It 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.
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