London Is Fueling Their Buses With Used Coffee Grounds

To cut down on emissions from public transportation, London is going to be using coffee oil from used grounds into a biofuel blend. This provides a way to eliminate environmentally-toxic coffee grounds from landfills and existing buses don't need to be altered.


Nov. 19 2020, Updated 9:41 p.m. ET

The garbage we throw away continues to give us renewable fuel. New York is turning compostable garbage into biogas that can be used in a natural gas pipeline. In a different part of the world, London is fueling public transportation from used coffee grounds that’s also transferred into a biofuel.

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Transport for London operates the daily activities of public transit and the main roads of the city. Their goals are to listen to feedback while improving the system. They’ve constantly improved the technology and convenience, and another area they're working on is cutting down emissions from buses and other forms of public travel to make it safer.

It’s all led to Bio-bean, a British startup, to collaborate with Shell and Argent Energy to create a new source of biofuel from used coffee beans. The process begins with gathering these grounds from various cafes and restaurants that are stored after use. It’s all transported to a facility where they dry the grounds before extracting oil from them.

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Oil that’s extracted from the coffee is combined with other fuels like diesel to create a new, usable source that’s less hazardous to the environment. Benefits include an abundant amount of coffee grounds with people around the world drinking 400 million cups per day. This process removes it from the landfill where it would spew out greenhouse gases. There’s also no need to modify these buses to use the new hybrid fuel.

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Bio-bean has been working on this technique since 2013 when they were founded by Arthur Kay. Referred to as blended B20 biofuel, this means 20 percent of the final product represents the coffee oils that have gone into it. This would be enough to fuel one bus for an entire year. Bio-bean believes that Britain creates the equivalent of over 551,000 US tons of coffee grounds per year.

6,000 liters of coffee oil has been produced, which is the equivalent to fueling one London bus annually. “[We’ve] created thousands of litres of coffee-derived B20 biodiesel which will help power London buses for the first time.” Kay said in a press release. “It’s a great example of what can be done when we start to reimagine waste as an untapped resource.”

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Bio-bean has already been recycling coffee beans with a different product, Coffee Logs. Instead of using wood, people can throw in coffee-based logs into the fireplace to heat their homes. Each log is made of 25 cups of coffee, it burns hotter and lasts longer when compared to traditional logs, and every Coffee Log is 100 percent carbon neutral.

There’s certainly some questions in terms of how much energy the process uses. Michael Irving of New Atlas ponders if the shipping of the used coffee grounds and creating coffee oil is really saving on pollution than simply recycling the grounds. However, Bio-bean has been the industry of reusing used coffee for a while now. They’ll likely fine-tune how the process works and they’re already working on a better, purer blend than B20 biofuel.

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