A UK Startup Is Recycling Coffee Waste Into Biofuel

coffee cup and coffee beans

Coffee chains make a lot of waste, from disposable takeaway cups to the used grounds that are sent to rot in landfills. The world consumes around 2 billion cups of coffee a day, producing 6 million tons of used grounds annually, according to a study published in 2011. When they go to the landfill, the decomposing grounds release greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, contributing to global warming.

Bio-bean is turning 7,000 tons of those grounds annually into biofuels. The company has shifted its attention to solid fuels for household and industrial use. The fuels release greenhouse gases, but if they replace other carbon-based fuels, the company evaluates that the recycling procedure reduces emissions by 80% compared with sending the grounds to landfill.

Coffee as a fuel

At the company’s plant in Cambridgeshire, used coffee grounds are decontaminated to remove paper cups or plastic bags, and then passed through a dryer and a further screening process. They are finally processed into products such as biomass pellets and home fire logs.

The company also produces a natural flavor extract from coffee grounds through a separate process. The pellets can be used to power industrial boilers, heat commercial greenhouses or to dry cereal crops, while the coffee logs can be used in log-burning stoves.

“Coffee is highly calorific and lends itself to being a really fantastic fuel,” says May. “They burn about 20% hotter and 20% longer than wood logs do.”

Bio-bean notes that its commercial biomass pellets are certified by the UK’s Sustainable Fuel Register, while the coffee logs have “lower particulate emissions than most wood logs.”

Despite being delayed by the coronavirus pandemic, Bio-bean says it plans to expand its operation into northwestern Europe within the next five years.

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