Saturday 15 June 2024
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Australian University trials world-first coffee concrete footpath

Organic waste going to landfill, including spent coffee grounds, contributes 3% of greenhouse gas emissions, but Dr Rajeev Roychand and his colleagues at RMIT are set on transforming this waste into a valuable resource for the construction industry

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MELBOURNE, Australia – Freshly brewed coffee concrete may be coming to a street near you after RMIT University in Melbourne, Victoria, Australia, teamed up with Macedon Ranges Shire Council to conduct a world-first coffee concrete footpath trial.

Several other upcoming infrastructure projects around Victoria, Australia, will also turn spent coffee grounds into biochar and transform this waste into a valuable resource for the construction industry.

The RMIT team will partner with Australian-owned BildGroup – a civil infrastructure, asphalt paving and road profiling company – to deliver these other circular-economy projects.

Organic waste going to landfill, including spent coffee grounds, contributes 3% of greenhouse gas emissions, but Dr Rajeev Roychand and his colleagues at RMIT are set on transforming this waste into a valuable resource for the construction industry.

Organic waste cannot be added directly to concrete because it would decompose over time and weaken the building material. To overcome this challenge, the team has developed a technique to make concrete 30% stronger by using coffee biochar made with a low-energy process without oxygen at 350 degrees Celsius, to give the drink-additive a “double shot” at life and reduce waste going to landfill.

They use a similar technique to turn other organic waste, including wood chips, into biochar that can also be used to make stronger concrete.

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Australia generates 75 million kilograms of ground coffee waste every year – most of it goes to landfills, but it could replace up to 655 million kilograms of sand in concrete because it is a denser material. Globally, 10 billion kilograms of spent coffee is generated annually, which could replace up to 90 billion kilograms of sand in concrete

The researchers will evaluate the performance of the concrete in these trial footpaths in Gisborne, with the aim of supporting the further roll out of this innovation.

“We are currently working in the supply chain sector so that we can make this research into a mainstream product for commercial applications, and we’re not only looking into coffee ­– we’re expanding this into all forms of different organic waste,” Roychand said.

“Every biochar produced from a different organic material comes with varying composition, in addition to the difference in carbon content, particle size and absorbency, that can boost the performance of concrete in a range of ways.”

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