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What a waste


As the great Ian Drury and the Blockheads said, “What a Waste”. Bet they didn’t think their 1978 classic song would inspire a generation of business people to think environmentally as well as ethically about the coffee production business.
When we think about coffee, we automatically visualise a brown bean or a finely ground powder to which we add hot water. We don’t usually think about all the by-products that goes into making our fresh, warmly and satisfying cup of coffee do we?


Well around the world UKVending is pleased to say there are thousands of enterprising individuals who have given this problem long and hard thought and have come up with a wonderful variety of interesting and often innovative solutions to all the waste products the coffee industry produces annually.

Let’s first have a look and see what we mean by by-products. In the first instance the raw fruit that is at the heart of a coffee bean is stripped by milling which removes the pulp, mucilage and parchment from the bean. All this material could be recycled in some form or another otherwise it could become dangerous as untreated pulp, if left to rot, produces unhealthy amounts of methane gas as well as leaching harmful by-products into the soil and local water supplies.

One of the success stories of recent years comes from Mexico where the Descamex Company has been at the forefront of technology development designed to extract caffeine and chlorogenic acids from the pulp of coffee cherries. The benefits are twofold, firstly there is less wastage and secondly the coffee producer, often working for low wages, has an additional income stream from the same crop.

The process has been developed to such an extent that today once the cherries has passed through the wet milling process the semi wet pulp is then loaded by hand into the mobile system. This is the first step of a three stage process. The first is to extract the caffeine and chlorogenic acids before a decantation and distillation process transforms them into a liquid form. The remaining pulp is then dried.


In Costa Rica and in Columbia the Distant Lands Coffee Company goes one stage further and actively uses the pulp as compost on their lands. In fact growers from across the region bring their unwanted waste products to the company for reprocessing making it a community and social enterprise for the region. All that is needed is to add some lime before adding it into compost and then selling it back to farmers at cost. What is more, the mucilage is also added to the compost making it even more environmentally friendly.
So what about all the parchment? Well Distant Lands use that as fuel burning it to fuel the dryers in specially manufactured biomass furnaces. The parchment is processed first into large discs, which are then fed automatically into the burners.

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