Caffé Nero reports coffee-waste-to-biofuel success, plans expansion

Italian-style coffee shop chain Caffé Nero is looking to extend an innovative coffee-to-biofuel recycling scheme beyond greater London after a successful partnership with recycling company First Mile and technology firm Bio-Bean.

First Mile's chief commercial officer Joe Allen (left) and Caffè Nero's commercial director Matt Spencer (right) are pleased by the success of the ongoing partnership

First Mile's chief commercial officer Joe Allen (left) and Caffè Nero's commercial director Matt Spencer (right) are pleased by the success of the ongoing partnership

Nero expects to have converted 218 tonnes of used coffee grounds into 98 tonnes of biomass pellets – enough fuel to power the equivalent of 453 homes – when the retailer reaches the first annual milestone of its partnership with First mile and Bio-Bean in July.

“We are always looking at ways to improve our recycling so we are very excited to be working with First Mile and Bio Bean on this initiative and will seek to extend it beyond Greater London,” said Caffè Nero’s commercial director Matt Spencer.

The ongoing agreement sees First Mile provide Caffè Nero with special recycling sacks for used coffee grounds. These sacks are collected by First Mile every evening and passed onto Bio-Bean for processing into advanced biofuels.

First Mile’s chief commercial officer Joe Allen said: “This service marks another step in our ambition to create a world where you can recycle everything. Waste coffee grounds would previously go to incineration or landfill, and it is fantastic to see Caffè Nero embrace this new initiative and start recycling a significant amount of waste coffee. We look forward to supporting a wider roll-out and working with Caffè Nero on other recycling challenges.”

Caffé Nero reports that London-based Bio-Bean is also now exploring the opportunity to refine the oils within the coffee grounds into bio-diesel for use in vehicles. One tonne of waste coffee grounds creates 245 litres of bio-diesel and Caffè Nero claims that its current annual recycled coffee waste levels would be enough to fuel a complete circle of the M25 3,689 times.

Fellow coffee shop chain Costa Coffee announced the launch of a new partnership with Bio-Bean at the end of 2016, which will see 3,000 tonnes of Costa's waste coffee grounds converted into biofuel.

Closed-loop coffee

Caffé Nero’s coffee-to-biofuel recycling scheme forms part of a company-wide push towards a circular economy after the retailer was singled out by celebrity chef-turned environmental campaigner Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall in his Hugh’s War on Waste TV programme last year.

Nero was recently involved with the #1MoreShot social experiment campaign, which saw 11 giant coffee cup bins placed in Manchester to solely collect paper coffee cups. The retailer has also trained its back-of-house teams to sort through waste before it is handed over for collection, to maximise efficiencies. This behaviour change scheme alone has resulted in over 154,000kg of cardboard and more than a million kilograms of mixed recycling being recovered in London since July 2016.

The group has also been expanding on its broader CSR strategy. Last year, edie reported that Nero was building on its work with the Rainforest Alliance to “move beyond certification” and train-up coffee farmers across South America, having launched a farming community support initiative in Nicaragua in 2015.

Luke Nicholls


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