While the idea of coffee as fuel is a familiar one, it’s normally our brains that need a top up rather than our cars! The time might not be too far away, though, when we’ll be able to fuel our cars with biofuel made from coffee grounds. In the UK alone we produce up to half a million tons of used coffee grounds a year, almost all of which currently goes to waste. In the same way that old cooking oil is now being recycled as fuel, several organisations are exploring the commercial use of coffee grounds as fuel.
At the forefront of the new technology is London-based company Bio-bean. The organisation works with waste management companies across the UK to source their raw material, and have already launched biomass pellets suitable for powering heating systems, and briquettes (called, pleasingly, Coffee Logs) which are suitable for domestic use.They’re already processing more than 50,000 tons of grounds a year (equivalent to one out of every ten cups of coffee drunk in the UK), and are currently undertaking new research into the production of biodiesel, along with Shell. They estimate that once the process is commercially viable a ton of coffee grounds could produce up to 200 litres of fuel.
The whole process is much more eco-friendly than the growing of dedicated crops destined for biofuels, as it involves using waste products rather than investing land, water and energy in the growing of special crops. Coffee has 150 per cent more energy than wood, so the idea of harnessing some of that power is attracting interest from a range of investment companies. The idea is gaining more and more momentum, with national coffee chains signing up to join the collection scheme.
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