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Changhua barista crafts recycled goods from used coffee grounds

06/17/2024 10:39 PM
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Chang Chih-min. Photo courtesy of Chang Chih-min
Chang Chih-min. Photo courtesy of Chang Chih-min

Taipei, June 17 (CNA) A Changhua barista has found commercial success by turning used coffee grounds into recycled products.

Aside from brewing coffee with the beans grown by his parents atop Changhua County's Baguashan Mountain, barista Chang Chih-min's (張智閔) also sells merchandise like mosquito repelling incense, charcoal, soaps and even tea made from the skins of coffee cherries in his café in Changhua City.

Chang's parents began growing coffee more than 10 years ago thanks to a program started by the Changhua City Farmers' Association to help pineapple, longan berry and lychee farmers switch to new crops.

After opening Chang Coffee in the city to help his parents sell their new crop, the business owner said that he soon found the entire industry surrounding coffee to be highly wasteful.

He said he started looking into sustainable recycling practices after seeing the massive amounts of coffee grounds that were the byproducts of his business.

As coffee beans are the only commodity farmers need to harvest, the rest of the fruit is often thrown away, Chang said.

Additionally, with coffee beans using a lot of water during the cleaning process, and the fact that brewing also consumes a lot of electricity and heat, the coffee business is very energy intensive, Chang said.

With the aim of becoming an eco-friendly business, Chang started looking into the possibility of using all that the coffee fruit has to offer.

Traditionally, coffee grounds could sometimes be recycled as fertilizer or deodorizer in Taiwan, Chang said.

However, studies from other countries suggested that coffee grounds have insect-repelling qualities that have yet to be commercially explored, he added.

The study prompted Chang to explore the quality as a potential business opportunity, and after failing to find partners, he eventually approached an old classmate who helped him design mosquito-repelling incense made from used coffee grounds.

After many research and development trails, Chang and his classmate were able to tweak the recipe enough to launch the mosquito-repelling incense to great success, which is now sold as incense coils and joss sticks.

Chang said the popularity and commercial success of the repellent encouraged him to dive further into sustainable recycling and create other merchandise made from coffee byproducts such as soaps and charcoal.

"To convert coffee grounds into charcoal, the process of pyrolysis takes just a day, while traditional wood would require a month or so," Chang explained. "With coffee ground drastically reducing the time for pyrolysis, it means a decrease in energy consumption. Meanwhile, coffee soaps could cut the time for handwashing by 1/3, which also means a 1/3 reduction in water consumption."

With the success of his incense, Chang said local supermarket and convenience store chains had shown interest in carrying his products.

In the spirit of his sustainable recycling lifestyle, Chang said he is in the process of trying to develop solid fuel sticks made from used coffee grounds.

Once he's able to create the product, Chang said coffee ground processing plants would then be able to recycle the product to power their operations, thus achieving self-sustainability, which Chang called the ultimate goal of sustainable recycling.

(By Wu Che-hao and James Lo)

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