#12 | Fergus Moore - Revive Eco: Champion of Diverting Coffee Grounds from Landfill
Did you know, used coffee grounds can reduce deforestation because they contain many of the same properties as palm oil?
In this episode of the Sustainability Matters Today podcast, I interview Fergus Moore, Co-Founder of Revive Eco and #Champion of Diverting Coffee Grounds from Landfill.
Revive Eco collects and recycles used coffee grounds to produce a range of eco-friendly products. Recently, they were chosen as a Solve - MIT Global Finalist for their proposal of converting coffee grounds into high value, natural oils. For their innovation, Revive-Eco received the LiveWIRE Smarter Future Award in 2016, a Green Champion Award from the Glasgow Business Awards in 2017, a grant from Zero Waste Scotland’s Circular Economy Investment Fund in 2018, and recently they were semi-finalists in the Chivas Venture Final in 2019, for which they received $20,000 in prize money.
Please subscribe to the Sustainability Matters Today podcast to learn about other champions of sustainability like Fergus.
I hope you enjoy this episode!
Palmitic Acid: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Palmitic_acid
Linoleic Acid: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Linoleic_acid
Oleic Acid: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oleic_acid
Stearic Acid: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stearic_acid
Circular Economy: ellenmacarthurfoundation.org/circular-economy/concept
Ellen Macarthur Foundation: ellenmacarthurfoundation.org/
Iceland palm oil advert: youtube.com/watch?v=oA10-oZi4Xc
Gabe Brown’s SMT Episode: bit.ly/gabe-brown-SMT
May Al Karooni’s SMT Episode: bit.ly/MayAlKarooniSMT
Daniel Hartz: I'm here with Fergus Moore, co-founder of Revive CO. Thanks for joining me, Fergus. Great to have you on the show.
Fergus Moore: Thanks very much for having me, Daniel.
Daniel Hartz: So you're you're working on some really exciting things with Revive Eco. And before we jump into it, I'd love to start with your background. How did you get started in sustainability?
Fergus Moore: Well, first of all, thank you for thinking what we're doing is exciting. But in terms of how we got into sustainability - for me, growing up and suddenly I was, kind of, coming up to start my university career, shall we say. I was always interested in having an impact beyond myself. I didn't necessarily know that was going to be going down the sustainability lane, but I certainly knew that I wanted to do something that would allow me to have as broader impact as I possibly could. Hence, why I studied business at the University of Strathclyde. I felt that entrepreneurship and being able to start my own company - that was a, kind of, at least a step in the right direction with that for having a broader impact as I possibly could.
For me, sustainability - when it came to actually moving into that space -for me, it just made common sense. It's both sort of necessary from the current climate, sort of that we're at the moment, both in terms of climate change, political climate, everything.
I think that a focus on sustainability is definitely necessary, but also from a , kind of , a natural world point of view, always had an interest in the natural world growing up. And in waste isn’t natural , human beings are the only thing on the planet that creates waste. Everything else - if a plant dies, it falls to the ground that decomposes and it becomes plant food or it becomes fertilizer for the next plan or for animals or whatever it might be.
There is no waste in nature. And I think because of that interest in the natural world growing up and also that, kind of, drive to create impact. And I think it was two things - kind of, I guess ,came together - and it just made sense for me to start focusing on sustainability. And I guess sustainable entrepreneurship was a really cool story.
Daniel Hartz: I think there is no waste. That's why nature is so perfect because everything has a purpose, even if the purpose is to no longer exist. But in that process, by no longer existing, it feeds the next life. So with that in mind, I mean, how did you start Revive Eco? Where did that come from?
Fergus Moore: So with Revive - I mean, it's quite a long and laborious story now - I'll skip to the highlights, I guess. As I said I was studying business at the University of Strathclyde, and me and my co-founder Scott were both there and we were both working in hospitality at the time, just part time jobs. And I was working at a cafe, Scott was working at, sort of, event campus place in Glasgow. We were faced day to day with the amount of food waste that was being left at the end of every single day.
That was something I think that it got to us, certainly because we were on the frontline, if you will, seeing - literally putting that stuff in the bin - seeing and knowing that no value is being created from something that realistically still had value. So we started to play with different ideas of how we can create value from food waste.
Food waste itself is quite a difficult thing to work with - general food waste. Because day to day, a food waste bin is going to have completely different things in. It just depended on what people are leaving behind everyday. So we decided to focus on more and more niche food waste streams and the one that we focused on was coffee waste. That was simply because I worked in a cafe, Scott worked day to day serving coffee. It was just I think we knew, nothing really more than that.
But we quickly realised that coffee grains had so much more value than was currently being garnered from it. People were coming into their coffee shop, sometimes asking for wee bags of coffee grounds to take home, to put in their gardens, to add to their compost heap.
So I guess we already knew that there was value there. But it's only been, you know, through this process, through this, kind of, development that we feel like that it doesn't even come close to the amount of value being left behind.
I think we might have actually spoken about it the last time we spoke. Actually creating a coffee from coffee is probably the lowest value thing you can do with coffee. And the oils and everything held within coffee has so much more value than simply a whole cup of Joe and keep you going in the morning.
So we set up the company the week we graduated, and we’ve been working on it now for three years. And we're now at the point that we've raised investment and we've got money there to develop this as an actual business idea rather than just simply a, kind of, a concept which it was up until maybe about six or seven months ago.
Daniel Hartz: Yeah, super exciting. I mean, that must feel really good that it's being validated and you're seeing the work over the last few years actually building momentum and moving forward.
Fergus Moore: Yes, totally. I think it's, kind of, - for us it feels like it's been a real long time in the process - but I guess at the same time, you know, Rome wasn't built in a day. And we need to understand that this is going to take a long time. We are creating something new, something that's never been done before. So there's a lot of potholes, there's a lot of things that people - even people with years of experience - have never come up against, because, as I said, we are creating something completely new.
Daniel Hartz: Totally. And, you know, going back to the genesis of how this all began, you mentioned that food waste was really the biggest, kind of, factor in getting getting you excited and interested in sustainability and really starting Revive Eco. And I think food waste is a really important topic.
I think it's starting to come more and more into the mainstream just because, you know, we're seeing some pretty shocking numbers of anywhere between, you know, a quarter to a third of all food being wasted, which is insane to think about, considering that we hear also about millions of people that are hungry, not just in Third World countries, but even in First world countries.
I'd love to hear what your thoughts are in terms of what problems are associated with food waste.
Fergus Moore: Yes, totally. I think when it comes to food waste, I see the problem as, kind of, ,two-fold. The first one is, as you said, the kind of, juxtaposition of the amount of perfectly edible food going to waste. While I think it's roundabout to be 13 percent of the planet is currently undernourished and the, kind of, unfairness, maybe, of that is just mind blowing. Not to mention that, obviously, the tonnages that we actually see going to - whether it's landfill or anaerobic digestion or whatever - is terrifying when you consider how much of it is actually perfectly edible. And on the other side of that is that scale and where is it going - AD (anaerobic digestion), compost - these are a good start. But when we are seeing the amount of value in just coffee waste, I can only imagine the other the amount of value that could be created from other waste streams, whether it be, you know, other sort of large niche steams like whisky waste or brewery waste and anything like that. There must be huge values just going to, ironically, going to waste.
On top of that, there's then, when things are going to end up in landfill, there's the emissions, there's everything else related to it. I think that people - maybe look at food waste going to landfill as well - if you throw food waste out, and your compost or whatever and so it can't be that bad. But actually, it ending up in landfill is a million times worse - it creates far more emissions, creates methane which is far more damaging - and simply is an issue, is a global issue, that we need a solution to.
It's not, kind of , one that would be nice because we could create a bit of economic value from it. That is a problem that requires a solution-that requires it as quickly as possible.
Daniel Hartz: Totally. And so how does Revive Eco provide that solution? I mean, how do you prevent and reduce food waste?
Fergus Moore: So for us, unfortunately, with coffee grounds - the sort of that waste - the grounds are an inevitable part of making a coffee. When you actually make a coffee, it's about 1 percent of the coffee grounds. So, that is used to create that coffee so that other 99 percent residual material will always go to waste unfortunately.
So what we are doing is taking that out of, I guess, the waste system and our goal is to maximize the value being created from that. These used coffee grounds roundabout 60 percent of your standard cafe's waste will actually be coffee grounds. So for the coffee industry, a substantial percentage of their overall waste.
So being so being able to take that out not only provides them with actually a cost saving, but it also means that they're sending less food waste to, whether it be AD or landfill.
But at the same time, it still does because coffee grounds are actually - at the moment in Scotland - aren't looked upon as food waste. So they actually can still go in your general waste or basically whatever bin they like to completely legally which just blows our mind. That's the way, I suppose, I think, that's hopefully going to be changing.
Daniel Hartz: Yeah, that seems pretty crazy that coffee grounds, which are, I mean, I guess, they're technically edible - we certainly drink it, you know, you filter water through it. I don't see it's very strange that Scotland doesn't see it as food waste.
Fergus Moore: Yeah. I think if they go in food waste bins, they're not. So they are allowed to be put on food waste bins, but they're not legally regarded as food waste. So it's, kind of, they're a bit of a middle position at the moment where they can, kind of, go wherever which is of no use to anyone.
Daniel Hartz: Yes. Not only is Revive Eco preventing and reducing food waste by taking the coffee grounds from cafes once they're done with them. But you're also solving mass deforestation of tropical forests in countries like Indonesia and Malaysia because they're making way for palm oil plantations. So that's an issue you're attacking, tackling as well. And just to provide some context why forests are being cleared, could you please provide a bit of background on what exactly is palm oil?
Fergus Moore: So palm oil - is a vegetable oil that has a sort of wide range of uses and lots of different industries. Once you actually start looking into palm oil, it's incredible, the number of products that it’s in - whether it's from a small percentage rate of larger percentage and things like margarines and things like this. So it's in things like, you know, cosmetics, the food and drinks industry, household products, pharmaceuticals, pretty much anything, to be honest. And it's the- one of the, sort of, most widely used vegetable oils globally.
And as you said, that sort of, the growth is seen over the past 20 or so years. These countries, Indonesia and Malaysia, they just simply could not keep up with the growth of this commodity product just because it was the, sort of, the drive for palm oil and products from the West was just so monumental that the only way they could keep up was, as you said, through mass deforestation of their tropical rainforests, which you know, not only is that just the destruction of natural lands with it, that, kind of, I'm sure people will have seen that in the adverts over Christmas from Iceland for, you know, destroying the habitats of orangutans and other other sort of animals that live in these areas.
There's also the emission impact of this. These tropical rainforests hold unbelievable amounts of carbon emissions within them. They are basically, you know, they are the lungs of the planet. And they have been sucking in - for want of a better phrase - these carbon emissions for thousands of years. And by chopping them down, we are just then releasing every last ounce of it back into the atmosphere. A couple of years ago -it's dropped down slightly but still not as not great -but a couple of years ago, deforestation and these areas actually accounted for 10 percent of the world's carbon emissions for a year, which considering how many cars I see on the motorway driving past this building right now is absolutely insane to think of. And unfortunately, palm oil is still growing and these rainforests continue to be chopped down to make way for new palm oil plantations.
Daniel Hartz: As I was doing some research on palm oil, I read multiple times that basically 50 percent of products in a supermarket have palm oil where some sort of palm derivative in them.
You know, it's just there's so many predictions on how much it's going to be growing. You know, it's like growing 7 percent year on year. There's just some really big growth in a very short period of time. And so that's actually where Revive Eco comes in, because you're looking to replace palm oil with the oil that's inside the coffee grounds that you were mentioning earlier. You're currently working with a world renowned research institute on that, trying to find the best way to extract it.
Can you give some more background on what exactly you're researching and looking for?
Fergus Moore: Yes. So I guess we did some research with the University of Strathclyde here in Glasgow. Looking at what was held within coffee grounds, obviously we knew that there was coffee held then coffee gains. But what else was in there and was there anything else with value?
And from that small piece of research, we found that, yes, there was -there's lots of. Well, it's a different sort of acids and fatty acids held within coffee grounds that have a wide range of uses in different industries as well. The most exciting part for us is that they actually contain all the same components as palm oil.
So the four key things held within palm oil are Palmitic acid, Linoleic acid,Oleic, and Stearic acid. And all four of those are at a high percentage within coffee grounds. So the next step for us was then look into how we could, I guess, get access to these oils. How could we extract them in the most cost effective and energy efficient manner possible.
We started speaking with, I guess, any engineering company that would listen to us. And we were basically met with stony faces and basically a 'no' from everybody- "It wouldn't be possible", "It would be too expensive", "It certainly wouldn't be energy efficient or, kind of, wouldn't be possible to do it in any, kind of, sustainable way". We'd have to be using nasty chemicals and solvents and things like that.
So serendipitously, the University of Strathclyde is actually doing some work with, as you said, a world-renowned research institute. And they introduced us to them. Just basically, they knew that we were looking at chemical processing and this institute was working on chemical processing at that point for a completely different product. You know, they still had the expertise there.
We had a conversation with them. And I think they were probably the first people that we spoke to that actually got it. They got what we were trying to do and it wasn't two wee lads just wanted to build a wee machine that could get some some oils; that we had a global vision.
We wanted to make the entire coffee industry more sustainable. And I think they bought in to that vision, not mission - that, kind of, sustainable mindset. So straight away, sort of bonded over that, shall we say, and started to look into whether or not there was any way that we could do this, as I say, energy and cost effective manner.
So now we’re sort of about six months in to a 12 month project with them. We are developing a whole new technology that is currently not used anywhere else that allows us to extract these oils without using any solvents and is extremely energy efficient, actually basically only uses heat and water and allows us to pull all these oils to be used in, as I say, all these different industries.
Yes. So as I said, we're about six months through that. We're hoping to have a demonstration unit up and running in probably September, October time here in Glasgow. And at that point, I think that we're really excited, obviously really excited about that. But that will be the first time that we're not just saying we are going to do this. We'll be the first time that it's real not only for us, but also real for our potential customers, for potential investors, for everyone.
It's, kind of, no this isn't just a pipe dream. We are doing this. And, you know, this is a game changer for the coffee industry.
Daniel Hartz: That's so exciting and you're so close now. Just around the corner.
Fergus Moore: It's, kind of, equally exciting and terrifying. And to be at the point of, you know, as Scott and I aren't engineers and get limited technical scientific knowledge so to know be so heavily engrossed in an entirely scientific and engineering business, as you know, is scary.
No point or beating around the bush, in fact, but you know, I guess we don't need to be - I have an engineering degree to understand the way people work together - to understand that we sort of create solutions for problems.
You know, the research institute have the engineering knowledge. The university has their scientific knowledge. All our partners, kind of , help us with that. But yet, as you said, very, very exciting time for us.
Daniel Hartz: Yeah. So how how closely does that oil that you're extracting from the coffee grounds resemble palm oil?
So like I said, it's got all the same components. To see that it is a straight replacement probably - that wouldn't be accurate. It's the components within palm oil that we can replace. So palm oil itself, so the, kind of, crude, palm oil, actually doesn't have a massive value. It's a commodity. It sells it, you know, almost similar to oil does by the barrel. It's not got huge value. It's the components within that that hold the value for cosmetics, products and things like that.
And these companies say, OK, let's just use cosmetics. These cosmetic companies are shipping and create palm oil from Indonesia and Malaysia to then go through more processing to strip out these individual components before they are then mixed then with her and their formulations to create their products.
We are basically allowing them to skip all of those steps and just provide them with the individual ingredients with palm oil. So those Stearic, Linoleic, Palmetic, Oleic acids and a range of other ones that are held within coffee as well. Meaning that not only are they not needing or not only are they losing a step in their supply chain that they don't need to deal with anymore, but they're also removing all the logistics - that's an ingredient get shipped from the other side of the world. That's then going to another plant to be stepped down into their components, to then be shipped to them, to then be shipped to their customers. We're, kind of , providing them with a more locally sourced and sustainable alternative to these products.
Oh, man, that's as good as it gets. One question I'm always interested in is why would a company want to use your coffee ground oils instead of just the industry standard?
But the answer is really obvious because there's a lot more work involved with industry standard palm oil because they have to get all of the little parts out of it that they need. You're doing all of that for them and you're just saying, well, you need stearic acid--Here it is! I mean, from coffee, but that doesn't matter.
Fergus Moore: Exactly. Yeah. I mean, there are a lot of things involved with it, especially if it's going to things like cosmetics or drinks products, because obviously that’s human consumption or being used on human skin. So we need to make sure that that, kind of, traceability elements of the oil are all tied up in things like that. So maybe saying, you know, we extracted it and we send it to them is maybe making it a little more simplistic then what we would love it to be that simple.
But on the, kind of, - on a - I guess, from a high, high level - yes, we're removing that. We're removing the need for them to be dealing with multiple partners. They need to have these huge logistics costs and emissions from these logistics on their books.
We're giving them the, kind of, green credentials of using ingredients created from sustainable sources, not to mention allowing them to have the stamp of "We don't use palm oil", which at the moment has massive value to companies. The public is massively turning against palm oil, as I'm sure, you have seen on the news and lots of places which I think - sorry, started to go off in a bit of a tangent here - but I think that there is an element of maybe education that needs to be around palm oil. I think people think that palm oil itself is damaging by consuming palm oil. We are doing damage to our selves or palm oil is just inherently bad for the environment - that's not the case.
There is sustainable sources of palm oil. Palm oil is still the highest yield vegetable oil on the market. It's more than double the next down which I think is coconut. In terms of yield, it's five times more than soy, which is as widely used in other things. So it is the cheapest, most widely available vegetable oil out there. And it's, yield-wise, is the best one for us to use. So, that's maybe something that the public maybe doesn't understand.
And it's something we've faced a little bit when we were saying that we were wanting to replace palm oil. It's, kind of, like, "Oh, well! you know, palm oil actually is the best. It has the best yield. You know, there's no way that you can sort of impact such a huge economy. Went from using a waste material". And we do understand that.
But even if we could only reduce 1 percent of the amount of palm oil being created - you know 2 percent- that is a monumental amount of deforestation being avoided. It's a monumental amount of logistics costs being reduced, or logistics and the, kind of, carbon emissions surrounding that. Not to mention that has huge savings for all these companies that are currently using palm oil and add value created for them as well because people are turning against palm oil.
Daniel Hartz: Yeah. Very interesting. I think you're absolutely right. You know, when something gets vilified, it's very easy to start confusing where exactly the problem lies. And I was actually very surprised to know that palm oil itself is quite a healthy oil. And, you know, one of the reasons why it's so popular is just because, like you said, it's the highest yielding. So, in fact, it's one of the least wasteful types of oil. It requires the least amount of space to grow in order to get a gallon of oil.
But the challenges that it grows in very tropical places and other things grow in tropical places like forests. So the only way to actually scale or to get enough oil at the scale that the world is currently looking for requires basically just removing all the forests. And that's a really big issue. That's why it's so exciting.
I think that you're able to remove a lot of the, kind of, logistical challenges associated with palm oil for the companies that need it. Because then there is this relatively strong incentive I would imagine a financial incentive as I think one of the best incentives for companies to make a change and then to look into new alternatives and find other ways.
I'm curious, and I mean, you mentioned, you know, speaking of yield. How close, if you can say, how close is your yield to palm oil? I mean, do you require tons of commonly used coffee grounds to get a small amount of oil or are you actually able to produce it at a rate that's scalable and make sense?
Fergus Moore: I mean, so in terms of the amount of oil held within coffee grounds they're actually has a pretty similar rate to Palm. It's right about -So I think Palm is round about 20 percent, maybe 22 percent. Well, we are setting maybe between 18 and 20 so it has a high percentage. That's not to say necessarily that we will get that yield from our technology. So that's how much is there and total.
What we are trying to do at the moment is maximize the amount that we can actually extract using this technology, because we know that getting 50 percent of that will be easy, but then getting 75 percent of that will be a 100 times more harder; get 90 percent of that will be a thousand times more hard.
So, you know, actually getting closer and closer to that level will be - basically, there will come a point where it just will not be financially sort of sustainable and to be trying to extract these coffees that the oils yield. And we are hopeful of getting right about, you know, between somewhere between 15 and 20. And we feel like from the lab tests that we've been doing that is doable.
And, you know, as you said, there is tons of coffee out there. So in terms of scale, even if it was half the amount of oil as palm, there is enough coffee grounds out there for us to still create a massive amount of all these oils. As I said, it's trying to maximize this technology to make sure that we are getting the very most of them.
Daniel Hartz: Yeah, I think it's also really interesting. I mean, you mentioned that you're not using any, kind of, nasty chemicals or anything. It's just heat and water. So even that part of it is also great because you're not relying on anything that can be really harmful to the environment.
Further downstream or from the pollution side of it is significantly negated as well. So once you're done processing the grounds for oil, you're still actually left with quite a valuable product. So once the processing is done, what's the next step?
Fergus Moore: So, yeah, we're still left with a really sort of carbon rich residual material to give you a bit of context. The original idea of what we were going to be doing with Revive was collecting coffee gains, simply drying them and then adding a few bits and pieces to it to create a , kind of , natural soil condition or a natural fertilizer type product. So that was the original plan. We found that the coffee drying this high were very acidic, so they could only really be used on certain plants and they could only be used sort of quite a low volume or else it would almost everyday just overpower plants.
So, you know, I guess as a lucky break that sparked the drawing board to look at other ways to create value from it. That's what led to the oils and everything. The rest is history. But luckily for us, when we extract all these oils from the coffee grounds, a lot of them, as I said, our fatty acids, so they reduce the acidity of the coffee going right down.
So they actually make them a far better soil condition or a fair slicer product. They have far wider uses on different plants and they're still very carbon rich. So, they have two main outlets that we're going to be looking at. And the first one, as I said, is this bio-fertilizer product in the future. We're also hoping to then pelletized the residual material to create a, kind of, biomass pellet product. The plan for this is basically to then actually burn those to power the process itself, which would mean that it was basically self-sufficient. We would be completely off the grid and it would run from its own with its own waste stream.
That's something that's we're still very early stage with that. We're still, kind of, trying to develop that with our research partners. But that's it, that's a real, kind of, exciting prospect for us to be able to have a completely closed loop system where literally every last ounce of this that's is getting used to create the maximum value.
Daniel Hartz: Super cool and ties back in exactly with where you started about sustainability makes common sense. And in the natural world, there is no waste. It's so cool to see that you're actually working towards having a business that runs that way. Very cool!
Fergus Moore: Yeah. I think for us it's quite it's quite an interesting place for us to be and know that we're, kind of, looking at the circular economy and sustainable business that when we've been developing the business model, if we come to a point that is right, so the coffee gains come into the factory, they come in in plastic bags, the coffee going to go into the machine right now we got a lot of the plastic bags. What is there that we can do with that? I think that most companies go-- okay the plastic bags, they go in plastic recycling and they'll get sent a way.
Again, don't know what it would be, but there is potentially a way that we could make value from those plastic bags. There is value. There could be you know, we could break them down and use them. And something that we've not even thought of yet. I think that allows us to just continuously innovate rather than looking at it as like, "Okay,well, there is a waste stream from here, so we better call a waste management company". That's Okay, we've got a waste stream. That's either going to be a cost to us or it's a potential revenue stream for us. And the fact that companies over the past 50 years have looked at us-- as only over the past 50 years. Before that and companies would not like, they would be looking at, we don't want to check. How can we do something better for the past 50 years with this new, kind of, take-me-dispose model . They just look at and go over, "Somebody will take it away for us. Okay. How much is it? Who cares? We’ll pay for it".
Common sense dictates that you're losing money. It just blows my mind. Even if we could get rid of it at cost and yet create something that allows us to get rid of it at completely cost neutral, we're still making a saving on a potential cost. It's mind blowing to us. And people look at us as that, kind of , like "Oh, these guys are, you know, really, you know, reinventing the wheel here" -not to pat myself in the back too much, but to us, it just why would we ever not take advantage of a potential revenue stream? I just can't get my head around it. And then I don't I ever will
Daniel Hartz: Yeah, it's really interesting what you're saying is identical in a previous episode, I interviewed a regenerative farmer whose name is Gabe Brown and he's based in North Dakota. And one of Gabe Brown's biggest things, he's a very profitable farmer, which is very unique, especially in the US. He always says a big part of profitability as a farmer is to use the waste from one enterprise to fuel the profit of another - that's exactly what you're saying.
I mean, if coffee grounds come in plastic bags, how can you take that plastic bag waste and turn it into, I mean, best case scenario, you can turn it into the profit, the profitability for another enterprise - just like - you're doing it as well with your idea for the biomass pellets that you're going to burn to fuel the machine that makes more oil.
And so it's just this perfectly, kind of , Circular Economy, I guess is the best way to call it. So speaking of which, you wrote a Linkedin post about the Circular Economy, because I mean, as you're as you're saying it, Revive Eco is really becoming a part of it and embracing it.
I guess just for context and we've, kind of, been talking about it. Is there sort of a clean, easy definition for people who may not be familiar with the term circular economy? What is it exactly?
Fergus Moore: I think that's a very good question. I think it's something that the circular economy as a whole needs to work on. And as a clean definition for context, the, kind o , the typical model that our economy now sets as a, kind of, take-make-dispose model. So, you know, a company chops down trees, creates a product from wood, sells it, somebody uses probably then chops it and it goes to landfill. That's the, kind of , I guess, the baseline economic model that we've been working on, working with, for the last while.
And clearly that is not sustainable. There are a finite amount of resources - the natural resources out there - and we're doing our very best to work through every last ounce of them. So we need to slow down and we need to start looking at ways of reusing, sort of regenerating these natural raw materials.
So the Circular Economy sort of looks at it from a completely different point of view of understanding that raw materials will probably be necessary in certain industries and certain places.
But it's looking at trying to keep that to the bare minimum. If there is a way to create those products using recycled materials, is there a way to prolong the life of that product so that is not just so, you know, used for six months, then chucked out. So there is six, kind of , key things that we look at.
So it's looking at shifting towards renewable energy materials. So from a design point of view, looking at ways that we can design out waste. There is looking at - so it's called loop - so which is keeping components in a, kind of , closed loop, so that would be, kind of , where we would fall in. We, kind of , look ourselves as closing the loop on coffee shop waste. So, you know, the coffee waste is created, and rather than us just taking it to landfill , kind of , allow it to continue around and create products that maybe go back into the food and drinks industry - so, kind of , prolonging that life.
There's, kind of , you know, different business models like leasing and sort of exchanging. So rather than just getting rid of something - could somebody else still garner value from it? So, you know, once you've used your clothes for a certain amount of time there, you might not think they're nice or cool anymore, but somebody else might.
So it's all these sort of things. It's just prolonging the life of products and minimizing the amount of raw materials that need to be used in the economy as a whole, which I basically just proven that there is no, kind of, easy way to describe what Circular Economy is.
I'm sure there's smart people out there that are trying to work on one. But it's a bit conceptual I'd say still at the moment, which I think is an issue because it needs a tagline. Somebody needs - from a branding perspective - needs to look at it and give it a snappy line because there's still an educational piece that's required there.
I think that because people don't quite understand that they're looking at it as just a new buzz word for, you know, hippy tree-huggery-type folks, which is not in no way, is a completely new way of looking at the economy rather than just, you know, a CSR push, which I think maybe the public right through to sort of investment and policy makers maybe don't quite fully understand yet.
Daniel Hartz: Yeah. A lot of these things, especially in their, kind of, infancy, I think people quickly assign them to the tree-huggers and the hippies. But as you're demonstrating, there is a lot of financial sense behind it. It makes much more business sense for you to just use your finished coffee grounds and create electricity from that than it is to buy electricity from the grid or from a provider. It's just common financial logical sense. And I think you're right, once you're able to find some sort of snappy title to it, hopefully should, kind of, take off a bit more.
Fergus Moore: So just to, kind of , add to that and we find it really interesting that the circular economy is starting to become more part of everyday of the economy or people are talking about it more and people are talking about it as this mean, as I just said, talking about this new concept, that new way of looking at doing business. When realistically, if we look at our grandparents or grandparents-grandparents, the idea of wearing a shirt for six months and then the new summer collection comes out, so you chuck that shirt away - just didn't even exist. Fashion is a real culprit for it. But, you know, with everything - having a mobile phone for a year and then chucking it by the exact same mobile phone but it's got, you know, a new camera on it - it just would not have happened 50, 60, 70, 100 years ago.
People recycled - they didn't look at it as recycling - they looked at it as just, well, there's a hole in my shirt, so I need a shirt so I'll sew it up. It's kind just interesting how heavy shifted so far away from that, kind of, like, OK, we can just chuck out anything.
We get so much, you know, we have so many new products. You have so many things to choose from. I know you were, kind of, coming back full circle, ironically, to the point where we're, kind of, looking at it as like, oh, no, it actually it does make much more sense for us to not just chuck something out straight away.
If you want to chuck out a phone after a year, well, there's places you can take it so that someone else - who can't afford the brand new phone can have it, or that the pieces of gold and iron and everything else that’s help within it can be taken out and used for other products. I just find it, kind of, ironic that it's looked at as a new concept when it was the common sense of 50, 60 years ago.
Daniel Hartz: Yeah, it's very true in these, kind of, older logical concepts are coming back as they're the newest hot thing and there's probably business blog posts talking about innovative new ways that you can reuse old things, whereas like you said 50 years ago, that was just, you know, everyone did it. And if you didn't do it, then you're just - that's not very logical of you. Why would you?
Fergus Moore: Absolutely. My grand dad worked in a shirt factory in Ireland and making shirts for Marks and Spencer's. I think he would be laughing his head off at me talking about this new fangled way of doing business. Because I cannot imagine that the factory had an ounce of waste that wasn't absolutely necessary. So it's just funny how quickly we shifted away from it and how quickly we're now shifting back to - because people just seem to be really switching on it. Thanks to things like the David Attenborough Effect and things like this, you know, it's amazing how much impact the visual element of it can be just seeing actually for themselves. That's not just scientists saying, "Oh we need to start recycling plastic" - it's actually having a tangible effect.
Daniel Hartz: Yeah, absolutely. Shifting gears back to the coffee grounds - what's really interesting about Revive Eco is it's, kind of, a dual marketplace in the sense that you're creating a product and then selling that from the used coffee grounds, but your business relies on other companies providing you with their used coffee grounds and that's what you're using to create your products. Can you tell me a bit about the collection process and how that whole process works?
Fergus Moore: Yeah, absolutely. So the way that process self works is we work with a resource management company here in Glasgow. And they do the coffee grounds collections on our behalf. So up until now, we've actually been quite lucky and that we've not done any open marketing to get any sort of cafes or restaurants on board to provide us with their coffee grounds. It's all been in people, I guess, hearing about us and then getting in touch with us.
But the basic way that it has worked up until now is cafe's gets in touch with us. We sign them up to the basic send out, a quite, kind of, form just get some details and then sort of a general idea of how much coffee waste to go through on a weekly basis.
We then work out a collection systems, so it's up until now it has been pretty bespoke for each individual client. Hoping to get that more automated moving forward, but that's for a future conversation. Depending on how much coffee ground they go through in a week, we'll then decide on how many bins we'll send out to them, how many collections per week they'll do or we'll do.
Most of them is just one bin, one collection a week. Some of the bigger clients, for example, like the Scottish events campus and here in Glasgow, which is of a, kind of , event venue, they have far more regular pickups because they have thousands of people coming through their venue every single day so they produce a whole lot more coffee grounds.
We provide them with bins free of charge as a charge for collections which the vast majority of people to get in touch with us are are happy to pay. Some of them, I think, are looking for something for free.
But unfortunately, just when working with a resource management company, it is not something that we could provide for free. They have costs that we need to cover. The reason most of them are happy to pay is - we are removing waste from one of their bins. So the vast majority of them see a reduction in their waste costs in general. So when we charge for our collections, they actually still end up making a saving. That's certainly the case for the bigger place.
For the smaller places, it's more - they're, kind of, breaking even - but they get to sort of brag about the fact that they are being more sustainable and, kind of, get those green credentials.
We then provide each of our clients with monthly impact reports, which they all find really useful thing that allows them to show about what they're doing. At least allows them to tell their customers how much we sort of starting from landfill -that can have carbon emission impact of that - which, as I said, for the smaller places, that's just nice for them as maybe a post in their social media.
But for the bigger places like Scotch Events Campus, the University of Edinburgh, that's a real - that these impact reports can have a real sort of tangible effect on their annual report. So you know that the sustainability policies and things like that, they've really taken to those impact reports, sort of, I guess just love the fact that we are offering that to them. So I guess each client has their own, kind of, drive behind why they did work with us.
Daniel Hartz: Yeah, I mean, it's cool. That's a double win. At least for the bigger ones, they get cost-reduction for waste removal and they also get the win for the sustainability part which is really nice.
That's cool. So I mean, isn't it more work for them or for the people working there to sort out the use coffee waste from everything else and being mindful of them?
Fergus Moore: Yes. That's something I should weigh them. It's a question we've been asked a lot but it's never been an issue in terms of whether the customers we work with that's never been an issue. The reason Scott and I, we never thought we didn't think it was going to be an issue even when people were bringing it up. We worked on cafes, you know, we knew we worked on the shop floor, we knew how it works out there in the front and see it as long as there is a bin closed by you're told this is where plastic goes, this is where this goes.
And you know that it's the reals so we weren't really that worried about that. There's also the fact that the vast majority of cafes already segregate their coffee grind are source.
Most places will have a, kind of, knock-out drawer or a knock-out bin or something that after they make a coffee, they basically just take the coffee puck and knock it into. So they're already being separated. All we're asking is that rather than then porting that drawer into your food waste bin, you pour it into a coffee waste bin.
We've had no issues with that. We've had a tiny amount of contamination in the bins over the past year or 18 months. But I mean, it's been you know, it's never been anything more than maybe like a tissue or like a filter paper from a like filter-coffee or tea bags like this is tiny bits and pieces like that. But that's there once in a blue moon so we've been quite lucky with that food.
Daniel Hartz: For people who aren't familiar with the coffee industry or know exactly what the day to day is like it sounds like a lot more work, but the way you described it, it's doesn't seem like there's really any behavior changes at all.
It's just, you're dumping out all the coffee grounds, which are already segregated, sounds like most of the time, into the bin next to the one you normally dump stuff into.
Fergus Moore: Exactly.
Daniel Hartz: Pretty straightforward. I mean, that's good. The easier it is and the less, first of all, the less mistakes there are, but then the more motivated companies will be to take it on.
Fergus Moore: Totally. And that's something we wanted to work on was to make sure that there was that, kind of, ease of shift between, you know, what they were previously doing that previously doing this even though, as you said, it is a relatively easy shift.
But, you know, when you're working with and people that are maybe only working part time or that, you know, they’re just there to earn a little bit of beer money - they don’t really care and maybe not going to listen as much as they should.
So we worked quite hard to, kind of, make up a wee - just a one page outline, sort of explaining why is that separating in the coffee grounds actually does seem as more than just simply this is the new regulations around where things go into different bins.
It is by doing this you are creating, you know, value, your reducing carbon emissions, you're helping reduce the amount of palm oil, you're helping this, that, and the next thing.. So I think it brings it home as more of a, almost -maybe we’re getting too big for ourselves - but almost a duty. Rather than just simply "That's the rules.".
Daniel Hartz: You're getting buy in from everyone, not just the top people, but also everyone feels like they're helping out contributing. I'd love to know what does the ultimate dream for Revive Eco look like? I mean, so, you know, put another way, what does a perfectly, quote unquote, sustainable world look like to you?
Fergus Moore: Oh, that's a big question. To go back to the circular economy, that to me is the only way that the economy moving or a society moving forward can be sustainable and it needs to be taken in to everything it can just be, you know, businesses trying to do a bit for corporate social responsibility move whilst, you know, behind the scenes they're still desecrating forests or rainforests and other parts of the country. You know, it has to be across the board, it has to be every business, it has to be every society, it has to be every home as well.
I think that society is - certainly in Western society - we have that it’s the public themselves as much as it is business - that is not, I guess, doing ourselves many favors in the way that we sort of are so quick to dispose of things and there's so many things that can be done to make a home more sustainable.
I think it has to just be across the board. And then the final piece of that has to be policymakers, as well it has to be government.
I think all three working together business, the public at large and the government all need to, kind of, work together. And it's not just focusing on - it's not the government having sustainable goals because we think it's what the public want and it's not the public.
"Okay, fine. I'll chuck this in the recycling because I guess that's what you have to do". It's an understanding across the board that if we don't do these things, there isn't going to be a society, there isn't going to be an economy, there isn't going to be a government, there isn't going to be anything in the future.
It pains me that people still don't seem to understand just how close to - not so to, kind of , over the top - but just how close we are to a cataclysmic disaster in terms of our current climate and unemployment in terms of actual the world climate, but also so I guess political and just societal climate as well.
It terrifies me that people are still cynical of whether there is climate change, let alone the people that understand and know that there is climate change and yet still do nothing about it.
Not everybody has to go away and start a company looking at creating a more sustainable way of living or sustainable Circular Economy as model, whatever.
But, you know, just take a minute and look at your own home. Take a look at it and look at your own sort of life and see if there's parts that you could be more sustainable because there are one hundred percent - I know for a fact that there's huge elements of my life that aren't sustainable that I need to work on.
And unfortunately, that is the case across the board. And that's just something that needs to happen. It's not, kind of, you said it was, kind of, a dream, I guess. Unfortunately, it can't be a dream anymore. It has to be a necessity that we need to start looking at these things.
Daniel Hartz: I think it's very true. You're absolutely right. I mean, it's urgent. And we need to do it right now. And it's pretty. I find it also pretty shocking and surprising that people - we're still having the conversation of whether or not it's something that we even need to worry about if it's even valid, these concerns.
As there is a lot of Internet memes going around about this stuff that I see. It's not one person doing a million things perfectly. It's a million people doing a couple of things imperfectly that helps a lot. And as we start to wrap up here in the last minute or so, do you have any books or resources you can recommend for people who are interested in the type of work you're doing or in a circular economy?
Fergus Moore: Yeah, a couple of things in terms of the circular economy. Ellen MacArthur Foundation online, just on their website, is absolutely fantastic, has huge amount of resources in terms of the Circular Economy, both in terms of what as they probably have a pretty good definition there. The news, what's a Circ Economy, what's going on within it, that's a fantastic resource.
And in terms of some books, probably my favorite book in terms of business and sustainability would probably be a book by Yvonne Chouinard, the founder of Patagonia. It's called "Let My People Go Surfing".
It's an absolutely fantastic read both in terms of the history of Patagonia and its founder Vaughn, but also looking at how he built a company culture with values of a real drive for environmental sustainability is very core.
So it's a really interesting book. Patagonia are a really interesting company as well in terms of their, kind of, the work they do. They get 1 percent of all their - it’s actually all their turnover or the revenue every year to environmental causes, which is absolutely what I think is now over. They've given over one hundred million - maybe making that up.
The last book I'm actually reading at the moment, which is quite bit it's interesting, is it's called "Doing the Right Thing- a value based economy". It's by a guy Argue Clamor. And his name is,I might be pronouncing that wrong. And that's again, really interesting read. I'm only maybe about halfway through it, but this is really interesting.
It, kind of, looks at, you know, the difference between looking at a business as a just as an entity and as something that has values. It, kind, of compares it to a house in comparison to a home.
A house has a business- It just as a thing that provides walls and a roof or whatever. But home is something that has, you know, our history has stories that has different and all the elements that make a house a home.
It's something that you need to maybe look at within your business as well and within the economy. And it's just, again, an interesting read.
Daniel Hartz: Yeah. Cool. Thanks for both for both of those and the element of MacArthur Foundation is a good one. Absolutely. thanks for them.
Where can people find you and learn more about what you're doing and Revive Eco and so on?
Fergus Moore: So we have a Website which is revive dash eco dot com. We're also on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter. It's revive underscore eco. So we're posting stuff there, sort of, as frequently as we can. We have a mailing list on our Website as well if you want to sign up, you’ll get sort of as frequent newsletters as we can. At the moment, we're pretty snowed under with work at the moment, but we're trying to keep people in the loop. And yeah, that's the, kind of, the best places to stay and what we're up to.
Daniel Hartz: Great. Is it possible to buy any products already with or have the Revive Eco products in them or you're not quite there yet?
Fergus Moore: We're not quite there yet. And we're working with a couple of different potential customers.
And there's, kind of , lots in the pipeline -lots of, kind of, exciting potential collaborations there but there's nothing actually available for sale quite yet.
Daniel Hartz: Well, for anyone who signs up for your mailing lists or follows you on social media, I'm sure you'll let us know as soon as it's available.
Well, Fergus, thank you so much for your time. It's been really interesting to hear your thoughts and ideas. And I'm really looking forward to trying some of the new products that they end up making with your oils. And maybe I'll fertilize my tomatoes with some coffee grounds.
Fergus Moore: Absolutely. That's actually one of the products that's best for tomatoes and roses are the, kind of, the key ones.
Daniel Hartz: Yeah, makes sense. Awesome. Thanks so much, Fergus. Really appreciate your time.
Fergus Moore: No bother. Thanks.
Thank you very much for listening to this episode of Sustainability Matters Today!
If you’d like to learn more about Fergus and Revive-Eco, please visit their website at revive-eco.com, or like their Facebook page, @ReviveEco. You can also follow them on Twitter - @revive_eco.
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