facebook linkedin twitter

Researchers Turn Used Coffee Grounds Into Biodegradable Plastic
Coffee grounds contain cellulose, an ingredient for making bioplastics

April 9, 2021 by Anthropocene
RawPixel

This article is by Prachi Patel and was originally published by Anthropocene magazine.

The world drinks a whole lot of coffee. And in the process produces over six million tons of coffee grounds, according to the International Coffee Organization. And much of that ends up in landfills. But a new study shows they could instead be repurposed to make biodegradable plastic.

Several bioplastics made from plant material instead of petroleum are available on the market today. Most are made by extracting starch from corn and converting it into a plastic known as polylactic acid.

Recently scientists have been working on making plastics and chemicals from cellulose, the main component of plant cell walls that can be extracted from waste paper. One team recently made a transparent plastic from starch and cellulose, while another has reported a cellulose-based foam that is a better packing and insulation material than commonly used Styrofoam.

Engineers at Yokohama National University have now used coffee grounds as a source for cellulose. Around 10 percent of the dry weight of grounds consists of cellulose, they write in their study published in the journal Cellulose.

To extract cellulose from spent coffee grounds, the team used a catalyst that oxidizes and breaks down the coffee beans’ cell walls. The resulting microscopic cellulose fibers were uniform in structure. And they could easily be mixed into polyvinyl alcohol—a polymer used to produce biodegradable plastics—to make a composite plastic.

The results suggest that spent coffee grounds are a viable substitute to wood for making cellulose nanofibers. They could be used to make plastic composites for a range of products, Kawamura said in a press release, but more research will be needed to develop a commercially viable process.


Anthropocene magazine, published by Future Earth,  gathers the worlds’ best minds to explore how we might create a Human Age that we actually want to live in. 

Prachi Patel is a Pittsburgh-based freelance journalist who writes about energy, materials science, nanotechnology, biotechnology, and computing. Writes for Scientific American, IEEE Spectrum, Chemical & Engineering News, and MRS Bulletin. Find her at www.lekh.org.


Source: Noriko Kanai et al. Structural characterization of cellulose nanofibers isolated from spent coffee grounds and their composite films with poly(vinyl alcohol): a new non-wood source. Cellulose, 2020.

A+
a-

Science

December 2, 2021
by Alexa Hornbeck
Clinical Trial Begins for Nasal Vaccine to Stop Progression of Alzheimer's

Researchers from Brigham and Women’s Hospital will soon begin a first-ever clinical trial of a new nasal spray vaccine that... Read More

Researchers from Brigham and Women’s Hospital will soon begin a first-ever clinical trial of a new nasal spray vaccine that may hold the promise of treating Alzheimer’s disease.  “If clinical trials in humans show that the vaccine is safe and effective, this could represent a nontoxic... Read More

December 2, 2021
by Alexa Hornbeck
Biden Addresses Revised Plan for Ending HIV/AIDS

Yesterday was Worlds AIDS Day 2021, a day on which political leaders around the globe renewed their commitments to ending... Read More

Yesterday was Worlds AIDS Day 2021, a day on which political leaders around the globe renewed their commitments to ending the HIV/AIDS epidemic nearly 40 years after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention officially reported the first cases of AIDS.  President Joe Biden, joined by... Read More

November 12, 2021
by Reece Nations
XPRIZE and Musk Foundation Name Student Carbon Removal Competition Winners

LOS ANGELES — Winners have been announced in the $5 million carbon removal student competition award program launched by XPRIZE... Read More

LOS ANGELES — Winners have been announced in the $5 million carbon removal student competition award program launched by XPRIZE with support from the Musk Foundation, to fund early-stage concepts and remove barriers of entry for carbon emission removal innovations. Teams led by enrolled student competitors... Read More

November 2, 2021
by Anthropocene
Researchers Have Now Made Wood That You Can Fold and Mold

This article is by Prachi Patel and was originally published by Anthropocene magazine. Wood seems to be the gift that keeps on giving.... Read More

This article is by Prachi Patel and was originally published by Anthropocene magazine. Wood seems to be the gift that keeps on giving. Researchers have tinkered with its chemistry and physical structure to make it transparent, squishy, strong as steel, filter water, and turned it into bioplastic and Styrofoam-like... Read More

November 2, 2021
by Dan McCue
Schumer, Pelosi, Moderates Strike Deal to Lower Prescription Drug Prices

WASHINGTON — Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., announced Tuesday that Democrats have reached a deal on legislation to lower... Read More

WASHINGTON — Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., announced Tuesday that Democrats have reached a deal on legislation to lower prescription drug prices. "It's not everything we all wanted. Many of us would have wanted to go much further, but it's a big step in helping... Read More

Pig-to-Human Transplants Come a Step Closer with New Test

Scientists temporarily attached a pig's kidney to a human body and watched it begin to work, a small step in... Read More

Scientists temporarily attached a pig's kidney to a human body and watched it begin to work, a small step in the decades-long quest to one day use animal organs for life-saving transplants. Pigs have been the most recent research focus to address the organ shortage, but... Read More

News From The Well
scroll top