Urban Biorefinery

Circular business case for valorising coffee grounds and bread scraps

The population of cities continues to grow, creating new waste management issues. It is becoming increasingly challenging to find high-quality destinations for biomass waste streams such as food waste, wood waste and green waste.

With the Urban Biorefinery (URB) project, GLIMPS.bio wants to find an answer to the challenge of biomass waste in the city. We want to develop a concrete realisable business case around coffee grounds and bread leftovers: two urban, organic-biological waste streams that everyone is confronted with and that offer a lot of potential in terms of high-quality valorisation.

For both streams, we investigated which circular applications are technically and economically feasible and have sufficient potential to roll them out on a large scale. Working with various partners, we conducted lab tests, developed prototypes, sought additional funding and built a business case.

In the coffee grounds case, we focus on collecting, drying, and pressing coffee grounds into coffee oil.

In the case around bread scraps, we are working within an R&D project to develop bio pigments based on bread scraps, in order to develop a sustainable colour application for the textile industry.


Partners Suez R&R Belgium, IVAGO





  1. We have developed a process to collect, dry and press coffee grounds into coffee oil and press cake. This allows us to process up to 100 kg of wet coffee grounds per day in a professional and high-quality manner.
  2. In cooperation with a soap factory, we developed several prototypes of a solid coffee soap based on circular coffee oil. By the end of 2021, we realised a first production and sale of 500 pieces of soap.
  3. Together with a Ghent start-up, we completed an initial successful R&D track to produce sustainable biopigments from bread scraps by using fungi and yeasts. We will conduct further scale-up tests in 2022.
  4. We are fully engaged in testing the biopigment from bread scraps for textile dyeing. Additional funding has been requested from VLAIO for further R&D.


  1. It is important to focus on the market first. After all, you can put a lot of time and resources into setting up an efficient collection system, high-performance processing and high-quality valorisation, but without a market demand for the raw materials you create, it will soon stop.
  2. A 100% circular product is often not economically feasible. Better a partially circular product that sells well, than a fully circular product that stays on the shelves because it is too expensive. We should be happy with every step towards more circularity.
  3. It is important to make a conscious choice between bulk or niche. Almost always it is a choice between selling large volumes at low prices or small volumes at high prices. A high selling price for biocircular raw materials often succeeds only for niche applications.
  4. When waste or residual streams from a company are used to make products again that have an economic value for that company, this also creates a potentially high marketing value. This helps justify the higher price for a circular product.
500 pieces of soap sold
21 collaborations around coffee
500 g biopigment produced
21 collaborations around bread


Together with our partners, we continue to work on the subproject on coffee grounds. Another pilot project will follow in which we aim for more R&D. In time, we want to collect, dry and press several tonnes of grit using a small-scale pilot installation.

For the bread waste route, we are looking for additional funding in 2022 to further scale up our first successful results from this project, in cooperation with Ghent start-up Narture. For this, we are looking at a VLAIO feasibility study or development project or seeking funding at European level.