide in a unique communicative synthesis. The addition to a PLA carrier of coffee - used in a variable proportion from 10% to 20% - gives colour, texture and uniqueness to each product. Specifically, second-cycle bioplastics add a level of naturalness to the product. The material, born with its own story, already has a "tanned" complexion and a slightly different grit.
To tell a circular story and as a tribute to the Italian art of espresso tasting, Coffeefrom® created the cup and saucer set - from coffee to coffee – distributed to corporates as a gift. The Italian coffee ritual is a multi-sensory experience, the expression of a gesture and a social act: the Coffeefrom® cup is the synthesis of these elements. Each curve has been designed and balanced in order to enhance the taste and warmth of coffee, offering all coffee lovers an ideal tasting experience.
Coffeefrom-PLA with coffee grounds collected from the food industry. The material is suitable for injection moulding and 3D printing for several applications: among them, packaging, automotive, tableware, service products and promotional. Final products can be FCM certified. Coffee wastes are collected and treated before sending them to the compounding stage. Being organic waste, coffee grounds represented an innovation within the compounding process. Due to its physical characteristics, Nevicolor inc.
Nexeo Plastics conducted trial-and-error tests to find the right extruder and screw design. The research and design team at Nevicolor also tested the handling of the coffee powder so that the production run was consistent. During the moulding tests, partners minimised the thermal stress due to the high temperatures on coffee wastes by choosing the best press option and plasticising cylinder.
Information submitted by the maker and edited by the Future Materials Bank.
Industrial coffee ground, PLA