The Economic Case for the Circular Economy: From Food Waste to Resource

  • Corrado TopiEmail author
  • Magdalena Bilinska


One of the major challenges decision and policy makers face when trying to introduce sustainable food waste management strategies is to isolate high value waste material. In our paper we assess whether it is logistically, economically and socially feasible to isolate exhaust coffee grounds from the catering industry in one British district and use them as raw material for a novel process to produce alternative high added value products in a near-perfect circular economy cycle making use of reverse logistics and generating near-zero waste. We chose coffee as the product because it is the most traded food commodity in the world, and the second most traded commodity in general, which makes the impact of the outcomes particularly significant. Due to resource and time constraints we had to limit the range of high added value products and to constrain the geographic area, hence we focused on the production of high quality compost for the amateur and professional growers market and on the geographic catchment area of the York municipal waste collection service. To do so, we developed a series of theoretical scenarios corresponding to the different possible logistic and process options that stakeholders could identify and we evaluated the economic indicators. We conclude that the process is technically feasible with available technology within current infrastructure and modest investments and the economic case is very attractive to investors. The outcomes of our research can be used as a model for similar developments in other geographical areas.


Circular economy Economics Reverse logistics Waste management Food waste Ecosystem services CICES ALCHEMY Scenarios Coffee 


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Green Economics Research Group (GECO)Stockholm Environment Institute, University of YorkYorkUK
  2. 2.York Centre for Complex System Analysis (YCCSA)University of YorkYorkUK

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