Could Biofuel from Coffee help London Cut Carbon Emissions?

The city of London could be about to reduce its carbon emissions, by producing a biofuel from coffee and saving 200,000 tonnes of coffee grounds from being wasted.

bio bean

The city of London could be about to reduce its carbon emissions dramatically by finding a new use for almost 200,000 tonnes of waste coffee grounds generated every year by its thriving coffee market.

That’s the aim for the company behind the idea, Bio-Bean, who were launched in 2012 by architecture student Arthur Kay. They aim to tackle two key issues in the city:

  • the need to establish responsible collection and disposal of waste coffee grounds

  • the desire to provide cheap, clean energy production

Bio-Bean do this by collecting waste coffee grounds from coffee shops, instant coffee factories and roasters across London, and divert it from landfill sites by reusing it to produce biodiesel and biomass pellets.

The idea is a simple one, but has potential to reduce London’s carbon emissions greatly, with the city being home to thousands of chain and independent coffee shops. Waste coffee grounds are usually sent to landfill sites where they decompose, releasing greenhouse gasses such as carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide and methane.

But being a readily available source, Bio-Bean realised that by collecting waste coffee and diverting it from landfill, it could be reused to produce green fuels, reducing carbon emissions further. It is estimated that the process saves around 192,000 tonnes of coffee grounds from landfill, prevents 462 tonnes of methane from being released into the atmosphere and saves 53,200 barrels of oil from being used each year.

 Benefits of biofuel

Collected coffee is dried and oil is extracted in a patented process which produces a solvent, which is used in the creation of biodiesel and biomass pellets. While first generation biofuels have come under fire for the use of food crops and other important natural resources, second generation biofuel has been praised as a way of reducing waste and providing a cheap, clean fuel at once. The resulting biofuel is sold on for use in renewable heating systems as biomass pellets, and for use in public transport as a biodiesel. This means lower energy bills for homeowners, lower carbon emissions and better quality air around busy London streets.

 High hopes for London’s carbon targets

The city of London is currently working towards two key targets which will see it strive to cut its carbon emissions drastically. The targets, set by Mayor of London, Boris Johnson involve:

  • 70% of all commercial and industrial waste to be reused, recycled or composted by 2020

  • London’s CO2 emissions to be reduced by 60% by 2025

With the coffee market making up a significant proportion of London high street businesses, Bio-Bean could well play a large part in helping London to reach these aims by offering a new opportunity to reuse the coffee waste from both shops and factories.

 Bio-Bean’s Eco Credentials

Not only do Bio-Bean provide a vital service in reducing waste and generating clean and sustainable fuel, their business is designed with a number of environmental issues in mind. The service that Bio-Bean provide is:

  • Local- aiming to reduce transport and keep carbon emissions down, as well as working to boost London’s economy and provide green jobs in the area

  • Clean- producing biofuels which produce 90% less greenhouse gasses than fossil fuels

  • Cheap- producing a fuel from a raw material which is readily available across the city, which keeps costs down and brings further economic benefits to the area

 Bio-Bean’s potential

 Thanks to the potential that Bio-Bean have shown to reduce London’s carbon emissions, they have received heavy backing by Boris Johnson, which has put its creator, Arthur Kay on a list of “London Leaders”- Johnson’s scheme to promote green entrepreneurs. This has attracted a further £100,000 in grants and funding to help the company to succeed in its aims. Kay hopes that this can see the company focussing on large scale coffee waste streams from factories and major coffee shop chains, with hopes to process up to 30,000 tonnes of waste a year at their new site in Edmonton, North London.

With serious government backing and a unique plan, it may not be long before we see London slash its carbon emissions by ensuring every last coffee bean is reused.

Image sourced: Bio-Bean

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