Coffee log to go? Caffè Nero teams up with Bio-bean to turn waste coffee into bioenergy

Coffee chain Caffè Nero has unveiled plans to recycle coffee grounds from 122 of its London stores to make coffee logs, which can be used in boilers and woodburners.

The scheme, which was formally announced late last week but which has been running since July 2016, sees recycling specialists First Mile pick up coffee waste from Caffè Nero stores and take it directly to coffee recyclers Bio-bean's Cambridgeshire factory to be turned into coffee logs. The company can also turn the waste coffee into biomass pellets.

By July 2017 – when the scheme will have been in operation for 12 months –  Caffè Nero calculates it will have repurpose 218 tonnes of used coffee grounds into 98 tonnes of biomass pellets, producing enough fuel to heat 435 homes for a year.

"We are always looking at ways to improve our recycling so we are very excited to be working with First Mile and Bio-bean on this initiative and will seek to extend it beyond Greater London," Matt Spencer, commercial director at Caffè Nero, said in a statement. "We are committed to doing our bit to help address the recycling issues we all face today."

The coffee giant said its partnership with First Mile allows the waste to be transported directly to Bio-bean, rather than via an intermediary depot, helping to avoid 125,000 road miles during the first year of the scheme.

‘Massive market’

Speaking to Biofuels International  November 2016, Bio-bean founder Arthur Kay, said: “The opportunity with our coffee logs is massive. There is a massive market there. We cut down trees all over the country and import woody biomass from across the Atlantic. So, the opportunity to displace the imported fuels that cost us a lot of money as well as to cut CO2 in the process is our number one priority.

“Cylinders of compressed coffee grounds burn really well. Around 25 cups of coffee go into this single log. For each bag you get 16 logs. It’s the cheapest fuel on the market, burns much hotter than wood and for longer. Our product is totally unsubsidised but we can still make it cheaper than anyone else in the market.”

Alongside the production of coffee logs for woodburners and biomass pellets for biomass boilers, bio-bean is also working on a system to turn the oils from coffee waste in to biodiesel for vehicles. One tonne of coffee waste could produce enough renewable fuel to fill four cars.

Kay said: “The oil produced from the waste coffee grounds smells delicious and the diesel smells of coffee, but sadly the logs themselves are pretty much odourless.”

Speaking about Bio-bean’s potential expansion plans, Kay said: “We are always looking to expand our built infrastructure. We are looking at sites in Northern Europe and the UK to build future factories. However, the real focus is on the bird in the hand and the big opportunities offered with coffee logs.

“There is a massive market out there that is currently ripe for disruption. Currently, the traditional fuels that are used in fireplaces like coal are dirty and mainly imported. We have this sustainable, locally-manufactured product to sue, which is much better than using coal and wood.”

This article was written by Liz Gyekye, editor of Bioenergy Insight.


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