Coffee biowaste valorization within circular economy: an evaluation method of spent coffee grounds potentials for mortar production

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Abstract

Purpose: Spent coffee grounds (SCG) are biowastes extensively generated within the coffee supply chain. Nowadays, their disposal represents an increasing environmental concern due to its toxicity and organic nature. With the estimated increase of coffee production and consumption in the upcoming years, there is an imperative need to find a proper reverse option, along with a novel industrial application, which allows for the valorization of this coffee by-product within a circular economy perspective. This study aims at investigating a potential reuse of spent coffee grounds to produce novel construction materials to be used for sustainable buildings. Methods: After having illustrated the forward flows within the coffee life cycle and the potential reverse flow options, an evaluation method based on multi-criteria analyses was elaborated to test not only the technical but also the environmental and economic performances of novel materials originating from the incorporation of SCG as an aggregate in natural hydraulic lime and geopolymer-based mortars. Moreover, we focus on the reuse of another waste streams— biomass fly ash—deriving from the paper-pulp industry, rarely investigated in both traditional construction applications and in geopolymer manufacture. The two (geopolymer- and lime-based) mortar typologies are here studied and compared as potential green material for applications in construction, with satisfying engineering performance and high insulation attitude, giving a new life to a common organic waste. Consequently, we compare eight formulations by means of multi-criteria approaches that are nowadays claimed as a useful and effective decision aiding support instrument to assess the development of new sustainable construction materials. They permit to consider simultaneously some controversial and often uncertain aspects like technological (as the usual scientific studies do), environmental, and economic (more difficult to easily approach and evaluate). For this purpose, in this paper, we have analyzed the performance of the novel bio-composite mortars using VIKOR and TOPSIS methods to rank a set of alternatives according to various evaluation criteria that often conflict one with each other. Results: Results show that adding spent coffee grounds can efficiently improve the technical and sustainable performances of the novel mortars for different applications in the building sector. The presence of SCG increases water absorption and improves the insulation performance along with an environmental impact reduction. The considered technological properties are highly promising—such as the improvement in thermal insulation. In particular, even the addition of only 5% SCG leads to a significant reduction of the thermal conductivity and consequently to a greater insulating performance. Conclusions: To date, most of the available literature on recycling SCG in construction materials do not consider mortar-based applications and, moreover, nor multi-criteria approaches. Therefore, our study proposes itself as an innovative track solution to food waste management lowering the employment of non-renewable natural resources and the costs associated to construction material production. At the same time, a novel and innovative way of such waste disposal is suggested, pursuing the sustainability and substantially reducing the environmental impact of construction and building materials. This study is a fundamental step in assessing the applicability of our designed and produced materials and its potentials to be produced at an industrial sca
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1805-1815
Number of pages11
JournalTHE INTERNATIONAL JOURNAL OF LIFE CYCLE ASSESSMENT
Volume26
Publication statusPublished - 2021

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Environmental Science

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