In London, the need for cleaner air is vital – the compact road network coupled with high buildings make it one of the most polluted places in the UK.
Arthur Kay, the owner of a company called Bio-bean, has found an ingenious way to help tackle this issue. Bio-bean operates by collecting coffee waste from high street coffee chains such as Costa and converting this waste into liquid fuel.
A waste management company collects the grounds on Bio-bean’s behalf, charging a fee that is around 70% less than shops would usually pay to have it taken away.
The biochemical method by which oil is extracted from a pile of coffee grounds is patented. The process works by evaporating the coffee waste using a method called ‘hexane extraction’. From this, around 15%-20% can be refined as oil, with the remaining mass being turned into biomass pellets which can be burnt as fuel in wood burners.
“We are going through a period of energy divergence where we are moving from a fossil-fuel based society to one that is increasingly diversified. Biofuel will be crucial to that,” said Mr Kay.
There is also a ready supply of ingredients. “In the UK, people consume 500,000 tonnes of coffee each year, and if we could use all of it we could power a city such as Manchester.”
The company plans to unveil a bus run on coffee beans in London in the next few weeks. If this technology proves to be viable, it could potentially provide a huge reduction in running costs for major cities and their bus routes.
Many countries are starting to see the benefits of bio-fuel, which can be made out of anything from chocolate to sewage.
London is also following more conventional means to reduce air pollution. Transport for London has partnered with car maker Ford to pilot electric-only vans in the city.
Ford’s trial involves 20 plug-in hybrid vans on the roads that will complete “the majority of drives” in electric mode, with a conventional engine available to take over on longer trips.
The number of commercial vehicles has increased by 12% in cities as more and more people rely on fast deliveries of online goods.” As cities grow, and London is growing by the equivalent of two full Tube trains every week, there will be a continuation of that trend,” said Graham Hoare, Ford’s chief engineer.
London will be following a trend taken by many cities forced to look for more innovative ways to reduce congestion and improve air quality. Beijing is the latest to announce plans to convert its fleet of 70,000 taxis to electric, starting this year at a cost of around 9 billion yuan.