Scale of waste..
Worldwide more than 1.6 billion cups of coffee are drunk each day and in the UK alone this figure is around 80 million every day. A cup of coffee is at the end of a process where less than 1% of the coffee plant is used. Coffee drinkers only value the beans, and after the brewing process most of the coffee grounds up in landfill sites. This is a problem that’s likely to increase as the UK already has more than 15, 000 coffee shops and this number is set to keep on growing.
Taking this waste and turning it into local food is such a simple solution and a huge opportunity. Not only are there sustainability benefits, but it can change people’s attitudes and create other opportunities in the process.
In government speak we take the coffee waste from the lowest end of the “Waste Hierarchy” to the top end!
Sustainability of the GroCycle solution
- Reuse of energy:
Traditional mushroom cultivation requires an energy intensive process to sterilise the substrate. By using coffee grounds, we reuse the energy that has already gone into the brewing process
- Reuse of waste:
By diverting tonnes of grounds from landfill, we take waste and turn it into a resource. The GroCycle process delivers mushrooms and fertile compost instead.
- Local food:
Most of the UK’s food is delivered through an increasingly complex and energy intensive system. By taking local waste to grow delicious fresh food within a few miles of where it is consumed, it’s easy to see the benefits.
- Urban agriculture:
Although most of the UK’s food is consumed in cities, virtually none of it is grown there. Mushrooms are one crop ideally suited to urban agriculture, where both waste and demand are highest. They can be grown in empty spaces and add to urban food security.
- Sustainable protein:
Meat is the world’s main source of protein; however its production depends on huge amounts of scarce resources such as land, energy and water. Oyster mushrooms are high in protein and require relatively small amounts of these resources, providing a low-impact alternative.
Mushrooms as recyclers
Following nature as our guide… Fungi are the great recyclers of the Earth. In nature they play a vital role in breaking down organic matter and returning it back to the soil. They have evolved incredible enzymes which can break down the complex bonds in plant matter, returning them back in to the ecosystem and making use of them as their own food source to help produce Mushrooms from.
This innate ability, evolved over millions of years, to transform waste products into highly nutritious and edible food can be applied to great benefit in our modern societies where organic waste is abundant. Woodchips, sawdust, coffee grounds, brewery waste, cardboard, paper – these are all materials that the versatile Oyster mushroom will happily grow on.
With land and resources under increasing pressure, one thing we do have is truckloads of waste; and a method to convert it into tasty, healthy protein. The future will undoubtedly involve more mushrooms grown from ‘waste’.
Things that inspire us
Below are some links of inspiring concepts, people and companies.