Could your coffee shop’s espresso machine take people from Haringey to Trafalgar Square?
When you knock out the last wet coffee grounds of the day into the bin, do you wonder where the coffee created by your hard-working espresso machine has taken people? Everyone knows that caffeine sharpens the senses and ups our energy levels, but we also know that going without wouldn’t stop us reaching our destinations.
That’s looking likely to change. You may already know that used coffee grounds can serve a purpose rather than heading for landfill. And since the UK coffee industry gets through some 500,000 tonnes of coffee every year, that’s a lot of waste. But did you know that one entrepreneurial company is turning the used coffee grounds from commercial coffee machines all around the country into biofuel?
Espresso machines make fuel – sort of
If you empty the espresso machine’s under-grinder knockout drawer, or the waste from a commercial bean-to-cup coffee machine, into a bin with all the other general rubbish, it’s heading straight to landfill. There, according to coffee recycling specialists bio-bean, it’ll end up contributing to methane emissions and CO2 emissions. The gases that cause climate change.
You can, of course, send them for disposal along with your other food waste. It’s organic, it’ll biodegrade. Except bio-bean calculates that the chemical composition of ground coffee is bad for the microbes which enable anaerobic digestion (an intensive way of dealing with organic waste, to create biogas, for instance) and slows the process.
For some time, bio-bean has been taking used coffee grounds from coffee shops and major coffee consumers, and turning them into coffee logs, which can be used on fires and multifuel burners. The company also produces biomass pellets to heat buildings, and even biochemicals. So far, so stationery.
In November, bio-bean, Argent Energy and Shell, the firms behind the initiative, announced a demonstration biofuel project in London. Coffee grounds collected and processed would be mixed with diesel to create a biofuel to power London’s red buses. Not only does this bring down the CO2 emissions by up to 15% on regular diesel, it means 60% less CO2 emitted than if the coffee grounds were sent to landfill, and 30% less than when sent for anaerobic digestion. That’s a major improvement in all-round sustainability.
How you can get involved
It’s not just the big coffee chains who can contribute their waste coffee product. bio-bean works even with small, independent coffee shops. It all happens through your local waste disposal firm. To make sure your waste coffee isn’t wasted, get in touch with bio-bean here.