Jan Neuber

Curriculum vitae

Studied economics and received his diploma in 2006. Since then, he has been working at Otto A. Müller Recycling and trading with mainly biogenic raw materials. As of 2015, he increased his focus on new ideas in the upcycling of by-products.

A Circular Economy view based on upcycling by-products

For a more sustainable world, we need to change our perspective on how we look on resources. It is
not sufficient to move away from single use products or shift to regrowing raw materials, we need to
close the loop how we (re)circle our resources. This should lead our focus on the overlooked stream
of by-products in our industry. These resources are often leaving the recycling loop forever. Many
quantities are wasted or used far below value. Although they are a cheap and low-hanging fruit on our
way towards a circular economy. Nevertheless, in order to lift the potential we need to adjust our way
of dealing with by-products and raw material usage. It is a must to think out-of-the box on by-products
and cross-link industry streams. Driven by the question: “How can we extend the recycling loop in our
economy in an economic way?”
Many by-products can be reused without chemical treatment just by cleaning, drying, milling or sieving
the materials and making it more homogeneous and less random in the quality. Especially dry bulk side
streams of the food industry can be used in various applications and industries after low-tech
treatment such as

  • Oil drilling
  • Building Material
  • Active carbon
  • Filtration
  • Plastics
  • Foundry
  • Adhesives
  • Paper
  • Flooring
  • Coatings
  • Polishing
  • Cosmetics

Reasonable quantities are already used by various industries ranging from a couple of tons towards
thousands of tons per annum. Nevertheless, the majority of the bio streams in Europe is currently still
used for combustion, anaerobic digesting, compost or as soil improver not to mention the situation in
developing countries.

Residuals from Coffee production

The coffee production in Europe shows a good way how upcycling for side streams can start and
becoming more sustainable by turning former waste products into valuable resources.
By-products during coffee production
a) coffee roasting → Silver skin (light weight)
b) coffee extraction → Coffee grounds (wet)
Upcycling ideas for coffee side streams are flooring additives, plastic compounds, active carbon or
wood stain.

Limitations for the circular economy

The main hurdles on the way to recycled resources are mostly not any technical restrictions but are
quite often the not regular adapted regulation for the fast changing circular economy. It limits the
reuse of such materials and forces big quantities to downcycle (e.g. combustion / compost). One
mentionable issue is the current food contact material regulation (FCM) limiting the use of material in
combination with plastic compounds with a positive list. Only a handful biomaterials are currently on
this FCM-list. A long and costly procedure to extend the list stops a lot of interesting upcycling ideas
already in the beginning.