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Farmers Generate Energy from Coffee Wastewater

CoffeeIt is possible to generate energy, tackle climate change and protect water resources by treating discharges from coffee mills, according to project findings by UTZ Certified.

The Energy from Coffee Wastewater project was launched by UTZ Certified in 2010 in Central America with the goal of addressing environmental and health problems caused by the wastewater produced in the coffee industry.

Latin America produces around 70 percent of the world’s coffee, and production generates a large amount of highly toxic wastewater that is released untreated into rivers, affecting plants, fish and downstream communities.

In addition, coffee wastewater contains organic waste, which affects the soil and generates considerable amounts of greenhouse gas emissions, particularly methane.

As part of the project, custom-made coffee wastewater treatment systems and solid-waste treatment mechanisms were installed in coffee farms in Nicaragua, Honduras and Guatemala. Results of the project included:

  • Generation of a significant amount of biogas which was used to power households and coffee mills
  • Water reduction of over 50 percent in coffee processing
  • Prevention of greenhouse gas emissions
  • Prevention of local deforestation of native trees
  • Treatment of essentially all water used in coffee processing

UTZ Certified is currently introducing the technology in Peru and Brazil, and hopes to replicate the initiative in Africa and Asia.

Coffee waste has been at the heart of several sustainability efforts recently. Earlier this year, a London-based company, Bio-bean, announced plans to recycle waste coffee grounds and convert them into biofuels. Similarly, other organizations such as Starbucks, Nestle and the University of Cincinnati are already turning spent coffee grounds into bioplastics, laundry detergents and biodiesel.

Photo Credit: Coffee via Shutterstock

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