PermaFungi is recycling used coffee grounds to produce mushrooms, natural fertiliser and even a biodegradable design material, while creating sustainable jobs for low skilled people.
The Brussels-based social enterprise was born in 2013 based on two observations – the abundance of urban waste and the relatively high unemployment rate among young people.
PermaFungi, which aims to contribute to urban resilience and fosters a circular economy approach, ensures that every part of its operations is sustainable, collaborating with local organisations for resources, transport and employment. Coffee grounds are collected by bike from restaurants and coffee shops around Brussels. While the mushrooms, guaranteed fresh, are delivered by bike to shops and organic markets, to restaurants and other 0 km networks.
Coffee grounds are an ideal substrate for growing oyster mushrooms thanks to all the microelements that compose it. As it develops, oyster mushrooms turn the coffee grounds into a 100% natural compost – “champost” – which is used as a fertiliser by local farm, Nos Pilifs. Part of the oyster culture residue collected by PermaFungi is also used to create a biodegradable material that can replace plastic.
Every month, PermaFungi harvest over 1000 kg of organic oyster mushrooms and the same weight of chicory, which they supply to restaurants and markets in the local area, as well as 10 tonnes of natural fertiliser, while recycling 5 tonnes of coffee grounds.
PermaFungi founder Julien Jacquet says: “In nature, there is no waste. Everything decomposes and is returned to the ecosystem. Our idea is based upon this principle: we support the city in establishing a sustainable ecosystem that reduces waste.
“We [PermaFungi] contribute to urban resilience because when we produce fresh and organic food in the city we develop a local economy, we create sustainable jobs for low-skilled people, we reduce waste, and we minimise fossil fuels.
“We want to produce at local level, we also consume at local level. It is very important that we stay in Brussels.”
While PermaFungi are by-and-large a Brussels based business, they do offer training, workshops and guided tours to “inspire others to engage in the cultivation of mushrooms, chicory or myco-material in circular economy”.
“The idea is to spread the concept also in other cities but in Brussels we want to produce for Brussels’ market,” PermaFungi say. “We think that every city in the world should have its own factory and produce mushrooms because in every city there is coffee. As a matter of fact we don’t want to keep our secrets: people especially from France are coming to us and we teach them as much as we can so that they can open their own factory in their own city.”
Rosa Medea is Life & Soul Magazine’s Chief. She writes about lifestyle including sustainable and green living. She also offers content services to businesses and individuals at Rosamedea.com