Coffee Waste Water in Central America Generates Clean Energy

UTZ-certified farmers are addressing environmental and health problems caused by the disposables produced in the caffeine world

Farmers in Central America are researching ways to generate energy from coffee wastewater. UTZ Certified‘s project, which began back in 2010, aims to address environmental and health problems caused by the wastewater produced in the coffee industry. The Energy from Coffee Wastewater project has proven that is possible to generate energy, tackle climate change and protect water resources by treating discharges from coffee mills.

Eight coffee farms in Nicaragua, ten in Honduras and one in Guatemala have had tailor-made coffee wastewater treatment systems and solid-waste treatment mechanisms installed. Latin America produces around 70% of the world’s coffee and 31% of the world’s freshwater resources are located there. Coffee production generates a great amount of wastewater, which is regularly released untreated into rivers, affecting the aquatic wildlife as well as downstream communities. Additionally, coffee wastewater comes with lots of organic waste and high toxicity, which affects the soil and generates considerable amounts of greenhouse gas emissions.

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This coffee wastewater project has resulted in the treatment of all water used in coffee processing, over 50% less water being used during coffee processing, a significant amount of biogas being generated in order to power households and coffee mills, and the prevention of the release of greenhouse gas emissions into the atmosphere. Han De Groot, executive director at UTZ Certified, says:

Coffee production is only environmentally sustainable when water is used efficiently and polluted water from the wet-mill process is treated. Local ecosystems do not have the capacity to clean the large amounts of contaminated fluids. Rural communities and coffee production depend intrinsically on a ready supply of fresh water. So if we want to talk about coffee produced in a sustainable manner then wastewater must be treated when released into the environment.

The positive environmental and economic impact of the project in Central America has inspired UTZ Certified to replicate the initiative in other countries. It is currently introducing the technology in Peru and Brazil and hopes to get further funds and support in order to replicate the initiative in Africa and Asia in the future.

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