More Sustainable Opinion

Many coffee roasting companies across Canada claim ‘carbon neutral’ status these days, however, consumers are encouraged to look closely at their labels to find out ‘how’ they achieve this. Carbon credits are being bought by a number of roasting companies whose technology is outdated and continues to pollute the environment. Many companies are folding the costs of carbon credits into their cost of goods. ‘If you look closely, many coffee companies are claiming carbon neutral status, but all they’re doing is buying credits to offset their emissions’, states Fresh Cup President, Jim Townley. ‘The truth is, the consumer is likely paying a higher price for a product without even knowing it’. No matter how you slice buying carbon credits, they are a cost to any company and many companies are buying them more for their marketing value than the purpose that they were intended for. ‘Whether you plant a tree, or buy credits to off-set the carbon emissions produced in making a product, it costs money’, notes Townley. That cost has to show up somewhere along the line, and if the cost to buy credits is left low like it currently is, many companies will continue to pollute and make consumers pay the price. ‘What’s the point of low cost credits, if the cost can be added to the product for the consumer to pay ? Where’s the motivation for companies to change their business practices to minimize the impact on the environment’, asks Townley. ‘Our approach is simple…be sustainable in how we roast coffee by reusing the heat, while drastically minimizing the emissions, then there’s no carbon credits required’.

There is even more to the story !
The unfortunate part about marketing claims vs. true development and technical improvements is that the marketing claims focus on changing perception rather improving the equipment.  It is the easy way out which in this case does nothing for the local air quality if someone planted trees hundreds of kilometres away.  The article above does not mention that it took a decade to reduce the Roastaire™ emissions to a small fraction of conventional roasters.  In the process the energy required to roast was reduced to about 1/6 of a conventional coffee roaster.
The Roastaire™ was designed for the Café environment where people can observe the roasting process.  We refer to that as the “theatre of roasting”.  The roaster is a compact unit that includes Chaff Cyclone, SmokEater™ (pollution controls), Pneumatic Bean Conveyor, and a Packaging Silo.  The roaster is approximately 6.5 feet high.  The roaster is controlled by a computer based Roast Monitor which  also configures the roaster, through the use of pneumatic valves, for the various modes in the roasting process.

More information will be given in the post “Sustainable Design Follows Function”  such as the attention given to ergonomics.  An obvious example is the placement of the Loading Hopper which is placed at counter height rather than above the RoastMasters head.  The roasted beans are quickly cooled internally so that the smoke can be neutralized before it is vented.  The aim has been to improve and streamline the roasting session.

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    1. Reducing pollution is people’s relatively recent goal unless the prevailing wind is blowing the exhaust of a smelly chimney in your direction. Much of the current technology is oriented towards making the pollution invisible with less smell. Typically, in the coffee roasting world this means using an afterburner to burn the smoke emitted by the roasting process. True, the roasting smoke is greatly reduced by the afterburner but the 500,000 to 700,000 BTU flame required, to break down that smoke, is not without consequence. NXT opted to heat with electricity rather than roast over the exhaust of a flame. It is true that electricity is mostly generated by means of combustion except in very progressive countries where wind and solar have high growth rates. Furthermore electrical generating plants are much better equipped to scrub the exhaust emissions than individual roasters.

      To answer your question about limited popularity. It appears that people purchase a bare bones drum roaster because they are much cheaper. They then find out that the roasters emit a heavy burnt toast smoke that aggravates the neighbours. To reduce that problem they have to add an afterburner which is more expensive than the roaster plus it burns, on average, three times as much gas. We may have to modify our business model to take that into consideration.

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