Innovation & Enterprise


UCL startup bio-bean returns to campus to turn your waste coffee into biofuel

12 January 2017

UCL graduate Arthur Kay (BSc Architecture 2013), co-founder of the coffee grounds recycling company bio-bean, is helping to turn UCL's waste coffee grounds into fuel.

Arthur Kay, co-founder of bio-bean

The biofuels and biochemicals company bio-bean has joined forces with UCL Estates, Sodexo, O&G, UCLU and Bywater Waste Management to turn waste coffee grounds from coffee shops across campus into fuel.

While getting your daily (or perhaps hourly) dose of caffeine this week you may have come across the posters dotted around coffee shops on campus. From 9 January, all the coffee used to make the cappuccinos and espressos that sustain you through the day will end up as fuel rather than on a landfill site.

The partnership will see waste coffee recycling bins introduced across UCL in locations such as Chenies Mews, Foster Court, South Quad and the Refectory. Staff from Sodexo and UCLU will separate the waste coffee grounds at point of use deposit them in the specified bins for collection.

The cost neutral initiative, which came about as a result of an approach made by UCL Estates and Sodexo to bio-bean, isn’t the first time UCL and bio-bean have joined forces on green issues.

Coming back to where it all began

Arthur explained: “It’s very exciting to be working with my alma mater, I feel like I’m closing the loop and coming back to the place where it all began. I'm especially proud to be working with UCL, given bio-bean’s links with the university. It’s great to know that we’re helping to reduce the university’s carbon footprint, and proving with new products, like Coffee Logs, that the sustainable choice can also be the logical one.

“As well as being the place where I came up with the idea for bio-bean, UCL is also where our team of scientists - led by Dr Paul Hellier in Mechanical Engineering - is researching new ways to use waste coffee grounds. I’ve also joined forces with Professor Henrietta Moore (Director of the UCL Institute for Global Prosperity) to launch Fast Forward 2O3O, a group of young London-based entrepreneurs, to look at enterprise and behaviours that will help deliver the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals.”

Richard Jackson, UCL Director of Sustainability, added: “UCL is delighted to be working with bio-bean on this sustainability initiative. With over 38,000 students and 12,000 staff, UCL has huge potential to create positive change by embedding sustainability into the core activities of the institution - research, education and operations - and I hope that the partnership we have developed between bio-bean, UCL Estates, Sodexo and Bywater Waste Management will act as a catalyst to further change.”

Advice for budding UCL entrepreneurs

If you are reading this article and have a business idea that you want to make a reality, Arthur encourages you to follow in his entrepreneurial footsteps and make the most of the resources that are available to you at UCL - because you never know where it might lead.

He said: “I’ve had support from so many different parts of UCL, especially from UCL Innovation & Enterprise. Our initial Bright Ideas award of £25,000 was the first real boost in funding which allowed me to commit to the business full-time and helped make bio-bean a reality.

“I’d encourage students to use the vast resources at hand in UCL. If you look for it, you'll find the people and the support to build your vision. I was lucky enough to get advice from Lillian Shapiro (a Business Advisor for UCL Innovation & Enterprise). From day one Lillian was unbelievably supportive, and we’ve maintained that connection, in fact she still comes to our launch events.”

Charlotte Croffie, Director of Entrepreneurship, UCL Innovation & Enterprise, concluded: “We’re thrilled to see bio-bean going from strength-to-strength since starting at UCL. It’s an encouraging testament to the quality of support that UCL provides to our entrepreneurial students.”

Read more news from UCL Innovation & Enterprise.