“We really succeeded with our innovation [because] we were able to get to the scale, “says George May, director and CEO of Bio-bean.” Other people can recycle one or 10 tons of coffee. We have recycled over 20,000 tons in our lifetime. ”
The organic bean was affected by the Covid-19 crisis, but its operations continue. Although coffee shops in the UK have been temporarily closed due to coronavirus restrictions, Bio-bean says it has still been able to get rationale from various recycling partners, but at smaller volumes than usual.
Coffee as fuel
At the company’s Cambridgeshire plant, the coffee base used is decontaminated to remove paper cups or plastic bags and then passed through a dryer and further sifting. Finally, they are processed into products such as biomass pellets and firewood.
The company also produces a natural aroma of coffee-based extract through a separate process.
Pellets can be used to feed industrial boilers, to heat commercial greenhouses or to dry cereals, while coffee can be used in incinerators.
“Coffee is high in calories and lends itself to really fantastic fuel,” says May. “They burn about 20% hotter and 20% longer than logs do.”
Jenny Jones, a professor of sustainable energy at the University of Leeds, says the recycled coffee base has potential as a fuel, but adds that overall carbon savings need to be assessed and compared with alternatives to dealing with coffee waste, such as incineration. i.e. or turning it into mulch for plants.
Jones also says that the coffee base, like most biomass residues, has a higher sulfur and nitrogen content than most woods, which emit harmful gases such as sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxides when burned.
Although slowed by the coronavirus pandemic, Bio-bean says it plans to expand in Northwestern Europe over the next five years.