Former SAIT students establish grounds for using coffee residue as industrial wastewater filter

27, Sep, 2022

EDMONTON, Sept. 27, 2022 – A former team of SAIT chemical laboratory technology students has found a way to repurpose old coffee grounds by turning them into filters that can eradicate heavy metals from industrial wastewater. For their achievement, they have been honoured as a provincial finalist for the Association of Science and Engineering Technology Professionals of Alberta’s (ASET) Capstone Project of the Year Award.

Billions of coffee grounds end up in landfills every year. To reduce this waste, the former team of King Veloso and John Ric Villalba sought to determine if coffee grounds could be repurposed as filters for treatment of industrial wastewater to replace activated carbon - the standard filter of choice.

Research to date had already confirmed that heavy metals, such as mercury and lead, can bind to coffee grounds’ chemical compounds. A team from the Italian Institute of Technology had invented a bioelastomeric coffee foam filter composed of coffee grounds, sugar and silicone that could remove 99 per cent of lead and mercury ions from stagnant and flowing water.

The former SAIT team investigated whether or not this new technology could be applied to industrial wastewater.

Currently, filters with granular activated carbon (GAC) are used in water treatment as they are proven to remove certain chemicals, especially organic ones, from water. However, the charcoal in activated carbon contains trace elements of radium and uranium that, when released into the environment, can lead to radioactive contamination. This grim reality makes a strong case for transitioning to a more environmentally friendly method, such as one involving coffee grounds that are easily accessible.

The former SAIT team modified the version of the coffee foam filter originally pioneered by the Italian Institute team by incorporating more cost-effective and readily available components. As a result of their efforts, they were successful in filtering out heavy metals from industrial wastewater. The conclusion reached was that, subject to further study, coffee foam filters could potentially be used in place of activated carbon for industrial wastewater treatment.

“This project’s success holds major implications for the health of society and the planet overall,” said former team member Veloso. “It not only presents an opportunity to reduce the waste of coffee grounds in landfills, but also to improve industrial wastewater treatment so that it is more environmentally friendly.”

“Like coffee itself, this former SAIT team’s project could have a broad and positive impact on the quality of our lives,” said ASET CEO Barry Cavanaugh. “The former team members have demonstrated leadership by producing a Capstone Project whose intention is to support the health and safety of global communities.”

The former SAIT team’s project is one of eight finalists named by ASET for the 2022 Capstone Project of the Year Award. The winning project will be announced later this year.

The Capstone Project of the Year Award was established by ASET in 2017 in response to overwhelming member interest in back-to-school stories about Capstone projects undertaken by teams of engineering technology students from NAIT, SAIT, Red Deer Polytechnic and Lethbridge College as part of their end-of-program requirements.

About ASET
ASET is the professional self-regulatory organization for engineering technologists and technicians in Alberta. ASET currently represents over 17,000 members, including full-time technology students, recent graduates and fully certified members in 21 disciplines and more than 120 occupations across a multitude of industries.

Media Contact:
Michele Penz, Calico Communications for ASET


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