Turning used Coffee Beans into Fuel in the Circular Economy

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A new London-based company is up-cycling coffee grounds into bio-fuel and is part of the growing trend of enterprises focusing on creating a circular economy. Every year the coffee shops and instant coffee factories in London produce 200,000 tons of coffee waste. The waste is generally burnt, sent to anaerobic digestion plants or put in landfills and does little to no good for the reutilization of resources. These types of handling made the founders of the company Bio-bean wonder if there was not a better way to utilize the inherent power of this huge amount of organic material.

The company is thinking cleverly were it comes to conducting profitable business and turning coffee-waste into gold. They have started out their journey by focusing on wholesale instant coffee manufacturers and coffee-waste aggregators before expanding the business to smaller (but more numerous) providers of waste. Cambridge News report that the Bio-bean has commercial relationships in place or in negotiation with every major coffee waste provider. These include coffee shop chains and major transport providers, and the company is also working with existing waste management infrastructure to secure grounds from London’s network of independent coffee shops. Arthur Kay, CEO and co-founder of Bio-bean, tells Fast Company:   

“Bio-bean is aligned closely with the concept of the circular economy, we view waste more as a valuable resource, simply in the wrong place”

Courtesy of Bio-bean

Courtesy of Bio-bean Limited

The term “circular economy” refers to an industrial economy with two types of material flows, where one is concerning biodegradable resources and the other regards technological creations which are circulating in the economy by reuse of whole items or their respective parts. Both types of flows, by their design, strive to minimize the impact and stress we put on our planets limited resources. Many companies are now starting to realize that we cannot only build a more sustainable world by thinking more “circular” but there is also a ton of money to be made by thinking more creatively around waste.

As the company currently goes about collecting the grounds from the coffee waste-aggregators and the like, they then transport the waste to their processing plant in north London where machines turn these old grounds into biomass pellets and biodiesel in a patented process. This carbon-neutral fuel is then sold to businesses to power buildings and vehicles, as reported by EcoWatch. As a matter of fact, the company now uses its bio-fuel to run its own fleet of trucks, eliminating its carbon footprint as it circles the city to collect the waste.

According to Forbes, Bio-bean estimates that they will save up to 53,200 barrels of oil in a year, the equivalent of driving a London bus around the world more than 7,000 times. As this case shows, a turn towards a circular economy might not be so bad for niether the business nor the planet. It is time to start turning things around.

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