Coffee bean waste produced at some of London’s main train stations is soon to travel to a more desirable destination. The UK’s Network Rail has agreed a contract with ‘Bio-bean’, an innovative company which can transform waste coffee beans into biofuels. Not only will these biofuels generate power for homes, businesses and vehicles, it will also benefit passengers in that any costs saved from expensive landfill disposal will be rerouted into upgrading the current railway system.
After trials at Waterloo and Victoria proved successful, four other major London stations – Euston, King’s Cross, Liverpool Street and Paddington will soon adopt this waste disposal initiative. Coffee bean waste produced at the six stations selected can release around 5,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere each year. This initiative will ensure that not only is the latter avoided, but that a steady supply of carbon-neutral energy can be made and put to good use.
David Biggs, managing director of property at Network Rail, said: “Millions of cups of coffee are bought in our stations every year and that number is growing as passenger numbers continue to rise. This partnership will see the waste from those purchases put to good use, creating biofuels that can be used in vehicles and to heat homes and saving more than 5,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide from entering the atmosphere.”
According to Network Railway, 700 tonnes of coffee waste is generated from the millions of cups of coffee purchased at the chosen train stations. This has the capacity to create 5,700 kWh and to power an impressive 1,000 homes. Overall, the UK’s coffee consumers conjure up 500,000 tonnes of waste grounds per year (London alone produces 200,000), leaving the coffee industry with hefty disposal fees of £80 million.
‘Bio-bean’ was set up in 2014 by two young entrepreneurial graduates – Arthur Kay and Benjamin Harriman, who noted the rise in coffee shops and cafés throughout the UK and their subsequent need for coffee waste recycling. The original idea for ‘Bio-bean’ was pitched in 2012 and through awards and financial support, the company has evolved quickly. It currently has the ability to process 50,000 tonnes per year and takes in 30,000 tonnes at present. The coffee waste is transformed into biomass pellets at a plant outside London through a process called ‘’transesterification’. Kay and Harriman hope to export the idea to continental Europe and beyond in future.
As rail passenger numbers increase, this promising venture ensures that sustainable, clean fuel can be produced from a substance which we love to consume every day. For now, the instigation of the project at London’s six primary train stations is a huge step towards reducing the carbon footprint of coffee drinkers on the run. At least these particular commuters can be assured that they are somewhat contributing to a lower carbon environment and a better train network.