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bio-bean: Sustainable Solutions Powered by Coffee Grounds

Mon, 23 May 2016

Interview with Arthur Kay, Founder & CEO of bio-bean, Shell LiveWIRE Winner
Founded in 2013 by architecture student Arthur Kay, bio-bean started as a solution to recycle coffee grounds into biofuels. That idea has grown into an award-winning business,  and bio-bean recently launched its second advanced biofuel product – Coffee Logs. We caught up with Arthur to hear more about bio-bean’s latest offering and the company’s journey.   

Congratulations on the launch of Coffee Logs! Can you tell us a little bit more about product?
Coffee Logs are ‘biomass briquettes’ made from waste coffee grounds. The principle is simple: we wanted to create a product from coffee waste that consumers could use in their everyday lives – Coffee Logs are an evolution of our original recycling technology. Composed of the clean biofuel created from recycled coffee grounds, they can be used for a range of different appliances, such as wood burning stoves, chimneys, barbeques, pizza ovens, or just an open fire. And when compared to woody fuels, Coffee Logs burn hotter and longer, ignite quickly, are sustainable, and more cost-effective.
This is your first consumer offering.  How do you plan to engage with customers and produce at scale?
Our crowdfunding campaign for Coffee Logs is the first step in providing a consumer offering, helping to work towards our mission of transforming the way the world sees waste, and spreading awareness about our brand. Our goal is to raise £20,000 to cover the costs of commercial production, including the cost of expanding our existing factory, hiring more, qualified engineers and adapting our packaging and transport logistics model.

As an incentive, we’ve put together some exciting rewards for our funders from exclusive pre-orders, to an e-booklet with coffee inspired recipes by leading chefs, and VIP tickets to a range of exciting events. All pledges will go towards covering the costs of producing the product. 
How do you think Coffee Logs will help consumers think more about sustainable consumption?
Consumers are increasingly interested in what you might call the ‘provenance’ of products they buy and consume. 

Coffee Logs have an engaging backstory of innovation – a bright way to find new uses for the thousands of tonnes of coffee ground waste produced each year in the UK. I think that it’s important for people who are concerned with big societal challenges like waste and climate change. 
You’ve been operational for three years now.  How have you and your team developed the business in that time and what have been your major milestones?
First and foremost, having a fantastically talented and dedicated team around me has been pivotal.  Early funding was of course also critical for investment in research and development (R&D) and launching large-scale operations within a year. Our pioneering waste manufacturing facility in Alconbury Weald, launched last year, can process 50,000 tonnes of coffee waste annually.  This allowed us to extend our range of collection partners and customers for biomass pellets, and to broaden further R&D into liquid fuels and biochemicals.
bio-bean quoteThe continued support we’ve received from Shell LiveWIRE and Shell Springboard has been also massively helpful. We have received mentoring by Shell engineers, which has been particularly instrumental in assisting with our R&D. The Shell Enterprise Development team also continues to be very valuable in supporting us with business advice, providing networking and promotion opportunities, including at the upcoming Make the Future festival in London, to showcase our business and technology.
What is your advice for other low-carbon entrepreneurs who are looking to scale-up their business?
Low-carbon entrepreneurs have to get the commercial side of the business right. If your business either saves or makes money for individuals and other businesses, you will be successful. Relying simply on the low-carbon element isn't always enough in the private sector. If bio-bean's model wasn't commercially-effective for our clients, nine times out of ten we wouldn't get through the door.

bio-bean and other innovations are finding power by looking beyond the expected. More information on how these ideas are changing the world for a more sustainable, low carbon future can be found in the Make the Future campaign.

Do you have a smart business idea that will provide a solution to the world’s future transport, food, energy, or natural resource challenges, or make our urban environments cleaner and more sustainable places to work and live in? If so you can apply online now for funding.
bio-bean has been recognised by a number of prestigious awards and competitions as a 2013 Shell LiveWIRE Grand Ideas Award winner, 2013 Shell LiveWIRE Young Entrepreneur of the Year Finalist, 2013 Shell LiveWIRE Innovation Award winner, 2014 Shell Springboard National Finalist and the 2014 Postcode Lottery Green Challenge

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