The agricultural waste from the production of coffee is combined with recyclable plastic to make the lightweight material.
It's a fair assessment to say a majority of the people on this planet are driven by coffee. Let's face it. Most of us can't start our day until we've had our morning coffee. Now, the beverage may be helping people to not just kickstart their day, but also provide affordable housing solutions. Yes, you heard that right. A company based in Colombia is now building houses made from agricultural waste left behind from the production of coffee. The production of coffee generates large amounts of agricultural waste, amounting to almost 30 percent to 50 percent of the actual weight of the coffee produced, reported The premier daily.
Until now, agricultural waste was a huge environmental issue for coffee manufacturers and didn't have any other purpose for it. Now, thanks to the company based in Colombia, the husk and pulp of the coffee bean can be used to make a byproduct that will be profitable, while being sustainable and environmentally friendly. The innovative thinkers at the Bogota-based company called Woodpecker have found a way to use agricultural waste to build houses. The coffee husks and pulp has a paper-like material that falls off when the beans are being roasted to make coffee. Earlier, the waste comprising of these husks and pulp were dumped which eventually released methane, a powerful greenhouse gas. The company mixes recycled plastic along with the husk and pulp to create the new material that's being used to build houses. The idea was not just to create any material but build one that was both affordable and lightweight.
Woodpecker's processes have also made the material affordable to the common man. And with time, more and more people are warming up to the idea of using the material to build houses. They are being sold in bundles, and the sturdy yet lightweight material can be easily transported. The material could change the way people build houses in hilly areas and remote destinations, where it's usually harder to transport the traditional material such as bricks, and concrete. “We saw that there was a huge necessity for a lightweight construction system for housing and classrooms in rural and isolated places where traditional construction systems cannot go — like bricks, cement, and concrete,“ said Alejandro Franco, CEO of Woodpecker.
When asked why the company zeroed in on coffee waste, Alejandro Franco said his team was looking to find a cost-effective material that would be light-weight and could be transported via small boats, helicopters, or on the back of donkeys. Woodpecker experimented by combining various natural fibers with recycled plastic including sawdust, rice, palm, and grass fiber. After much tinkering, through trial and error, Franco and his team came to the conclusion that the optimum natural fiber to combine with recycled plastic was coffee husks and pulp which lent the material strength and durability. It was a huge plus that the material would be easily available. “Coffee husk was selected because it’s stronger and drier than the other fibers.” The material is also fireproof and prevents insect problems.
“We saw that there was a great need for a lightweight construction system for homes and classrooms in rural and isolated locations where traditional building systems cannot work, such as bricks, cement, and concrete,” said Alejandro Franco. His team has been working on the product for more than 10 years and all their hard work is beginning to pay off. They just built their 2500th house recently. They are also selling easily structures made from the material and steel frames that can be easily assembled, like LEGOs, without needing any extra heavy-duty tools. The material is easily attachable to the steel frame without using screws or nails.
The company sponsored two complete houses after a category 5 hurricane struck the Colombian island of Providence community, destroying more than a thousand homes. “The system worked perfectly considering there was no power supply, the ground was muddy, the airport was damaged, there was no food, etc., all the problems you can imagine. We believe that our houses are an excellent solution to the housing crisis there,” he added.