A Robotic Odyssey in Coffee and Aluminum Sustainability

Transformed automotive leather waste into a circular fashion narrative, showcased at the Museum of the Future and Selfridges, exemplifying the power of sustainable design.
March 1, 2024
Reading Time
12 Min


Embarking on an ambitious journey, I immersed myself in the intricate world of robotics and automation, driven by the vision to revolutionise waste management in the coffee industry. The mission was clear: to separate coffee grounds from aluminum in post-consumer Nespresso capsules, creating two valuable raw materials ready to be reintegrated into the supply chain. This challenging venture has been a testament to the power of innovation and collaboration, with key players guiding the way and contributing invaluable expertise.

Navigating the Robotic Frontier:

This endeavour wouldn't have been possible without the guidance of Mairi Kerin, whose expertise illuminated the path through the complexities of robotics and automation. The collaboration with the incredible ABB team, led by Paul Garner, marked a significant milestone, offering not only consulting support but also rigorous robotics testing. Together, we delved into uncharted territories, exploring the capabilities of automation in waste separation and recycling.

The Unsung Heroes:

A heartfelt thank you goes to Phil Hamilton, Amtecca, and the University of Birmingham for their unwavering support and guidance throughout this research journey. Their contributions played a pivotal role in investigating systems to efficiently separate spent coffee grounds from Nespresso capsules, focusing on turning waste aluminum into valuable raw materials.

Fashioning Circular Solutions:

The ultimate goal of this research was not only to find innovative ways to manage coffee waste but to repurpose it into something meaningful. By transforming waste aluminum into valuable raw materials, the project set the stage for manufacturing fashion accessories with circular end-of-life options. This approach aligns seamlessly with the principles of sustainability, demonstrating that even seemingly disposable materials can be reimagined and reintegrated into the circular economy.


As this robotic odyssey in coffee and aluminum sustainability unfolds, it underscores the potential of technology to redefine waste management. Through collaboration, innovation, and the relentless pursuit of circular solutions, we've not only separated coffee grounds from aluminum but also paved the way for a more sustainable approach to fashion accessory manufacturing. The support of key collaborators and the dedication of those who believed in the vision have been instrumental in turning a challenging journey into a transformative endeavor. As we look ahead, the intersection of robotics, sustainability, and circular design promises a future where waste is not just managed but transformed into valuable resources, leaving a positive impact on both industry and the environment.


Rhys Ellis


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