Posted in Kafevend Blog
It goes without saying that we produce an awful lot of waste. It feels sometimes as though we are only just waking up to this fact. Thankfully this isn't strictly the case-for example, we better understand the virtues of recycling and have been making a good job of it in recent years- but when you consider some of the reactions to the 5p bag charge, you realise there is still some stubbornness going around regarding the subject. Thankfully there are good folk at the other end of the scale who recognise the issue of waste and how to remedy it. One of those people is Arthur Kay, who has come up with a solution as to how we can deal with all the used coffee we produce.
You might be surprised to learn that the UK creates around half a million tonnes of coffee waste a year. This is predominantly disposed of by either landfill, incineration or anaerobic digestion, generating around 1.8 million tonnes of CO²- not great, we're sure you'll agree. Arthur discovered this (and later put it up on his company's site, which is handy for us) back in 2012 as a university student studying architecture. He had tasked himself with devising closed circuit waste to energy systems for buildings and began looking at coffee shops when he found out these statistics. He soon stopped studying architecture and established the company 'bio-bean' to deal with it.
Arthur's confidence stemmed in part from the qualities of the waste coffee itself. Several waste objects require an awful lot of time and effort to separate into their constituent parts for recycling- tea bags, for example. Coffee however is a much easier item to work with and one brimming with potential due to the oils and calories it contains. Over the last few years since his first idea, Arthur has brought together a team of 20 on a 20,000 square foot plant in Cambridgeshire, which is capable of processing 50,000 tonnes of coffee waste a year. Several coffee producers and sellers, both big and small, have signed up to send their waste to the facility- enough that Arthur is planning a new one to cope with the demand.
Currently the site does two main things. First of all, it removes the oil present in the coffee using a bio chemical process known as hexane extraction. The oil makes up around a fifth of the coffee, and they are currently working out how to convert it into bio diesel fuel which can be used to power the fleets of vehicles used by the coffee makers! Once the oil has been removed, the remaining mass is dried and turned into biomass pellets. These serve as a cleaner fuel alternative to wood chips and can be burned in boilers.
Arthur plans eventually to export this idea and system globally- the fact that it makes good business sense will hopefully encourage companies to adopt it, which is probably a more tempting hook than 'it's good for the planet'. But so long as the latter happens, we suppose there's no point complaining!