bio-bean response to Environmental Improvement Plan 2023
There has been a lot of discussion in the news this week about the UK government’s new Environmental Improvement Plan. Particularly noisy is the fiery debate the plan has stoked regarding fines for domestic fires.
That fiery debate is spreading a lot of misinformation, and given we manufacture and sell Coffee Logs, we’d like to shed light on some of the facts…
The UK government is aiming to reduce air pollution from fine particulate matter
Air quality in the UK has improved significantly over the last few decades, but it still presents the greatest environmental risk to human health, particularly for those already vulnerable.
According to the Environmental Improvement Plan, data from 2020 indicates that, in the UK, emissions from the home, agriculture, industry and transport combined contributed 85% of PM2.5 (fine particulate matter) emissions into the air. And fine particulate matter is one of the five biggest sources of air pollution in the UK.
So the plan sets out specific targets to help reduce fine particulate emissions from these sources.
Decreasing particulate emissions from domestic burning
To tackle emissions from the home, the government is aiming to better manage domestic burning, which it says is the biggest source of emissions of fine particulate matter, and more so in urban areas where housing is denser.
The government already banned the burning of wet wood and coal back in May 2021, and rightly so, for these are materials that emit high concentrations of fine particulates. In fact, burning a dry wood log can reduce emissions by 50% compared to a log which has not been dried.
Along with that ban, they also put limits on sulphur content and smoke emissions from ‘manufactured solid fuels’, or MSFs. These are primarily fuels that are deemed ‘smokeless’. Yet unfortunately, these types of fuels are most often made from anthracite (coal) or paraffin wax – both of which are hugely destructive to the environment.
Is the government banning domestic fires in England?
To be clear, the government is not banning domestic fires in England. Nor are they considering it. They are also not considering a ban on outdoor burning (bonfires, barbecues, firepits, etc).
However, the Environmental Improvement Plan does lay out some further steps the government plans to take to continue reducing particulate emissions from domestic burning. These steps include:
- Reducing the limit from 5g of smoke per hour to 3g of smoke per hour in new stoves within Smoke Control Areas. Many appliances in production already meet this new target.
- Extending the solid fuels legislation to fuels burned outside. Note this will not affect traditional fuels used for barbecues, such as charcoal.
- Driving – through public education campaigns – a shift away from more polluting appliances like old stoves and open fires, to newer, more efficient appliances which meet the new emission standards, like clearSkies certified stoves.
Will my local council fine me for burning a fire in my home?
There are a lot of rumours flying around about the £300 fine local councils could give to residents deemed to be emitting too much smoke from their chimney.
The government is trying to encourage people toward installing more efficient appliances and adopting better burn practices with less polluting fuels. And this is a good step forward to improving our overall impact on the environment.
So, if you live in a Smoke Control Area and are burning anything other than smokeless fuels on an open fire, you will likely be producing too much smoke for that area, and your neighbours and local council may have something to say about it.
However, if you live outside a Smoke Control Area and you burn low-moisture fuels, like Coffee Logs or well-seasoned wood logs within a modern, EcoDesign wood-burning or multi-fuel stove, you will find it difficult to emit a disproportionate amount of smoke.
That said, there are still some best burn practices to maintain to reduce any smoke coming from your fire.
What are some best burning practices to limit my chimney smoke?
First, keep both your appliance and your chimney clean, well-maintained, and regularly inspected by a certified professional. The Stove Industry Alliance and HETAS are good sources for finding someone appropriate.
Second, make sure you’re using the right fuel for your appliance. And check with your local council if you’re in a Smoke Control Area, as this will also determine which types of fuel you’re permitted to burn.
When it comes to building your fire, light plenty of kindling and natural firelighters first to establish a hot flame. Only once your appliance and flue are warmed up should you add your solid fuel, such as Coffee Logs, to the fire.
Finally, use your vents! If you’re at a loss as to which vent is which, and when to open them or not, Greg Penn (aka Man With a Hammer) gives a great tutorial.
We welcome the government’s moves to curb air pollution. Modern appliances and cleaner burning fuels are important factors in the broader efforts to decarbonise, modernise and increase efficiencies toward a more sustainable future.
Coffee Logs: sustainable solid fuel from recycled coffee grounds
Coffee can fuel not just your day, but also your fire…
In the UK our coffee drinking habit and the production of instant coffee generate an estimated 250,000 tonnes of spent coffee grounds each year. But what happens to all those grounds once we’ve finished brewing and processing?
bio-bean Coffee Logs reduce waste and greenhouse gas emissions
Typically, spent coffee grounds are discarded with general waste and sent to landfill where they degrade and emit methane, a greenhouse gas with considerably more global warming potential than carbon dioxide. And if not sent to landfill with general waste, they’re often sent to anaerobic digestion (AD) with food waste, where, in high volumes they can inhibit the desired biomethane production. Plus, spent grounds are heavy, and so sink to the bottom of AD ‘bellies’, having to be scooped out and discarded after all.
Here at bio-bean, we divert spent coffee grounds away from landfill, AD, and other inefficient disposal methods and recycle them into new sustainable products. One such product is our solid biomass fuel for consumer use: Coffee Logs. Our process of diverting and recycling waste grounds into these eco-friendly fire logs saves 130% more in greenhouse gas emissions compared to the grounds going to AD!
bio-bean Coffee Logs are an efficient solid fuel
By recycling waste coffee grounds into Coffee Logs, not only do we reduce waste and save on emissions, but we harness the untapped energy contained in the grounds to give them a second life as a useful product. Spent coffee grounds have a naturally high oil content and therefore a high calorific value, making them an ideal energy source.
Before compressing the waste grounds into compact logs, the grounds go through an engineered drying process that allows us to ensure the moisture content of each log is below 12%, the perfect moisture for burning efficiently.
This, in combination with the naturally high calorific value, allows Coffee Logs to burn 20% hotter than kiln-dried wood. Which means you need fewer logs to achieve the same heat output. And Coffee Logs burn on average for an hour, depending on the appliance efficiency and its airflow control.
Coffee Logs are a sustainable alternative to coal-based fuels and imported wood logs
Coffee Logs are compact and designed for use in domestic enclosed appliances, such as wood-burners and multi-fuel stoves. Each log is made from the grounds of around 20 cups of coffee, which we receive from a wide range of businesses across the country, from independent coffee shops, high-street chains and office blocks, to railway stations and even airports.
But Coffee Logs don’t smell of coffee when they’re burning. Although there’s a slight aroma of coffee when you first open the bag of logs, Coffee Logs give off a neutral aroma when lit.
Coffee Logs are packaged in fully recyclable paper bags containing 16 logs, and are available online and in-store through retailers across the UK, including supermarkets, DIY stores and garden centres.
Want to know more about Coffee Logs? Head to our Coffee Logs website.
This blog has been updated from the original, posted 16th December 2019.
A sustainable biomass pellet fuel made from spent coffee grounds
It has become clear that burning carbon-heavy fossil fuels in the form of coal, oil and gas is no longer an option given the state of our climate, and that we must continue to find innovative and sustainable methods to generate energy. One such method is biomass. Using this bio-fuel to generate heat is not only cost effective, but a powerful tool in moving towards a low carbon economy.
Typically we think of biomass fuel in the form of wood logs, chips or pellets but there are many other sources of renewable low carbon fuel, many of which have the benefit of being a by-product of other industries. Therefore they are deemed advanced / second generation biofuels. And as we look for ways to transition from fossil fuels to lower carbon alternatives, we start to discover innovative uses for a number of residues formerly perceived of as waste.
Some examples across industry include: olive pomace – the waste from olive oil production; paper pulp recovered from paper mills; oat husk and coconut shells from the food processing industry; and cotton waste from textile manufacturing. Quick, fast-growing land crops such as straw and miscanthus are also increasingly used for biomass energy generation.
These are just some of the alternative raw materials that are being pelletised to create clean, low-carbon energy.
But at bio-bean, we’ve found another alternative: recycled coffee grounds. Heavy, wet grounds are the unavoidable by-product from the production of a cup of coffee, most often which are wastefully discarded. And with 98 million cups of the hot beverage drunk every day in the UK alone, that means around a quarter of a million tonnes of waste grounds are created every year. These grounds, once decontaminated, dried and pelletised, become a ‘super’ fuel: highly calorific, consistent and well suited to burn in large commercial and industrial-sized boilers. They are also Sustainable Fuel Register accredited and therefore eligible for the RHI.
Our coffee pellets are used to heat commercial green houses, to dry cereal crops and create process steam in large-scale dairies. In most cases traditional oil or gas boilers have been removed and replaced with modern, efficient biomass boilers. Anywhere there is a need for large quantities of thermal heat there is a place for renewable low carbon biomass energy. And our coffee pellets offer the perfect, sustainable solution, diverting as much waste coffee grounds away from landfill as possible, displacing fossil fuels and helping to decarbonise industrial businesses across the UK.
This blog has been updated from the original, posted 28th August 2019
New burn emissions regulations
On 1st May, new government regulations on the sale and burning of domestic solid fuels came into force, putting in place a ban in England on the sales of traditional house coal and wet wood. The regulations also bring in a new certification scheme (known as ‘Ready to Burn’) for manufactured solid fuels that are deemed ‘smokeless’.
This certification scheme sits alongside the already existing scheme for dried wood, which is also known as ‘Ready to Burn’.
DEFRA has chosen to exempt Coffee Logs and other innovative biomass fuels from the certification schemes, as these fuels are relatively new to the solid fuels category and sit outside the traditional classifications of coal and wood; classifications upon which domestic solid fuels emissions regulations have historically been based.
The new regulations stipulate that all manufactured solid fuels (i.e. smokeless fuels, which are primarily fossil-fuel based) must contain less than 2% sulphur and emit less than 5g of smoke per hour. Like wood logs, our Coffee Logs (fire logs made with recycled coffee grounds), only meet these limits in closed appliances (e.g. stoves) and as such neither wood nor Coffee Logs are deemed smokeless fuels.
DEFRA is currently creating an emissions testing regime for this new category of innovative biomass fuels (including our Coffee Logs) that are not made with fossil fuels and which sit outside the traditional solid fuel classifications. We are in active discussions with DEFRA to support and advance the creation of this new testing methodology.
In the meantime, Coffee Logs are permitted by DEFRA for sale and are safe to burn.
We welcome the government’s move as a significant step in the right direction for reducing reliance on carbon-heavy fossil fuels and cutting emissions contributing to climate change.
About Coffee Logs
Made of recycled spent coffee grounds, Coffee Logs are designed for use in wood-burning and multi-fuel stoves. They can be used instead of or alongside dry wood logs and, in fact, burn hotter than kiln-dried wood due to their naturally high calorific value.
Coffee Logs reduce waste by reusing coffee grounds that would otherwise be discarded and they avoid the heavy carbon footprint created by coal and other fossil fuels. By recycling spent coffee grounds into Coffee Logs, we save 80% on CO2e emissions compared to the grounds being sent to landfill.
Coffee Logs are available across the UK in major supermarkets, DIY retailers and garden centres. To learn more about Coffee Logs, visit the Coffee Logs website.
What is bio-bean Elements?
A question in a student’s mind sparked the bio-bean we now know. Is the film of oil on this cold americano an untapped resource? After delving into research on the matter, it transpired that the residual oil found in spent coffee could indeed be used as a fuel. So, bio-bean was born and, more recently, bio-bean Elements.
Elements is about providing sustainable solid biofuels for industry and consumers by using the untapped, naturally high calorific value found in coffee grounds. From Coffee Logs to coffee pellets we go full circle with coffee waste, recycling it to be used once more.
And by diverting and recycling spent coffee grounds we save 80% of the CO2e emissions compared to the grounds being sent to landfill, and 70% compared to them going through anaerobic digestion.
How coffee-based solid biofuels are made
Almost half a million tonnes of heavy, wet coffee grounds are created every year in the UK. It’s an unavoidable waste stream from the nation’s desire for coffee. A waste stream that grows by 95 million cups of coffee every day.
From independent to established coffee shop chains, office blocks and instant coffee manufacturers, we receive at our recycling plant thousands of tonnes of spent coffee grounds every year, with capacity to take even more.
It’s at our recycling plant in Cambridgeshire that the wet coffee grounds are ready to be decontaminated and put through our engineered drying process to lower the moisture content from around 60% down to around 10%.
Once the grounds have been dried and put through a final sieve, we compress them into coffee pellets or Coffee Logs.
bio-bean Elements: coffee pellets
The requirement for sustainable solutions to combat climate change isn’t a requirement that’s going away any time soon. Making sustainable choices is now commonplace in many business strategies, with a corporate responsibility to deliver on internal and external carbon goals. So, when it comes to industrial and commercial use of biomass boilers, a more sustainable energy solution is at hand.
Exploiting the high calorific content of coffee, over 15% higher than standard timber pellets, our biomass pellets, made from recycled spent coffee grounds, offer an ideal solution. They have a consistently low moisture content, high ash melting point, high bulk density and good durability.
This efficient burn profile also makes them a cost-efficient alternative to wood pellets. For the same energy output, your business will have a reduced volume and fewer deliveries.
To top it off, coffee pellets are Sustainable Fuel Register (SFR) accredited. Find out more about our coffee biomass pellets here.
bio-bean Elements: Coffee Logs
From that warm morning latte to a chilly winter’s night, consumers of Coffee Logs get an energy boost for themselves and their fires. These compact, sustainable fire logs made of spent coffee grounds are designed for use in wood burners and multi-fuel stoves and are the perfect fuel for heating your home with minimal climate impact.
Coffee Logs, as with all bio-bean products, contribute to a circular economy and they extend the life of spent coffee to use at home, displacing the need for fossil fuels like coal or for wood imported from other countries.
And just like our coffee pellets, Coffee Logs have a high caloric content, making Coffee Logs burn 20% hotter and longer than kiln-dried wood. Depending on your appliance efficiency and airflow, this equates to an average burn time of around one hour.
Keep an eye out for Coffee Logs online or at your local supermarket, DIY retailer or garden centre. For a full stockist list and to find out more, head to our Coffee Logs website.
If you’re interested in learning more about what we do with spent coffee grounds, read our What is bio-bean Naturals? and What is bio-bean Renewals? blog posts.