Coffee, Tea or Energy?

Used tealeaves are good for more than fortune telling, particularly at the Coca-Cola Central Japan (CCCJ) plant in Tokai. The company installed the eKOsystem, a methane fermentation processing unit, in the CCCJ Group’s facility so it could make energy from the coffee grounds and used tealeaves generated during the beverage manufacturing process. Coffee grounds and used tealeaves account for 80 percent of the waste generated by plants.

Installation of the waste to energy process is part of a joint research project carried out with the Japanese governmental agency the New Energy and Industrial Technology Development Organization (NEDO). The equipment is up and running, and will be operated while conducting verification testing through March 2008. Japanese consumers have increased their demand for coffee and tea drinks, and CCCJ has offered canned coffee drinks since 1975. The Tokai Plant previously discarded all its coffee grounds and used tealeaves as industrial waste, giving it to outside contractors for recycling as compost. Installing methane fermentation processing equipment will make use of a natural process to break down and reduce the food waste, and collect the methane gas generated by this process. Methane collected during the fermentation is used as the equipment’s heat source, and as a cogeneration unit to provide the plant with heat and electricity. Total system cost for the eKOsystem was JPY 420 million (US $3.9 million), and the unit has a waste processing capacity of 2,532 tons per year of coffee grounds, 844 tons per year of tealeaves, and 3,750 tons per year of waste water treatment sludge. As a system for recycling coffee grounds and used tealeaves into energy, CCCJ’s methane fermentation processing equipment is a first for Japan’s soft-drink industry, according to the company’s press release. Relying on a waste to energy scheme should lower the company’s operating costs by reducing waste volumes and associated waste transport/processing costs, enable energy savings by use of generated methane gas in the plant, and reduce the environmental effects of CO2 that would normally get released into the atmosphere as the coffee and tealeaf waste ferments. CCCJ has plans to incorporate the waste to energy system on a facility-wide basis in Japan. The company wants to reduce the soft-drink industry’s environmental impacts of water use, energy use and generated waste.
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