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Coffee 'n Clothes

Coffee and clothes may appear to bear no connection to each other. Thats about to change as the coffee industry is gradually becoming circular. Before you know it, youll be wearing coffee-fabricated clothes for your next workout!

By Agnes Wong
September 21, 2022

It’s hard to fathom getting through a day without a good cuppa joe. It’s a luxury to even be able to walk to a neighbourhood cafe for one. Ever wonder where all the wasted coffee grounds go, though? It might not cross our minds, and we don’t blame you.  

Coffee is a gem in and of its own. Many benefits can be derived from coffee beans, from making a strong morning cup to using wasted coffee grounds to make sustainable clothes. Essentially, a circular system can be created using what’s in your cup. 

Photo: Unsplash/Christina Rumpf

Roughly 2.25 billion cups of coffee are consumed each day worldwide, which adds up to 9 million tonnes of coffee brewed a year and 18 million tonnes of wasted coffee grounds produced. Of the 18 million tonnes of waste, almost all of it ends up in our landfills. The dire consequence results in methane gas emitted into the air, which is more detrimental to our environment than carbon dioxide, progressing the speed of global warming.  

Photo: Unsplash/Massimo Adami

To turn things around, more cafes, coffee businesses and great minds alike are finding ways to repurpose wasted coffee grounds into consumer goods. One particular good is clothes. Through imagination and expertise, wasted coffee grounds are combined with recycled materials, like polyester sourced from recycled PET bottles, to birth the textile fabric. The manufacturing process to make the coffee fabric is eco-friendly, requiring clean and low carbon emissions to extract the coffee oil from the wasted coffee grounds. The resulting fabric is well-suited for activewear thanks to the properties of coffee—coffee naturally absorbs odours and sweat, dries fast, has antibacterial benefits and protects against damaging UV rays. As a point of reference, three cups of wasted coffee grounds mixed with five recycled plastic bottles equate to one T-shirt.   

Taiwanese manufacturer Singtex is one of the few manufacturers currently known to create coffee textiles. It has been turning collected wasted coffee grounds into sustainable and functional fabrics. The S.Cafe® coffee-made yarn is Singtex’s most prized creations made from patented technology that creates optimal performing fabrics.  

Photo: Unsplash/Wassim Chouak

There’s still much left to explore in establishing a circular coffee industry in the economy, but those steeped in the coffee business are pioneering a positive change by advocating for sustainable practices. More and more cafes are partnering with companies, like UK-based coffee recycler Bio-bean, that collect wasted coffee grounds to give them a second life. Through innovation and advanced technology, the niche venture of turning coffee waste into clothes is soon to make headway in the fashion world. Brands like Patagonia and The North Face are already using coffee material in the fabrication of their collections and it’s in hopes that this will inspire more brands to take on similar eco-friendly action.