Carmen Zirngibl


Designerin: Carmen Zirngibl
Label: MCL I coffee dregs
Field: Upcycling Design
Founded: 2015
Location: Düsseldorf, Germany

What are MCL I Coffee Dregs?

The My Cookery Log® I coffee dregs editions stand for design products made using the waste that is produced when you make coffee – used coffee grounds.

Home accessories such as bowls and lamps made from coffee grounds – the MCL® I coffee dregs – represent formal archaic-organic design. The natural brown nuances from the coffee grounds mixed with the precious copper coating and gilding give the objects a puristic touch. Each piece is a one-of-a-kind, not only because the starting product is a natural one that can slightly differ in colour, but also because each piece is hand-made, allowing the shape to be newly molded each time.

Upcycling –Advanced Recycling

At the end of the 20th century, recycling, meaning the re-use of waste products or the production of other products (generally of lesser quality) stood for sustainability. Now, well into the 21st century we have seen the logical advancement of the concept of recycling in the establishment of upcycling, which is the production of new, environmentally friendly and aesthetically pleasing objects of utility made from waste, therefore creating new value while simultaneously reducing waste and being mindful of how we use resources.

Tried and true are the attempts to make new products out of used plastic, clothing or paper. But what about the waste that is produced daily in the kitchen? Can we take organic kitchen waste and not only compost it, or recycle it in other words, but also possibly upcycle it and make objects out of it that you can use in daily life?

This question kept nagging at me and in the spring of 2015 I finally started a project with the goal of making sustainable, beautiful objects out of used coffee grounds.

The Concept of Upcycling Organic Material

At first glance, organic waste that is produced in the kitchen can be composted and used as fertilizer at best. That’s the destiny, if you will, of organic material, namely to decay and become a nutrient for the growth of new material.

Everyday, large amounts of used coffee grounds are “produced”. The production and transport of coffee beans uses large amounts of valuable resources such as water and electricity. It only takes a couple of minutes to brew and enjoy a cup of coffee. There is still a lot of valuable ingredients in coffee that make it a great fertiliser, and yet the “life span” of coffee bears no relation to the amount of energy that goes into making it.

Can we maybe insert a functional intermediate step for the coffee grounds before composting it, which besides upgrading the material would live up to standards of sustainability and aesthetics? These were the key ideas I had in mind when I decided to take used coffee grounds to develop sustainable everyday design.

From the very beginning it was clear that the coffee grounds should be complemented by natural binding agents, ideally also waste products that could be used to shape the coffee grounds and harden the products with the least possible energy expenditure. At the same time, the products should still be able to be composted.

MCL® l coffee dregs – Bowls and Lamps Made of Used Coffee Grounds

The challenge in realising the MCL l coffee dregs project was, first of all, developing the formula for binding the coffee grounds. Second of all, there had to be a process to stabilise and solidify the products, keeping in mind that these design products were to be used in everyday life.

As a biologist, this phase of the process was especially exciting because I was able to let my creativity flow, connecting it in the most interesting ways with my background in natural sciences.

In the summer of 2015 I presented the first collection, MCL l coffee dregs edition N°1, which consisted of various decorative bowls. Since then, the I have continually optimised the production process and have come up with further ideas for how to make new pieces out of used coffee grounds.

In the summer of 2016, the MCL l coffee dregs edition N°2 – Lichtblicke aus Kaffeesatz (in English: Coffee Grounds’ Silver Lining) came out, which presented lamps out of coffee grounds. The ‘Wende-Lampen’, or turning lamps, which is a brass base, can be screwed onto the lamp from both sides and is the logical continuation of the idea of using organic material to make sustainable design products.

A number of MCL l coffee dregs pieces are hand-made and one-of-a-kinds due to the fact that used coffee grounds are a natural product and that they are never exactly the same, taking on different colour nuances and textures. The one thing that stays the same, however, is the responsible use of the resources so that the products can always be composted at the end of their new life phase and therefore fulfill its other function as fertiliser. That way, the coffee grounds can help new things grow, once again coming full circle, very much in the spirit of the sustainable advancements of 21st century recycling.

All photos by Carmen Zirngibl

Ministerium NRW



Carmen Zirngibl

Carmen Zirngibl is a scientist who dedicates herself to the ways sustainable and aesthetically pleasing design pieces can be made from organic material that is produced as waste in the kitchen. Her first project – upcycling used coffee grounds – was realised in her product line MCL I coffee dregs.

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