Latin American coffee producers generate energy from coffee waste
Energy produced from coffee waste products has shown that it is possible to generate biogas, can mitigate the causes of climate change and protect water resources by treating the discharges from coffee grounds.
The project started back in 2010 to address ecological issues caused by wastewater from coffee processing.
Coffee wastewater contains tons of organic waste and has a high toxicity that affects the soil and generates significant emissions of greenhouse gases, especially methane, a major contributor to climate change.
So far eight coffee farms in Nicaragua, 10 in Honduras and one in Guatemala, have implemented the systems for treating wastewater as well as the mechanisms for the treatment of solid waste.
The positive impact on more than 5,000 people in the region inspired UTZ Certified, an organization that supports sustainable farming, to replicate the system in other countries.
According to UTZ Certified, Latin America produces almost 70 percent of the world’s coffee, and is the continent where 31 percent of the world's freshwater resources are located.
“However coffee production generates a significant amount of waste water — commonly called honey water (aguas mieles) — which is usually discharged, untreated, into rivers, affecting aquatic flora and fauna as well as the communities that are located downstream,” states the organization.
"Coffee production is environmentally sustainable when the water resource is used efficiently, and when the contaminated water is treated," said Han De Groot, executive director of UTZ Certified. "Rural communities and coffee production will inherently depend on a supply of water. Thus, if we talk about coffee production in a sustainable way, the wastewater must be treated before being released into the environment."
Among the results achieved by the system are preventing local deforestation of native trees, and better home environments for families who replace wood stoves with gas stoves.
Other significant results include the treatment of virtually all contaminated water during the processing of coffee; saving 50 percent of water used for washing and pulping the coffee; generating a significant amount of biogas that is used in homes and coffee grounds, and the prevention of emission of greenhouse gases.
Currently UTZ Certified is introducing this technology in Peru and Brazil. The organization expects more funding and support in the industry to replicate it in Africa and Asia.