Innovation That Matters

| Photo source AirX

Turning coffee into versatile, climate-friendly materials


The bio-composites can be used in everything from car parts and clothes to eco-friendlier packaging

Spotted: The global market for polypropylene, the world’s second most used plastic, is expected to grow at an annual rate of 3.5 per cent between 2022 and 2030 to reach almost $160 billion (around €150 billion). What that means for the environment is more manufacturing-related emissions and plastic pollution.

Creating a material that could replace plastic across various applications but with fewer emissions is a challenge that innovators worldwide are trying to solve – and one of those innovators is AirX. The Vietnamese materials technology company has created a biodegradable, recyclable version of polypropylene that directly replaces the fossil-fuel-produced version. The new material is carbon-negative and uses coffee grounds as biological feedstock. By upcycling a waste product rather than using purpose-grown crops such as corn or sugarcane, the company eliminates additional pressures on arable land.

Because polypropylene is used in so many industries, including textiles, automotive, packaging, and healthcare, a direct replacement for the base material has the potential to further decarbonisation efforts as well as reduce demand for virgin and petroleum-based materials. Every kilogramme of AirX’s plant-based polypropylene removes up to 0.84 kilogrammes of carbon dioxide from the air over its lifetime, and the company’s collection and logistics processes minimise emissions at every opportunity.

AirX also produces other bio-composites made from recycled plastic and a range of biodegradable feedstocks, including sugarcane bagasse, coconut shells, and bamboo. All the products have a net-zero carbon footprint, which the company monitors via Life Cycle Assessments. The formulation containing 80 per cent spent coffee grounds and 20 per cent recycled polypropylene demonstrated the highest negative carbon footprint – removing 1,442 kilogrammes of CO2-equivalent emissions for every tonne produced.

AirX has also collaborated with several big names, including Nestlé, Paula’s Choice, Uniqlo, Mercedes-Benz, Roche, and InterContinental Hotels Group.

The ubiquity of petroleum-based polypropylene means that recycling efforts are being trialled around the world. Innovations spotted by Springwise include new building materials that replace steel and cement and a reusable packaging-as-a-service option for e-commerce brands.

Written By: Keely Khoury




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