Relative to its population, Canada’s coffee consumption is significant, with 5 million bags consumed in 2022 (Statista, 2024); each bag weighting 60 kilograms each. In Quebec specifically, approximately 70% of adults indulge in daily coffee consumption (Alexandra B., 2020).

As a result, the coffee industry significantly contributes to waste generation. For instance, 1 ton of green coffee yields approximately 650 kilograms of coffee waste, known as spent coffee grounds (SCG), while 1 ton of roasted coffee generates around 910 kilograms of SCG (Campos de Bomfim et al., 2022). Globally, it is estimated that a staggering 5 million tons of SCG are generated each year (Chatel, 2020). Even on a local scale, the impact is substantial. For instance, the island of Montreal alone produces approximately 7 million kilograms of SCG annually, as revealed by the most recent study conducted by Carassou in 2015 (Université de Sherbrooke); and the tendency is for this number to be even higher in 2024.

Despite this, the existing solutions for SCGs in North America are limited to either industrial composting or landfilling. However, when SCGs accumulate in large quantities (which is exactly the case), they create the inverse impact on composting and contribute to methane emissions in landfills, which are 25 times more harmful than CO2 (Hersant, 2024). This is primarily due to part of the chemical composition of SCGs, which consists of tannin, polyphenol, and caffeine.


Indeed, transitioning the coffee economy from a linear to a circular model presents a compelling solution to the substantial waste generated by the industry. Currently, there are approximately 25 million workers involved in coffee production and 110 million engaged in coffee importation, processing, distribution, and consumption (Schwankner, 2019). However, the question remains: how many are actively involved in giving SCGs a second life? Actually, actors in Europe and Southeast Asia are gaining traction and importance with real, viable and value-added projects, but what about North America?


With the aim of making a tangible difference in both social and environmental spheres, the concept of Cafenix was born. Conceived by three students at HEC Montréal, driven by entrepreneurial spirit and a mission for positive impact, the project took shape almost a year ago. Currently, Cafenix is being accompanied by La Base, the HEC Montreal incubator.

So here is how Cafenix aims to contribute to the United Nations’s 9th, 11th, and 12th goals (Innovation and Infrastructure, Sustainable Cities and Communities, and Sustainable Production and Consumption, respectively). Cafenix is dedicated to upcycling and fostering accessibility to SCG while contributing to the circular economy. The project comprises two main objectives. Firstly, the development of an exclusive and innovative product. By leveraging the expertise of technological research centers, we will explore methods to transform SCGs, harness their chemical elements effectively (minerals, proteins, carbohydrates, and lipids), and accelerate the arrival of this market in North America. Secondly, the project entails establishing logistics for the collection (from cafes, restaurants, universities, offices), treatment, and distribution of transformed SCGs to partner companies for incorporation into their products or production processes.

Since its beginning in August 2023, the project and its structure have undergone significant evolution, informed by numerous interviews and feedback from potential partners and stakeholders within the circular economy from Canada, France, and Singapore.