bio-bean establishes Caffè Nero partnership to turn coffee waste into fuel

Coffee grounds at bio-bean's Cambridgeshire reprocessing facility
Coffee grounds at bio-bean's Cambridgeshire reprocessing facility
Caffè Nero has announced a partnership with recycling company First Mile, which will collect waste coffee grounds from the chain to be used by reprocessor bio-bean in developing advanced biofuels that can heat homes, and potentially even power cars.

UK company bio-bean was set up in 2013 by Arthur Kay, who’d become interested in coffee waste during a university project, and who spoke to Resource last year about how coffee ground recycling can contribute to a circular economy.

Under the new partnership, First Mile provides stores with special recycling sacks, into which baristas place used coffee grounds. First Mile then collects the filled sacks at the end of each day, transporting them to bio-bean’s Cambridgeshire site, where the coffee is processed and turned into biomass pellets, which can be used in wood burners.  

By July this year, across 122 of its Greater London stores, Caffè Nero plans to have helped repurpose 218 tonnes of used coffee grounds, resulting in 98 tonnes of biomass pellets, enough to power 453 homes.

Commenting on the partnership, Matt Spencer, Commercial Director at Caffè Nero said: “We are always looking at ways to improve our recycling so we are very excited to be working with First Mile and bio-bean on this initiative, and will seek to extend it beyond Greater London. We are committed to doing our bit to help address the recycling issues we all face today.”

The future of transport

bio-bean's Arthur Kay
bio-bean's Arthur Kay
Not only can coffee be used to power homes, but bio-bean anticipates that soon it will also be used to fuel cars. The company is currently exploring refining the oils within the coffee grounds to create biodiesel. One tonne of waste coffee grounds creates 245 litres of liquid fuel – which would fill four cars. According to reports, waste coffee recycled by Caffè Nero each year would be enough to fuel ‘a complete circle of the M25 3,689 times’.

According to Kay, coffee is “a very interesting waste stream that has lots of interesting chemical compounds, very high oil content and a good calorific value, so that means it’s ideal for both solid fuel and liquid transport fuel”. bio-bean is currently capable of processing 50,000 tonnes of coffee waste, collected from coffee shops, offices, transport hubs, shopping centres and instant coffee factories, and turning it into biofuel. Kay says that bio-bean hopes to increase processing capacity to 250,000 in the next few years.

Joe Allen, Chief Commercial Officer of First Mile, said: “This service marks another step in our ambition to create a world where you can recycle everything. Waste coffee grounds would previously go to incineration or landfill, and it is fantastic to see Caffè Nero embrace this new initiative and start recycling a significant amount of waste coffee. We look forward to supporting a wider roll-out and working with Caffè Nero on other recycling challenges.”

More information about the coffee recycling process is available in Resource’s feature article.