In 2009 an estimated 12 million tons of coffee waste was left to rot. Not only does this waste generate methane gas which is attributed to climate change, it is also a huge amount of money being wasted. But there is hope.
A scientist from Hong Kong, Shuting Chang, has demonstrated that coffee waste is an ideal substrate for farming tropical mushrooms like shiitake and ganoderma. This would mean millions of pounds worth of waste can be reused to create another product that in turn would make money.
This discovery is economical, sustainable and a positive step for the future. These types of discoveries, finding sustainable solutions for society inspired by the principles of nature, are made all the time with the help of companies such as The Blue Economy.
The Blue Economy has derived from the ZERI Foundation (Zero Emissions Reearch Initiative) with a vision to use the waste from one resource as an input to create a new cash flow.
They aim to respond to the basic needs of everyone with what we already have. Their new way of designing business (creating cash flow from a waste product) aims to create jobs, social capital and income rises as well as improving the environment that provides the basis for our lives which is under strain and pollution. They develop and discover new inventions, aiming to inspire millions of entrepreneurs to push forward.
Through The Blue Economy's work they have found that only 0.2 percent of the worlds harvested coffee is actually consumed. That's 99.8 percent that goes to landfills. Through research such as this and the projects they work with, The Blue Economy can help find sustainable means for us to live on this planet, using the resources we have.
This research has helped create new businesses across the world, including Chido Govero, an orphan from Zimbabwe. Chido learnt how to farm mushrooms from the coffee waste, earning enough money to send her brother to school. She now has job security and a means to take care of her family. Chido teaches other women working on coffee farms how to produce mushrooms, sharing the knowledge and helping others have a secure future.
People farm and drink coffee all over the world so this waste product can be of use to everyone. Businesses pay to get rid of their waste, so reusing this product is a win win.
Professor Shuting Chang believes using this waste to grow tropical mushrooms has many positives. The world market for mushrooms in 2008 surpassed £11 billion and Chang expects the consumption of tropical fungi to keep rising. He believes the fungi market could outpace coffee and metals as a world commodity within a generation.
The Blue Economy have discovered that not only does using coffee waste for mushroom farming create a use for a highly expensive waste product, it is also a more energy efficient process than the typical farming method and can also produce a crop up to 6 months earlier than using hardwood trees that are converted into articfical logs. The log method can take nine months to fruit shiitake or ganoderma whereas the coffee waste method has seen fruit after three months.
As Blue Economy say: "Waste is not wasted. Waste generates quality food at lower cost, eliminating the need for transportation, offering fresh produce, while reducing the burden on landfills."
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To find out more about The Blue Economy visit www.blueeconomy.eu
To find out more about Chido's mushrooms visit www.chidos.org