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In the Netherlands, we throw away about 365,000 kilos of coffee grounds per day. This wastefulness is especially regrettable given that coffee grounds are a good material for making other products such as soap. Coffee grounds cleanse your hands, neutralise bacteria and have an exfoliating effect. There is a good reason that people at construction sites and in workshops have cleaned their dirty hands with –those very coffee grounds for a long time!

As a university, we are naturally eager beavers for such initiatives. Right now, we are testing dispenser soap made from coffee grounds on the Roeterseiland Campus. If the tests are successful, a wonderful circular process will be created. The soap will first be used on the Roeterseiland Campus and then at other UvA sites as well. 

Coffee grounds are now carried away and disappear in the waste treatment process. The staff at Pantar (people who are at a distance from the job market) are now collecting it so it can then be turned into soap.

Win-win-win

The coffee grounds are collected in electric cars. These cars are driven by people who are at a distance from the job market, starting out in the passenger seat. This way, they are given the opportunity to obtain their driving licence (as there is a huge demand for drivers). After they receive the right documents, they can become independent drivers of electric cars – whether they transport coffee grounds or other products.

The coffee grounds:

  • are sent to a company that extracts the oil. This oil is a good substitute for palm oil and can be used by the make-up industry, for example.
  • are sent to a digester in Amsterdam-West, where the grounds are dried.

Swill (organic waste) from the area is fed into the digester (bread from the city, markets and neighbourhoods; possibly waste from the UvA and AUAS as well in the future). The digester generates heat (used to dry the grounds), electricity (used to charge the electric cars) and water (used in Pantar’s greenhouses). The dried coffee grounds, together with the extracted oil and added orange peels, are made into soap, which nowadays includes soap for dispensers.

The Facility Services pantry on the Roeterseiland Campus is now testing whether the dispenser soap really works. The only thing that we can tell you at the moment (surprise!) is that the soap smells fantastic and makes your hands really soft!

This lovely example of circular economy right here at the UvA is being launched in very close collaboration with the other partners involved.