The Opportunities of Urbanisation

Arthur Kay, chief executive of Bio Bean

Sustainable global growth means embracing a new attitude to waste as a resource - not least as urban population rapidly expand, say Arthur Kay founder of bio bean.

Bio-bean is a green energy company that has industrialised the process of turning waste coffee grounds into two advanced biofuel products: biodiesel for transport systems and biomass pellets used for heating buildings. The idea arose from my fascination with cities, the foundation of human civilisation, hubs of economic and social power that drive development by concentrating skills, ideas, and resources. As an architecture student at The Bartlett, UCL, I began thinking about cities and the impact they have on us all.

"I started with the circular economy premise that there is no such thing as waste, simply resources in the wrong place."

Whilst designing a coffee shop and coffee factory, as you do at architecture school, I began looking at coffee waste, and explored how we could re-imagine the industry’s supply chain. The conceptual leap here was to turn this problem on its head. I started with the circular economy premise that there is no such thing as waste, simply resources in the wrong place.

I realised that coffee was being wasted everywhere - pouring out of major urban centres: coffee shops, cafes, office blocks, transport hubs, museums, factories, airports - huge volumes of coffee grounds were being thrown away into landfills at an enormous cost. Over 500,000T of waste coffee grounds are produced each year in the UK alone.

As the first company in the world to industrialise this process we have developed and protected pioneering technology, we have built a 20000 sq ft factory capable of processing over 150 tonnes of waste coffee grounds every day, raised million pounds in financing, but most importantly we have built a fantastic team, now over twenty people.

This think piece was in part delivered as a TEDx lecture by Arthur Kay. If your business wastes coffee grounds, please get in touch with bio-bean to organise a commercially and environmentally beneficial collection.

We have launched a coffee collection service to collect coffee from 300 London locations. So if you are a restaurant, coffee shop, office block or any business that wastes coffee grounds please sign up.

We’ve received tremendous support from the Mayor’s Low Carbon Prize, from UCL, Shell, TSB, Santander, Innovate UK, Postcode Lottery Green Challenge, the Ellen Macarthur Foundation and many others.

If global growth is to be sustainable, we need to understand the pressures that rapid urbanisation will impose and that they are interconnected: from infrastructure to waste, mental wellbeing to housing, transportation to energy and from water to our economic prosperity. These are not just global challenges, but uniquely urban ones.