OK, they’re not downing the Starbucks stuff or anything made at the city’s plethora of indie coffee shops. Instead, they’re making use of a biofuel made from oil extracted from waste coffee grounds.
The project is the result of a collaboration between recycling firm Bio-bean, Shell, and Argent Energy.
Brits drink more than 50 million cups of coffee a day, which in London alone creates more than 200,000 tons of coffee waste a year, according to Bio-Bean.
To make the fuel, Bio-bean collects waste from cafes and factories that produce instant coffee, and extracts oil from it at its processing plant. After mixing it with diesel, the result is a B20 biofuel containing a 20 percent bio-component that includes the coffee oil.
It reduces CO2 emissions by around 10 to 15 percent compared with traditional mineral diesel, and prevents waste coffee from ending up in landfill where it releases harmful methane. And importantly, London buses can use the fuel without the need for any engine modification.
Bio-bean said that so far, 6,000 liters of coffee oil has been produced. If this was used as a pure-blend for the bio component and mixed with mineral diesel to form a B20, it “could help power the equivalent of one London bus for a year.”
If the project stays on track, the coffee-based biofuel could one day power up to a third of London’s buses and have a meaningful impact on pollution levels in the capital city, among other advantages.
‘The poo bus’
It’s not the first time that Brits have utilized waste products to power their buses, though a trial effort in 2014 was rather more, shall we say, stinky. Dubbed “the poo bus,” the 40-seat vehicle ran solely on biomethane gas generated from human sewage and food waste.
It could travel up to 184 miles on a single tank of the gas, which was generated via a treatment process known as “anaerobic digestion.”
Importantly, it produced far fewer emissions (pun very much intended) than regular diesel engines, helping to improve the surrounding air quality. And in case you’re wondering, the bus filtered out impurities, so pedestrians didn’t have to hold their nose when the bus trundled by.
Sadly, the plan to extend the fleet of poo buses went down the toilet last year when the operator failed to win vital funding from the government.