Archive for December, 2008

America’s Addiction Fuels Desire For Coffee Ground Biodiesel

America’s Addiction Fuels Desire For Coffee Ground Biodiesel


Written by Nick Chamber, courtesy of

Researchers are reporting they have successfully made a high quality biodiesel from spent coffee grounds. They estimate that the coffee ground biodiesel industry could generate as much as $8,000,000 in profits annually using waste from US Starbucks stores alone.

One of the main limits to the acceptance of biodiesel as an alternative fuel is its price premium above regular diesel. To bring the price of biodiesel down, the industry uses as much waste material from other industries as possible to make it — such as used fryer oil and animal fats from poultry processing.

In holding with the idea of cheap biodiesel feedstocks, a team of researchers in the Chemical and Materials Engineering Department at the University of Nevada figured that maybe spent coffee grounds would fit the bill too.

And boy do they ever. Not only do spent coffee grounds have a relatively large amount of oil (about 15% — almost all of which can be converted into biodiesel using standard methods), biodiesel made from the grounds has a long shelf life due to the large amount of antioxidants in coffee. Antioxidants slow the process of rancidification.

There’s a bonus too: at the end of the biodiesel extraction and conversion process, the leftover grounds can be turned into fuel pellets for wood stoves and boilers, closing the waste loop (or at least putting most of the carbon and nutrients that had recently been used by the plant to grow back into the atmosphere where they can again be used by plants to grow).

Given that Starbucks generates 210 million pounds of spent coffee grounds per year in the US, the researchers calculate that it could amount to 2.92 million gallons of biodiesel and 89,000 tons of fuel pellets. After taking out operating costs, and assuming a sale value of $4.50/gallon of biodiesel and $225/ton of fuel pellets, that amount equals just over $8 million of profits per year (view calculations).

Conducting my own calculations, even at $3/gallon for biodiesel, profits would be in the $4 million per year range.

Anybody in Seattle listening?


December 10, 2008 at 12:48 am Leave a comment

How to Recycle or Repurpose Your Old Cellphone

How to Recycle or Repurpose Your Old Cellphone

December 5, 2008 by Chris Baskind


Junk cellphones

Don’t put your worn out cellphone phone in the trash — it’s probably filled with all sorts of toxic nasties. Here’s how to hang up on Old Faithful the right way.

Cellphones are as much a fashion accessory these days as shoes or jewelry. That — and the planned obsolescence of changing technology — means you’ll probably change your phone every 18 months to two years. It all translates to a lot of potentially toxic e-waste.

PVC, lead, cadmium, arsenic, mercury, and brominated flame retardants: consumer electronics can be a witches brew of things you don’t want leaching out of landfills and into your drinking water. Rather than thoughtlessly dropping that old phone into a nearby dumpster or hiding it in a desk drawer, recycle or repurpose it!


Many large electronic stores, including Radio Shack, Staples, and Best Buy, feature handy drop boxes of unwanted phones and batteries. It’s quite possible your cellphone vendor offers a take-back program. call2recycle maintains a national database of drop-off centers here.


Recycle logo

Working or repairable cellphones can be a real lifeline for seniors and women’s shelters. These can be as close as a quick call to organizations listed in your local phone directory. The National Coalition Against Domestic Violence accepts phones by mail — as does the Seniors assistance group Phones for Life. You’ll find a long list of organizations want to put your old phone to good use at the Electronic Industries Alliance’s Consumer Education Initiative.

Finally, it’s possible your local community sponsors electronic waste disposal and recycling. Check the government pages in your phone directory.

Respect your own privacy

Cellphones have largely replaced personal digital assistants (PDAs). That makes phones a rich target for unscrupulous identity thieves. Before surrendering a phone for recycling or reuse, delete all of your personal data and make sure it can’t be used to access your wireless account. Remember: a cellphone can hold data indefinitely, even when the battery is dead.

Find out how to zero-out your particular cellphone model at

December 9, 2008 at 10:27 pm Leave a comment

coco eco magazine

Coco Eco Magazine


December 9, 2008 at 7:03 pm Leave a comment

Fuel from food scraps could be Hydrogen gold mine

Fuel from food scraps could be Hydrogen gold mine

Fuel from food scraps could be Hydrogen gold mine

Researchers have combined the efforts of two kinds of bacteria to produce hydrogen in a bioreactor, with the product from one providing food for the other. According to an article in the August issue of Microbiology Today, this technology has an added bonus: leftover enzymes can be used to scavenge precious metals from spent automotive catalysts to help make fuel cells that convert hydrogen into energy.

Hydrogen has three times more potential energy by weight than petrol, making it the highest energy-content fuel available. Research into using bacteria to produce hydrogen has been revived thanks to the rising profile of energy issues.

We throw away a third of our food in the UK, wasting 7 million tonnes a year. The majority of this is currently sent to landfill where it produces gases like methane, which is a greenhouse gas 25 more potent than carbon dioxide. Following some major advances in the technology used to make “biohydrogen”, this waste can now be turned into valuable energy.

“There are special and yet prevalent circumstances under which micro-organisms have no better way of gaining energy than to release hydrogen into their environment,” said Dr Mark Redwood from the University of Birmingham. “Microbes such as heterotrophs, cyanobacteria, microalgae and purple bacteria all produce biohydrogen in different ways.”

When there is no oxygen, fermentative bacteria use carbohydrates like sugar to produce hydrogen and acids. Others, like purple bacteria, use light to produce energy (photosynthesis) and make hydrogen to help them break down molecules such as acids. These two reactions fit together as the purple bacteria can use the acids produced by the fermentation bacteria. Professor Lynne Macaskie’s Unit of Functional Bionanomaterials at the University of Birmingham has created two bioreactors that provide the ideal conditions for these two types of bacteria to produce hydrogen.

“By working together the two types of bacteria can produce much more hydrogen than either could alone,” said Dr Mark Redwood. “A significant challenge for the development of this process to a productive scale is to design a kind of photobioreactor that is cheap to construct and able to harvest light from a large area. A second issue is connecting the process with a reliable supply of sugary feedstock.”

With a more advanced pre-treatment, biohydrogen can even be produced from the waste from food-crop cultivation, such as corn stalks and husks. Tens of millions of tonnes of this waste is produced every year in the UK. Diverting it from landfill into biohydrogen production addresses both climate change and energy security.

The University of Birmingham has teamed up with Modern Waste Ltd and EKB Technology Ltd to form Biowaste2energy Ltd, which will develop and commercialise this waste to energy technology.

“In a final twist, the hydrogenase enzymes in the leftover bacteria can be used to scavenge precious metals from spent automotive catalysts to help make fuel cell that converts hydrogen into electricity,” said Professor Lynne Macaskie. “So nothing is wasted and an important new application can be found for today’s waste mountain in tomorrow’s non-fossil fuel transport and energy.”

December 9, 2008 at 4:31 pm Leave a comment


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