News / Toronto

U of T students turning coffee grounds into fuel for refugees

Project hopes to win the Hult Prize, a million dollar global competition to solve most pressing issues facing refugees in various camps.

University of Toronto students (left to right) Lucy Yang, Matthew Frehlich, Gotham Rakmachandran, Sam Bennett and lucas Siow are turning coffee grounds into firewood to help people living in refugee camps.

Lance McMillan/ For Metro

University of Toronto students (left to right) Lucy Yang, Matthew Frehlich, Gotham Rakmachandran, Sam Bennett and lucas Siow are turning coffee grounds into firewood to help people living in refugee camps.

University of Toronto students are using refuse to help refugees.

Students from the business and engineering programs have partnered to build Moto, a fuel log made from used coffee grounds, wax and sugar that acts as substitute for firewood.

“Thousands of women and children from refugee camps in Africa spend hours and hours collecting firewood,” said Sam Bennett, an MBA student at UofT’s Rotman School of Management.

“Not only is it exhausting for them, it is also dangerous. Through our research we found that very often they are attacked and assaulted.”

Bennett hopes that Moto can serve as a safer, environmentally-friendly alternative to firewood, which many refugees rely on for heating and cooking.

With coffee grounds collected from local Starbucks, Second Cup and Tim Hortons, the group has gone through different mixes to produce the current fuel log.

Moto – a Swahili word that means fire – can burn for more than an hour.

Moto, the fuel log made from coffee grounds.

Eduardo Lima/ Metro

Moto, the fuel log made from coffee grounds.

“We’re using low tech to produce it, but I’m sure the final optimized product will be more effective than firewood,” Bennett said.

The project is part of the Hult Prize competition, which encourages university students to tackle some of the world’s most pressing issues. The UofT group will be headed to Shanghai in March for the next stage of the contest.

If they win, they’ll receive $1 million to implement their venture.

Bennett said the long-term plan for the group is to establish a manufacturing plant in Africa, which will allow them to produce the material at a cheaper price and also employ local people.

“I think this would really improve people’s lives,” he said. “And the less we use firewood, the better the environment is protected.”

Metro Savers