Energy drink – a startup is recycling coffee waste into biofuel

12th June 2020 | Recycling

Coffee chains create a lot of waste, from disposable takeaway cups to the used grounds that are sent to rot in landfills. Starbucks (SBUX) has started to trial recyclable alternatives to the disposable cups. But the used coffee is often overlooked. UK starup Bio-bean thinks it has found a way to turn that waste into a valuable resource.

The world drinks around 2 billion cups of coffee a day, producing 6 million tons of used grounds every year, according to a 2011 study. When they go to landfill, the decomposing grounds release greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, contributing to global warming. Bio-bean, however, is turning 7,000 tons of those grounds a year into biofuels. In 2017, it developed a coffee-based biofuel to be used in London’s diesel buses, but it wasn’t commercially viable, so the company has shifted its focus to sold fuels for household and industrial use.

Coffee waste

These fuels release greenhouse gases when burned, but if they replace other carbon-based fuels, Bio-bean estimates that the recycling process reduces emissions by 80% compared with sending the grounds to landfill. Bio-bean’s process begins with decontaminating coffee grounds.

Bio-bean raised more than $7 million in funding since it was founded in 2013. It recycles grounds collected from companies including Costa Coffee, London Stansted Airport, and UK railway operator Network Rail. “We’ve really managed to succeed with our innovation [because] we’ve managed to get to scale,” says George May, director and Chief Commercial Officer of Bio-bean. “Other people may recycle one or 10 tons of coffee. We’ve recycled over 20,000 tons in our lifetime.”

Bio-bean has been impacted by the Covid-19 crisis, but its operations are continuing. Although coffee outlets in the United Kingdom have temporarily closed because of coronavirus restrictions, Bio-bean says it has still been able to get grounds from various recycling partners, but at lower volumes than usual.

More information available on the website below