Interview: Kaffeeform on closing the loop

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Date

05.06.2017

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On December 1st 2016. we held a dialog on the topic of how the gastronomic sector can close its loops.  The restaurants and cafés that we frequently visit are responsible for a large amount of food waste, and these loops were on the agenda. We had a bunch of international inspiring people working in gastronomy who joined  us for the evening to discuss innovative and collaborative ideas, while showing us how they were working towards more sustainability in their work. Among them was Julian Lechner from Kaffeeform. We caught up with Julian after the dialog to ask him a few questions about what he is doing to close the loops.

Julian Lechner from Kaffeeform

Kaffeeform is a Kreuzberg based start-up company, founded in 2015, but they’re so much more than the baristas and enthusiasts that you usually find scattered around all the cool coffee shops in the area. At Kaffeeform, they collect coffee waste from the local coffee shops in the area and recycle it.

Julian and his team are running a research lab where they take in the discarded coffee grounds and harden them by adding natural binders to them. When they are mixed, Kaffeeform can create new objects from it. They’ve been testing out various ratios and objects since 2015, but now they’re successfully distributing  their coffee cups made from coffee waste around cafés and households in Berlin.

The cups come in two sizes: Espresso and cappuccino. They are made to last, hard to break, can go into the dishwasher and are light as feathers. They’re organically based and can be recycled because they are biodegradable. Too good to be true? Keep reading and find out more about these coffee enthusiasts’ project to limit food waste.

What are the biggest challenges you see in society today?

The biggest challenges are about making people aware of their daily habits, and that people realize that every little action can advance something else. We give objects a different value and show people this. Step by step I think people will start to realize, that they have the power to actually change things.

How does your Kaffeeform tap into that and what goals are you working towards?

My company is linked to local coffee shops. We get in where people usually don’t think there’s something left anymore, where things are thrown away. We go to the cafés every day, pick up the leftover coffee and make new objects from the waste.

We are an intersectional project space connecting art, circular economy and diversity under the term circularity.

How would you explain circularity, and what does it mean to your work?

Well, circularity for my work means that we get into the value chain at the place where something is thrown away. We save it and we transform it into something new. So we sort of upcycle it and create a new object from a material that consequently lasts longer and adds value to the whole chain. We also create work, and get things back into the cycle.

Ideally, what we do is to take something consumed and thrown away and from that create something new. We have made something that lasts a really long time from this, and it can also be down-cycled into something new. I’m always considering sustainability and I think, in the end it’s very important that we think about longevity. What kind of things are we using or giving to others? Because these stay in the cycle very long without getting replaced.

What advice would you give to a young person who is thinking about starting up a project on their own?

I believe everyone has the opportunity to question everything and can ask people about their daily habits as well. Ask people why they are throwing something away or why they aren’t repairing something. I think there is a lot of opportunity to discuss these issues with people. Imagine something new, try it out, make mistakes and maybe discover something worthwhile.

Pretty cool project, right? By replacing existing materials with things that are considered waste, Kaffeeform shows us that we need to think differently about waste and resources. They give us tangible reasons to rethink material flows. Perhaps by challenging our perspectives we can get closer to living sustainably. Only the future will show what else these guys can make out of coffee grounds and perhaps other waste products. Support them and enjoy your next cup of Joe in a cup made of Joe.