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Green start-up Bio-bean wins Green Challenge and €500,000

12 September 2014
Green start-up Bio-bean wins Green Challenge and €500,000

LONDON: Low carbon start-up Bio-bean has won €500,000 (~US$646,000) in the Postcode Lottery's Green Challenge, and now plans to upscale its business internationally.

The London company - which transforms coffee waste into advanced biofuel - has just won the Green Challenge, the largest international green business plan competition, set up by the Dutch Postcode Lottery.

Arthur Kay, only 23 years old, is the founder and CEO of award-winning Bio-bean. His company uses a patented process to upcycle waste coffee grounds into advanced biofuel products that can be used for powering buildings, or for any transport system. The impact of this initiative could be massive, with an estimated yearly production of 1.3 million liters of advanced biodiesel and 1.2 million tons of biomass pellets.

“I left university 14 months ago, and with my team I have been working constantly on this project since then. This is a great achievement for us, and shows how far we have come since then. The cash prize will enable us to develop new technologies and products, securing Bio-bean’s market position,” says winner Arthur Kay. “We act in response to the need of the production of clean, cheap, local energy and responsible waste collection and disposal."

Various large food corporations have used the idea of ‘coffee for energy’ to propel their services before, but Bio-bean's project goes much further: instead of simply using the coffee waste as a direct power source in the incinerators - releasing harmful greenhouse gases such as methane, carbon dioxide, and carbon monoxide - the team of experts has developed a specific process to convert it into a more advanced, low carbon biofuel.

The Green Challenge began in 2007, and during last year's Postcode Lottery World Meeting, former US President Bill Clinton called for green business ideas, underlying that, “the fundamental problem is an entrepreneurial, disorganised, undercapitalised opportunity competing against a highly organized, overcapitalized, old-energy economy that still has many, many people in its grip." The prize tries to solve this issue and to scale up CO2 reduction sustainable business models.

However, in a global market which is struggling to find capital for new investments, the prize organized by the Dutch Postcode Lottery is evidence of how business, smart ideas and sustainability can be a great opportunity - especially for young and talented entrepreneurs.

The second prize of €200,000 (~US$260,000) has been won by Trang Tran. Her Vietnamese social enterprise Fargreen works with local rice farmers to divert the rice straws from burning. Instead, they use them to produce mushrooms - helping farmers to increase their income by 50% and stopping the release of greenhouse gases.

“I'm impressed with the business plans I have seen today, reaffirming that business innovation is a major force for positive change,” confirms Ellen MacArthur, British ex solo sailor which chaired the jury of the prize. “Like never before, entrepreneurs have an incredible opportunity to shape the future and I can see bright prospects for these start-ups”. And the numbers proof it, with 324 entries to the competition from 57 countries.

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by Ilario D'Amato

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