Inventive Materials: Coffee Chaff

Our new exhibition, The Creative Circle, celebrates the clever ingenuity of designers, makers and manufacturers who are responding to the concept of a circular economy, where different materials are maintained within the global economy for as long as possible through reuse or repair.

Coffee chaff is a waste product of the roasting process that forms when coffee beans are roasted and their protective skin, also known as the husk, is removed as chaff. Rich in nitrogen, coffee chaff is ideal for composting as it enriches soil and is 100% natural.

However, if you don’t have any use for it as a composting agent, it can also be recycled. Surprisingly, coffee chaff can be used for animal bedding, particularly for domestic pets such as rabbits or chickens. It’s very easy to handle, smells great (!) and is a nice soft alternative to the timber-based beddings that you more commonly see in pet shops.

Most excitingly, Dutch company Mater, founded in 2006, have invented a product called Matek® using coffee chaff, bean shells, textile waste and sawdust from wood production. These solid materials are ground into a fibre, which is combined with a binding material made from plastic waste or a plastic-based alternative. The mix creates a compound suitable for press moulding into a huge variety of shapes and sizes, ideal for furniture. Matek’s process therefore reduces waste products generated by large-scale companies and captures carbon, helping to reduce emissions into the Earth’s atmosphere.

The ‘Waste Edition’ Conscious Chair in the exhibition is especially designed to be recycled. Each individual component from the legs to the top can be entirely disassembled, which enables these pure materials to be separated for recycling into new production circles.

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