A Berlin-based company has created a 100 percent biodegradable coffee cup that’s made with – what else? – recycled coffee grounds. The idea for Kaffeeform came to founder Julian Lechner while he was a product design student and drinking a lot of coffee. In an interview with Insider, Julian explained that he started wondering what happened to all of those used coffee grounds, and the idea for Kaffeeform was born.
Video courtesy of Insider.
Germans love their coffee, and Americans do too. According to the Huffington Post, Americans alone consume 400 million cups of coffee every day, which is the equivalent to 146 billion cups per year.
But all of those used coffee grounds aren’t the only waste problem that results from our love of coffee. It’s the disposable coffee cups. And, of course, those plastic lids.
Only 1% of disposable cups gets recycled.
Only 1 percent of paper, plastic, and foam coffee cups are recycled – the other 99 percent ends up in the landfill, or somewhere else it doesn’t belong. And it can take 20 years for a paper coffee cup to decompose. The problem is that paper coffee cups are not all paper. They’re coated with polyethylene, which is a plastic resin.
Most curbside recycling programs in the U.S. do not recycle paper cups with plastic coating. And because these cups have plastic in them, you should never put them in a compost bin, which adds plastic contamination to the soil.
As for the plastic lids that come with those not-really-disposable cups – they may never decompose, or at least not in your lifetime.
According to Starbucks, 600 billion paper and plastic cups are distributed globally ever year. And while Starbucks says their cups amount to 1 percent of that total, that’s still 6 billion cups and plastic lids!
Starbucks disposable coffee cups are contributing to climate change and the extinction crisis.
Starbucks is working on initiatives to make a more eco-friendly coffee cup, but as residents of Planet Earth, we don’t have time to wait for them to do so. The destructiveness of climate change is already well underway, and according to the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF), every four disposable Starbucks cups contribute 1 pound of CO2 into the atmosphere when you factor in making and shipping the cups. So, this means that every year, Starbucks disposable coffee cups are dumping 1.5 billion pounds of CO2 into the atmosphere.
Shockingly, these cups are also contributing to the extinction crisis. For every Starbucks coffee cup produced and transported, we lose 0.93 square feet of natural habitat and 0.6 pounds of plant and animal life. EDF estimate that 1.7 billion paper coffee cups could trigger the extinction of an entire species. Or, in other words, in just one year, Starbucks coffee cups alone are possibly causing 3.5 species to go extinct.
We need 100% biodegradable coffee cups now.
In light of all this, 100% biodegradable coffee cups are a mighty fine idea. Back in Berlin, when a small bicycle courier service heard about what Julian was doing with Kaffeeform, they reached out to him and offered their services. Today, the crew at Crow Cycle Courier Collective rides around Berlin to the city’s many coffee ships, gathering about 110 pounds of coffee grounds per day and delivers them to Kaffeeform’s warehouse.
The coffee grounds are then sorted and cleaned. Next, they’re transported to a manufacturing facility where they’re dried and blended with plant fibers, beechwood grains, and natural resins.
From there, the resin gets shaped under high heat and pressure. Six cups of coffee grounds will produce one espresso cup and a saucer. The resulting product is 40 percent coffee. And the entire product is 100 percent biodegradable.
Beyond coffee cups, Julian has plans for other coffee ground products, such as furniture. So, you could conceivably enjoy your morning almond latté from a coffee cup as you lounge on a coffee chaise, scrolling through your social accounts from your phone encased in a coffee phone case. Wait! There’s already a phone case made with coffee!