Pilot sites in energy from coffee waste show good results

August 30, 2014 by Nancy Owano weblog
Nicaraguan coffee farmer, Fátima Blandón, cooking with biogas. Yalí, Jinotega, Nicaragua

Latin America produces around 70 percent of the world's coffee, but there is a hidden price we have to pay in threats to clean environments and community health. Coffee production generates a great amount of wastewater, which is released untreated into rivers, affecting aquatic fauna and flora and downstream communities. A key problem is that coffee wastewater comes along with tons of organic waste and high toxicity, which affects the soil and generates greenhouse-gas emissions, particularly methane. An international push to address the health and environmental problems caused by coffee wastewater may now turn out to be a milestone in tackling the issue, with Central American farmers using coffee wastewater to generate energy.

UTZ Certified is a Netherlands-based sustainability program. UTZ Certified's "Energy from Coffee Wastewater" project, according to reports Wednesday, has proven it is possible not only to protect but generate energy by treating discharge from coffee mills. UTZ Certified notes such bracing factoids as how a cup of coffee requires 140 liters of to be produced and how over 70 percent of water used in Latin America is returned into rivers without being treated.

Han De Groot, executive director at UTZ Certified, said, "Rural communities and depend intrinsically on a ready supply of fresh water. So if we want to talk about coffee produced in a sustainable manner, then wastewater must be treated when released into the environment." As for generating energy from the waste, the UTZ project report stated that newly installed water treatment systems are at work, where "Methane generated by the waste water is captured in the system, providing a clean and safe biogas for farmers to run pulping machines, heat kitchen stoves and other appliances.".This lowers the carbon and water footprint of coffee production, added the report..

Its coffee wastewater treatment systems have been installed in eight coffee farms in Nicaragua, 10 in Honduras and one in Guatemala. Among the benefits have been the generation of a significant amount of biogas and prevention of the release of greenhouse-gas emissions into the atmosphere. Expansion of the initiative is on the group's wish list. The report said that the initiative is ready to progress from pilot project to further expansion in and beyond Central America.

Environmental concern over coffee processing wastewater has been ongoing for some time. Global Coffee Report in 2012 indicated that interest was beginning to mount. "Wastewater has long been one of the most damaging by-products from processing. Researchers are starting to take an economically-focused approach to provide incentives for plants to deal with these dangerous effluents." Ken Calvert, a retired energy and wastes treatment engineer, explained in the article that "The effluents from washed and semi-washed methods are loaded with organic matter and high in toxicity. The results can lead to degradation of the level of oxygen in water, which can kill off virtually all aquatic life."

Explore further: Used coffee grounds are a rich source of healthful antioxidants

More information: www.utzcertified.org/images/stories/site/pdf/downloads/utz-energy-from-coffee-waste-exec-summary.pdf

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5 / 5 (2) Aug 30, 2014
Our local nursery mixes spent coffee grounds with manure and sells it at a premium. It is the best smelling manure I have ever seen.
not rated yet Aug 30, 2014
It is good to see something that would otherwise be toxic effluent being used as a resource instead.

@verkle - A large portion of our compost pile starts out as coffee grounds, and we add manure as well. I agree - great compost!
not rated yet Aug 30, 2014
Gunther Pauli founder of zeri.org reported that in South Africa, they get the locals to go around the city collecting all the coffee grounds placing them in a large open area the size of basketball pitch, unleash a certain species of maggots which eat the grounds. After a while the maggots are stimulated to vomit, they exude a very useful chemical that is considered the worlds best burns treatment and much cheaper than any synthetic equivalent...

Gunther has also been growing Spirulina in fossil fuel power plant cooling towers, the warmth is helpful along with (afaik) some redirected CO2 exhaust from the power station...
not rated yet Aug 31, 2014
Our local nursery mixes spent coffee grounds with manure and sells it at a premium. It is the best smelling manure I have ever seen.

My mom usually puts their spent coffee grounds to flower pots, and the flowers absolutely flourish.
1 / 5 (1) Aug 31, 2014
best be to stop the massive coffee production and plant something more useful instead
5 / 5 (1) Aug 31, 2014
zoljah uttered this, with seemingly little appreciation of economics, demand & diversity
best be to stop the massive coffee production and plant something more useful instead
Coffee has many benefits Eg, reduces cancer risk, stimulant, coffee grounds manure pesticide properties etc.

However, your demand belies the economics. Coffee is a high value crop, poorer countries can grow it & sell/trade for food & fuel. Open market doesn't lie achieving metastatic equilibrium, if at least from the perspective that growers would not be able to produce if they were not fed well enough, that & the competition in a floating market maintains supply.

The implication you might have made is food producing areas are becoming scarcer, well perhaps due to coastal areas re storm surges & climate change but, its not generally production that is the issue worldwide its transportation in all it demands; reliability, safety, hygiene etc

btw: Many plants produce caffeine = natural pesticide.
Whydening Gyre
5 / 5 (1) Aug 31, 2014
It is the best smelling manure I have ever seen.

Somehow, I found that statement amusing in a synesthasic sort of way...:-)

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