Can You Run a Car on Tim Hortons Coffee?

photo tim hortons coffee cup street
Credit: TorontoCityLife

So coffee helps wake people up in the morning. And java from the Tim Hortons chain isn't too bad. But can Canadian coffee make your car go? Not exactly. Professors at the University of Manitoba are turning discarded T Ho's coffee cups into biofuel.It's not perfect. Tim Hortons should be encouraging recycling, or getting more people to use reusable cups (nice discount?). The professors, however, noticed a problem on their campus and they've tried to address it. Microbiologists Richard Sparling and David Levin have taken to collecting discarded coffee cups and turning the cups into a mulch that resembles cotton candy. Then, the candy is turned into ethanol, which can be mixed with conventional fuels or used by itself, depending on your car. It takes about 100 Tim Hortons cups to generate 1.3 liters of ethanol (about 0.3 gallons).

As a decent Yahoo! News story notes, most ethanol is produced from food crops like corn and wheat, which displaces food production and pushes up food prices.

Apparently, Tim Hortons cups are a ready form of biomass, because they've already been pre-treated and processed, Yahoo! says.

The professors have plans to commercialize the coffee cup concept, but think it will take three to five years to perfect the process. Right now, they're looking for money. Tim Hortons hasn't offered to chip in.

Maybe Tim Hortons should take some steps to clean up its image, and the environment. Some people have called for a boycott of the chain due to its less-than-stellar practices.

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