bio-bean is the first company in the world to industrialise the process of recycling spent coffee grounds to create advanced biofuels and biochemicals.
At this month’s YFood Tech Wednesdays Manchester, we heard from Solid Fuel Business Development Manager at bio-bean, Matt Keniston who joined the company in 2016 after a successful career in sustainable, commercial and domestic energy.
Founded on the premise that there is no such thing as waste, only value that hasn’t yet been extracted, before bio-bean there were few options for recycling waste coffee grounds. In most cases previously, spent coffee was simply sent straight to landfill where it emits methane, a greenhouse gas that is 28 times more potent than carbon dioxide.
“Some people are happy for spent coffee grounds to go to landfill, and it is a profitable business for waste management infrastructure,” explains Matt. “Our innovation is disruptive so we’ve had to circumnavigate tested systems and find ways to divert that waste to us.”
Every year, the UK produces hundreds of thousands of tonnes of spent coffee grounds. That’s a lot of potential emissions if sent to landfill. bio-bean offers a cheaper alternative for coffee shops, offices, transport hubs and coffee factories to dispose of their grounds without paying the expensive landfill charges. But the main benefit is the creation of advanced biofuels.
bio-bean process over 6,000 tonnes of spent grounds every year. “The grounds for our biofuels come to us are contaminated, so they need to be cleaned and decontaminated,” says Matt. “Once they’ve gone through this process they can be dried and then turned into our solid fuels.”
Through different processes, bio-bean is able to turn the spent coffee into three main products: eco-heating briquettes, biomass pellets and biochemicals. As spent coffee grounds are highly calorific and contain valuable compounds, this makes them an ideal feedstock to produce second-generation products like eco-heating briquettes. You might better know these as Coffee Logs, and they can be used in the home as a replacement fuel for stoves and fireplaces.
Biomass pellets, however, are aimed at the industrial market. Pellet fuels are biofuels made from compressed organic matter, in this case coffee grounds. With the use of a more fuel- efficient biomass boiler, companies can rely less on burning oil and other fossil fuels, reducing their carbon footprint.
Finally, through a pioneering eco-friendly process, they are able to extract the fragrant compounds from spent coffee, concentrate them and turn them into a natural coffee extract.
“When you smell it, you know it’s from coffee but it's more roasted. It has exciting applications, not just as a coffee flavouring but also as more unexpected, savoury modifications. This is really exciting for us because we’ve proved you can take something that was previously considered waste and turn it into a product that can be put back into the food chain,” explains Matt.
bio-bean’s products continue to grow in popularity and big brands such as Morrisons and B&Q now stock their Coffee Logs, and the company is hoping to see this year's sales double. We’re excited to watch bio-bean grow from strength to strength, turning waste into advanced bio-products.
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