Many people say the world runs on coffee, but it may be that we’ll be driving on it as well. According to an article from Science Alert, coffee grounds look promising as a component of concrete mixture.
Sounds crazy, right? That’s what I thought when I first heard about it. Check out the reported claims, though. According to the article, the world produces about 10 billion kilograms (22 billion pounds) of coffee waste every year. As you can image, the majority of that ends up in landfills.
So when it comes to supply, we’ve got plenty.
On the other hand, the sand we use in concrete has to come from somewhere. Here in central Florida, we have plenty and there are sand mines to pull it from. In other parts of the country, it can come from riverbanks or riverbeds. Either way, we’re digging into the earth, and it’s generally a good thing if there are alternatives.
That brings us back to coffee grounds. Australian researches have reportedly used processed charred coffee grounds in asphalt, increasing the strength by 30%. The charring is important because coffee ground leach chemicals that can weaken the concrete.
The positive results from this study are leading the researchers to consider other organic waste products as well. Since the breakdown of organic material produces greenhouse gases such as methane and carbon dioxide, reducing how much ends up in landfills should be a net gain.
While the research team is clearly optimistic, they also caution that there is more testing they need to do before Caffeinated Concrete (my term) can be considered for implementation.
I realize there are passionate people on both sides of the climate debate. However, the initial results from this study seem to indicate that this is an application both sides can get on board with. On one hand, there’s the potential for less landfill was and greenhouse gas creation. On the other, we’re looking at the potential for improvement in the concrete mixture.
It’s important to note that this is very early in the conversation, and we have no idea what kind of cost consequences there are by adding coffee to concrete. That said, if we can reduce waste and get a better final product, that’s gotta be a win-win.
Keep your eyes open for more news on this. If it gets gains traction, we’re sure to hear about it at World of Concrete and other construction trade shows.
Read the full study published in the Journal of Cleaner Production.