It’s finally being made – coffee waste is being recycled into bioethanol as a vehicle fuel and for other uses. The production is in the testing stage in Colombia at present, but hopes are high that the promising technology will turn a pollutant into social, environmental and economic benefits. The waste, called mucilage, comes from the parts of the coffee bean removed during the washing process. At this time, Colombia’s coffee farms are allowing this waste to enter the river system, causing contamination. If feasibility is proven, this recycling of mucilage to fuel will benefit the farmer financially, as he can sell the waste to the recycling plant and cease paying the fines for polluting the rivers. It may also help farmers reap bigger profits because it will make their coffee eligible for more certifications. Obviously the environment benefits because the rivers will be cleaner. That’s only part of it though. Even the recycled material will have waste, and the waste not needed for the ethanol will be turned into fertilizer. That might alleviate the need for chemical fertilizers, thus helping to preserve the health of the soil. The higher profits generated by the coffee and lack of fines will enable the farmer to improve his farm and his lifestyle. The community will be upgraded, thus benefiting the social environment. A water company is showing interest in the cleanliness of the river water, so there may be a chance of deriving drinking water from the rivers once they are cleaner. The testing is using a prototype micro-plant which utilizes the same protocols of a bigger ethanol production plant, but on a much smaller scale. It will produce from 800 to 1000 liters per day of bioethanol. In the beginning they plan to collect the mucilage from 450 square meters of land. The biofuel produced is intended for use as a vehicle fuel, generator fuel for rural area energy production, for energy to light farms and homes, and for stove fuel. So forget the gassifier for running your car on coffee. If this mucilage- to-bioethanol experiment is successful, all we’ll need to run coffee-fueled cars is a biofuel adapted system. If the bioethanol is economically feasible, we’ll all receive the three benefits of coffee-generated fuels. Brew on sustainably!
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