Fuelled by coffee

In 2008, two researchers from the University of Nevada found a better use for used coffee grounds other than fertilizing plants, exfoliating skin and filling up landfills. They extracted the oil and made biofuel.

With 16 billion pounds of coffee beans being distributed around the world annually, the researchers figured 340 million gallons of biofuel could be produced from the waste.

That’s a whole lot of fuel and given that I fill up an 80L garbage bin full of used grounds weekly, maybe I should ditch my day job and go into the oil business.

Last April, agricultural engineers at the University of Missouri decided to continue on from where the researchers have left off, testing it further so it can be better recognized as a source for biofuel.

Even though more research will be done, some companies are already utilising grounds as fuel.

Canadian company, Energy Innovation Corp (EIC), have managed to get over 500 cafés in their province to agree on letting them act as trash collectors. The company will then turn used grounds into biofuel expecting it to stop 16 million kilos of it from flooding waste dumps by 2013.

According to EIC CEO, Jon Dwyer, the fuel “can be used in any diesel engine whether it’s a train, a truck, a Volkswagen Jetta or a simple generator without any modification to the engine whatsoever.”

Nestlé have also invested in café trash. The company’s Philippines factory, Cagayan de Oro, uses wasted coffee as fuel to, ironically, make NESCAFÉ instant coffee. In fact, worldwide more than 20 Nestlé factories operate with used grounds as a supplemental fuel.

A garbage bag full of used coffee grounds is incredibly heavy. I have to hoist it into the air to get it in a bin, a ritual I do twice daily. I’ve tried giving it to friends for their gardens and taken it home to rid myself of dead skin. But that barely makes a dent in the amount I go through per week.

That’s just one café on the outskirts of Melbourne which is populated with others that probably have the same garbage issues. Melbourne’s well has yet to be struck but if used grounds ever became the norm for fuel expect coffee prices to go up.

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