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Turning coffee into concrete

Coffee could soon be used to create concrete bricks, used in driveways, homes and offices, thanks to a new project from RMIT University.

Coffee could soon be used to create concrete bricks for use in driveways, homes and offices, thanks to a new project from RMIT University.

According to RMIT, Australia drinks around 1.3 million cups of coffee a day, with the grind representing a potentially untapped recycling material.

To reduce the amount of coffee grinds going to landfill, an engineering lecturer and his students have looked to the construction industry to find a solution.

The research team identified concrete as a potential way of recycling the material, replacing up to 10 per cent of the sand in a concrete mix with the coffee waste.

“Most concrete mixes contain up to 80 per cent sand – the third most used resource on the planet. But even this seemingly endless resource cannot keep up with current demand, and extracting it from places with fragile ecosystems can have a huge environmental impact,” RMIT said in a statement.

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The research team produced sample coffee bricks, which aim to take advantage of the 156,000 kilograms of coffee ground waste produced by the City of Melbourne’s 2600 cafes each month.

Bachelor of Engineering (Civil and Infrastructure) (Honours) students Senura Kohombange and Anthony Abiad worked with Senior Lecturer in the School of Engineering Dr Srikanth Venkatesan on the project.

“It seems fitting then that we’re working on this project in Melbourne, a city known for its great coffee culture,” Kohombange said.

“We are very excited to present the project, share the idea with others and showcase how some innovative thinking can turn a waste product into an everyday construction material.”

Venkatesan said as a regular cappuccino drinker he was inspired to find a solution to the waste he was making each day.

“The biggest challenge is ensuring the addition of spent coffee grinds does not lead to a reduction in strength of concrete, and this is the focus of further testing and development to make this product viable for use in real-world applications,” he said.

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