Australian Researchers Turn Morning Coffee Waste into Greener Concrete

Coffee beans are seen as they are being packed for export in Medan, Indonesia's North Sumatra province April 25, 2013. (Reuters)
Coffee beans are seen as they are being packed for export in Medan, Indonesia's North Sumatra province April 25, 2013. (Reuters)
TT

Australian Researchers Turn Morning Coffee Waste into Greener Concrete

Coffee beans are seen as they are being packed for export in Medan, Indonesia's North Sumatra province April 25, 2013. (Reuters)
Coffee beans are seen as they are being packed for export in Medan, Indonesia's North Sumatra province April 25, 2013. (Reuters)

Your morning coffee could help the planet.

That's the promise of an Australian university turning used coffee grounds into a material that can be added to concrete to make it stronger and more sustainable, potentially lowering greenhouse gas emissions.

Concrete production, which involves mixing sand and gravel with cement and water, is a major producer of greenhouse gases, responsible for around 7% of the world's emissions, according to the United Nations.

Researchers at Melbourne's RMIT University heated coffee waste without oxygen, a process known as pyrolysis, to create a substance called biochar that can replace up to 15% of the sand used in concrete.

The inclusion of the biochar makes the concrete 30% stronger and reduces the amount of cement needed by up to 10%, said lead researcher Rajeev Roychand.

"This ticks all the boxes," he said. "You preserve carbon and you are getting significantly higher strength."

Roughly 50 billion metric tons of sand is dug up each year, mostly for use in concrete, a 2022 UN report said. Its extraction is often environmentally destructive and it is in increasingly short supply, the report said.

Cement production, which involves heating a mixture of limestone and clay to around 1,500  degrees Celsius (2,732°F), is responsible for most of concrete's emissions.

BIOCHAR COMPANY

The Macedon Ranges Shire Council near Melbourne used the coffee concrete earlier this month to construct a footpath.

RMIT is talking with several construction firms and concrete makers and with Starbucks to take its waste coffee grounds, and could form a company to make biochar, Roychand said. Starbucks did not respond to a request for comment.

Australian infrastructure company Bild Group said it planned to trial the concrete and hoped to use it on major road projects. Construction giant Arup supported the research.

Millions of tons of used coffee grounds are produced globally and most are sent to landfills where they emit methane as they break down.

Australia generates around 75,000 tons of waste coffee grounds a year and biochar made from this could replace up to 655,000 tons of sand in concrete because it is a denser material, Roychand said. Globally, coffee-waste biochar could replace up to 90 million tons of sand in concrete, he said.

Food waste accounts for around 3% of Australia's emissions, according to the government, and most could eventually be made into biochar, Roychand said.

"We anticipate that about 60-70% (of organic waste) we can divert from landfill into concrete applications," he said.

Other international universities are also researching the potential of biochar and other bio-engineering in concrete. RMIT was the first to use waste coffee grounds in this way, Roychand said.



Crews Rescue 30 People Trapped Upside Down High on Amusement Park Ride

Crews rescue dozen of people trapped upside down high on Oregon amusement park ride - The AP
Crews rescue dozen of people trapped upside down high on Oregon amusement park ride - The AP
TT

Crews Rescue 30 People Trapped Upside Down High on Amusement Park Ride

Crews rescue dozen of people trapped upside down high on Oregon amusement park ride - The AP
Crews rescue dozen of people trapped upside down high on Oregon amusement park ride - The AP

Emergency crews in Oregon rescued around 30 people Friday after they were stuck for about half an hour dangling upside down high on a ride at a century-old amusement park.

Portland Fire and Rescue said on the social platform X that firefighters worked with engineers at Oaks Park to manually lower the ride, but crews had been preparing to conduct a high-angle ropes rescue if necessary. All riders were being evacuated and medically evaluated, and there were no reports of injuries.

One rider with a pre-existing medical condition was taken to a hospital for further evaluation as a precaution, Oaks Amusement Park said in a statement posted on social media. Medics released all other passengers.

The ride, called AtmosFEAR, operates like a pendulum, with the capacity to swing riders completely upside down.

Chris Ryan and his wife, from nearby Gresham, were at the park for his birthday. He told The Associated Press in a Facebook message that they had just been planning to ride AtmosFEAR when they saw it was stuck and heard people saying, “Oh my God, they are upside down.”

They decided to walk away because of "how scary the situation was,” he said. They eventually got on the Ferris wheel and heard a loudspeaker announcement that the park was closed and that people should evacuate.

When the ride stopped, park staff immediately called 911 and emergency responders arrived about 25 minutes later, the park statement said. Park maintenance workers were able to return the ride to its unloading position minutes after first responders arrived.

Portland Fire said about 30 people were on board. The amusement park statement said there were 28 riders.

The ride has been in operation since 2021 and has not had any prior incidents, the park said. It will remain closed until further notice. The park said it would work with the ride's manufacturer and state inspectors to determine the cause of the stoppage.

“We wish to express our deepest appreciation to the first responders and our staff for taking prompt action, leading to a positive outcome today, and to the rest of the park guests who swiftly followed directions to vacate the park to make way for the emergency responders to attend to the situation,” it said.

Oaks Park first opened in 1905. Its website says it offers a “uniquely Portland blend of modern thrills and turn-of-the-century charm on a midway that has delighted generations of Northwesterners.”