This is an amazing example of ecological economics!
Bio-bean had the brilliant idea of taking something that we already produce at an incredible rate - used coffee beans - and turned them into something useful!
The general Gist
Bio-bean works directly with waste management companies to collect waste coffee grounds from independent cafés to major coffee chains; from universities to property groups and instant coffee factories.
They've worked out a deal where their WM partners handle all of the coffee waste collection for them (brilliant negotiating, I think), and provide everything required for a businesses or group to begin collection such as caddies, bins, refuse sacks, vehicles and the collection service.
Why this works
Buisnesses can sign up for this both out of conscience and practicality. Recycling used coffee can reduce waste disposal costs. By removing the heavy, wet coffee grounds from their general waste, companies can send less to the dump, avoid penalties for contaminated dry mixed recycling, or require less trips, which can reduce their overall waste disposal cost!
According to bio-bean (I haven't backed this up w/ a third party) thier life cycle assessment indicates that sending waste coffee grounds to bio-bean produces 60% less CO2 emissions than sending them to landfill.
bio-bean is currently working with Shell to create a carbon-neutral, advanced biofuel from waste coffee grounds, such as biomass-pellets, bio-diesel, and biochemicals; with the purpose of displacing fossil fuels.
Now that all sounds hunky-dory, but as a biologist I'm always incredibly skeptical wherever big oil is involved. From what I can tell, the founders had a brilliant idea and were able to capitalize fully on it! Hopefully Shell is doing more good than harm with it's involvement.
Unfortunately these are only currently available to purchase in the UK. I would love to see this concept expanded, though! I would definitley burn one of these in my future fire place!