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Energy from coffee grounds


Coffee is one of the most consumed drinks in the world, with more than 1,500 cups drunk every second. But the production and consumption of coffee generates a considerable mass of unused waste. In the Netherlands, which is the world’s fifth largest consumer of coffee, Koffie Recycling Nederland and SUEZ have imagined a way of transforming coffee grounds into bioenergy.

Credit: Thinkstock / sam73nz

Coffee waste: a real ecological challenge

With more than 7.4 million tonnes produced every year, the coffee market raises one significant question: how can the waste that coffee produces be treated and reused? From harvesting, through roasting to consumption, 99.8% of the biomass is goes to waste! An issue that exists both on the plantations, where an estimated 12 million tonnes of waste from coffee are abandoned on the spot and produce greenhouses gases, and to the point of consumption, which produces coffee grounds that go to waste.
In a world of limited resources, the reuse of biowaste has become a genuine ecological issue, especially in the food and drinks sector. In the Netherlands, where the average annual consumption of coffee is 8 kilos per inhabitant, coffee is the second most consumed drink, after water. Against this backdrop, SUEZ decided to develop a solution to reuse coffee grounds in the Netherlands, in cooperation with Koffie Recycling Nederland.

How can coffee grounds be reused?

The new solution consists of collecting tonnes of grounds from restaurants, cafés and companies, then transforming them into heating pellets that can be burned to produce energy to heat buildings, for example.

A solution that significantly reduces CO2 emissions, as Vincent Mooij, SUEZ Business Innovator SUEZ in the Netherlands, explains: “Every kilogramme of coffee grounds that we transform into biomass pellets saves 775 grammes of CO2, compared with treating them as waste. This is the equivalent of the emissions released by a car driven for 7 kilometres”. He goes on: “Just imagine if we transformed all the coffee waste in the Netherlands. We would reduce annual CO2 emissions by 93,000 tonnes, which is the equivalent of the emissions released by driving round the world in a car 20,000 times! “.

And transforming coffee grounds into energy is just the first step: SUEZ and its partner are also researching other types of material and biological reuse to make bioplastics, or to produce a growing medium for mushroom crops. Watch this space…

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