The Project

CirCO project – acronym of Circular Coffee – aims to study the possible valorization of a coffee by- product deriving from its roasting, the silverskin.

Coffee is the second most traded commodity in the world, its consumption on a global scale amounting to about 9.8 million metric tons (2015). Per capita consumption is particularly high in Northern Europe, while Italy with 3.4 kg per capita is the eighteenth consumer with 211,000 tons in 2013. Silverskin is a dry waste produced in well localized industrial facilities, thus making its collection very easy. Silverskin is only used sometimes for energy production, but in general it is disposed of as waste.

CirCO project aims at upgrading coffee silverskin by valorizing all its components. Indeed from this by-product could be broken up into cellulose, lignin, lipids and some phenolic compounds.

First target

The first one is to bring to industrial scale the use of CSS as a virgin cellulose additive in paper making. FAVINI srl has developed an industrial system allowing one to reuse agro-food industry wastes in paper production, creating a selection of papers called CRUSH containing cherry kernels, orange peels and others. This process will be adapted in the present project to produce paper by using CSS on the lab scale eventually followed by a test in the paper machine.

Second target

The second target is to selectively extract the valuable molecules CSS contains and to functionalize them in order to make them more suitable as skin care agents. In this project we propose an eco-friendly and “green” extraction process, by using supercritical fluids to replace conventional organic solvents, to match the request for a low environment impact. The first fraction extracted will be the lipid one that could be used in cosmetic formulations due to its particular composition. This fraction will also be tested in FAVINI labs . Thus, paper making imply the use of hydrophobic substances that are actually from fossil origin, including some fluorous compound. The fat extracted from CSS could be a suitable alternative.

By increasing the polarity of the extraction medium a caffeine fraction will be obtained followed by a phenolic one mainly consisting in chlorogenic acid (5-CQA). Chlorogenic acid is a well know and very active antioxidant, already recognized as a possible anti age compound. However its formulation in cosmetics is inhibited by its poor lipophilicity. In this project different esters of 5-CQA will be synthesized by means of sustainable methodologies. Two different synthetic ways will be followed and two different class of catalysts will be used: amorphous solid acids and enzymes. The esters obtained will be tested for their eventual toxicity and for their efficacy as both anti-age and anti-smog cosmetic active ingredients. The more promising derivatives will be formulated by Intercos SpA R&D laboratories and tested.

In conclusion


The cellulosic residue of the extractions will be tested in FAVINI labs with techniques similar to that used for unextracted silverskin in order to verify the hypothesis of a full exploitment of the chemicals contained in CSS. The economic, energetic and overall sustainability of the whole process will be finally evaluated.

This approach will fit very well with the ever stronger push of the European Union towards circular economy and with the ever increasing demand of biomaterials and natural products from the consumers.
A multidisciplinary approach will be adopted in order to separate the different components and to valorize them as new raw materials or new ingredients. In conclusion, should the project be successful, we could be able to establish a “totally waste free” process as the different components of silverskin are converted to different uses.