For many, the morning routine has become somewhat of a ritual - wake up, pull on slippers, head into the kitchen, and make a coffee. For others, the coffee is bought from a cafe on the way to work. Either way, we love our coffee and it helps us to get ready for the day ahead. However, have you ever wondered where all the wasted coffee grounds go? For many years, they were simply a waste product but times are changing and we are now finding a use for them as a renewable energy source.
Coffee Industry - Currently, coffee is right at the top with the largest commodities all across the globe. In fact, over eight billion metric tons of the ingredient is grown each and every year*. Whilst some people use the grounds towards compost and other home uses, the majority makes its way to landfills but this could now be changing. Both Nestle and Starbucks are investing into research and new processes that would see coffee grounds put to good use; for example, many experts now believe that the oil found within could contribute tens of millions of liters of biodiesel to the world.
Arguably, Starbucks is the largest coffee seller across the US and they purchase 400 million pounds of coffee per year. Therefore, they are seeking a solution to all the waste and the solutions so far include bioplastics, laundry detergents, and many other products. Of course, Nestle has a reputation for incinerating coffee for its own energy but they are now moving one step further by using it for heat to cook products. With 28 factories in total, 22 have this system installed and it is making a huge contribution to our planet. Thanks to a high calorie value, many producers realized that they could have other uses after providing a cup of coffee and studies now show that their fuel value is more efficient than wood*; how amazing is this?
According to a representative at Nestle, two of their factories, in China and Vietnam, currently use coffee grounds to fulfil 100% of their energy needs*. If the US adopts this system, it could make a huge impact on the industry as a whole. Moreover, Nestle has an aim of having absolutely no waste in its 150 European factories by 2020 and they are certainly taking positive steps towards this target.
In Cincinnati, there are actually three scientists* who are working on using coffee grounds for biodiesel. After investigating coffee grounds for some time, they have discovered that they contain between 11-20% oil* which is the same as soybean oil, palm oil, and others that are used as biodiesel. Since coffee grounds are so widely available, we could see a huge impact on the United States when it is introduced. Of course, there are challenges to be seen including the fact that coffee grounds are a solid rather than being a liquid but there are huge steps taking place every day.
Summary - In summary, the planet is looking to find sources of energy where you wouldn't expect it and they are certainly doing that at the moment. With some of the largest US companies looking into this source, it is only a matter of time before it makes an impact on how we operate. If private consumers and those who drink coffee at home have an outlet to donate their grounds, this will be a fantastic step forward for all those who support renewable energy sources!
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