The fuel and transport industry is set to change over the next couple of decades, with biofuel and electric-powered vehicles developing at a rapid pace. These changes are leading the world to a more sustainable and cleaner future, reducing the effects of climate change.
Biofuel is not a new concept. Various combustible materials such as recycled cooking oil and combustible by-products from agriculture have been used to fuel engines for many years. However, could coffee be the new solution to biofuel limitations in South Africa?
Discarded coffee grounds from restaurants and cafés in the United Kingdom are already being used as biofuel. This combustible product, called B20, is being used to fuel public buses in London.
How coffee is turned into biofuel
B20 stems from the collaboration between global energy giant, Shell, and an eco-friendly tech business called bio-bean. This partnership is enabling cities to function normally but reduce their carbon dioxide emissions. It also allows the public and businesses to view waste as a valuable resource.
Coffee oil is extracted from the dried coffee grounds, collected from coffee shops and restaurants. This oil is then blended with 20% other biocomponents to form an alternative fuel source for B20-compatible engines. B20 has been proven to reduce carbon emissions by up to 15%, as compared to standard diesel.
When London introduced their new hybrid buses in 2011, B20 fuel was added to the supply chain as their engines did not need any modification to burn the biofuel. One litre of coffee oil is enough to produce five litres of B20.
South Africa can benefit from biofuel
While a few attempts at creating a large-scale biofuel industry in South Africa have been launched, it is still traditional fossil fuels that rule the roost. The recent fuel price hikes and increasing demand for petrol and diesel have shown that there is a need for an alternative fuel source.
Coffee-based fuel such as B20 could ease the demand for fossil fuels and be a viable eco-friendly alternative in South Africa. “In South Africa, the potential for this solution is immense, given the more than three-billion cups of coffee that are consumed yearly,” says Shell UK country chair Sinead Lynch.
Cities and countries need to start rethinking their approach to waste. There is value in waste, as well as environmentally-friendly and sustainable solutions to many problems faced by modern societies.
Entrepreneurs can work alongside fuel giants
The transport industry is responsible for about one-quarter of the world’s total energy use, so finding alternative fuels that are cleaner and more efficient is a priority. This means that industry leaders and global fuel supply companies need to embrace the work being done by entrepreneurs and eco-friendly startups.
If we are to meet the demand for transport in a low-carbon future, we need to invest in alternative fuel sources. Entrepreneurs are constantly developing ideas and new renewable sources of fuel, but often lack the funding to go full-scale.
Not only does biofuel emit less carbon dioxide than fossil fuels, it also results in less waste to landfill. Coffee grounds and other biodegradable products can be turned into a fuel source rather than being dumped in a landfill. This means that more value is extracted from the waste as it is reused or turned into other products.
Solutions such as these could pave the way for a sustainable biofuel industry in South Africa where these products are already in supply. There is no shortage of coffee beans in South Africa, and with such a competitive coffee industry in major cities, there is plenty of coffee grounds available.
Averda is a leading waste management provider with over 50 years of experience across three continents. Through growth, transformation and engagement, we strive to find new ways of managing waste while protecting the community and environment.
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