I don’t know about you, but when I think of used coffee grounds (you know, late at night when I’m trying to get to sleep), the last thing that enters my mind is that they could be harmful to the environment. To me, coffee grounds seem lovely and natural, especially our lovely organic kind! But you’d be surprised how much waste is created thanks to our coffee drinking habit.

Planet Ark report

The awesome organisation, Planet Ark has undertaken a feasibility study involving cafes across the city of Sydney. Their findings are pretty interesting and their solutions oh-so simple! Out of 921 coffee shops and cafes they found:

  • 100 million cups of coffee are sold annually (in Sydney City)
  • 3000 tonnes of used coffee grounds created
  • 7% are donated to worm farms / gardens
  • 93% are sent to landfill!

It’s staggering to think that even some cafes that use ‘ethically sourced’ and sustainable coffee simply send refuse to the tip.

Used coffee grounds waste issues

So what happens to coffee grounds when they’re at the tip? Don’t they just decompose and make awesome soil? Kind of! The problem with a mountain of used coffee grounds decomposing is that they release methane gas and carbon dioxide into our lovely air. Aussies consume a whopping 6 billion cups of coffee a year so you can imagine how much gas and nasties the waste from all those lattes gives off. The odour alone would be enough to knock you out, not to mention the effect these greenhouse gases have on global warming!

Planet Ark’s solution

At Sacred Grounds, we’re a big fan of Planet Ark. Their ideas are simple and really effective and this solution is no different. They assessed the used coffee grounds from cafes they surveyed and found that, in fact, coffee grounds are pretty clean and sterile; perfect for creating a variety of handy environmentally-friendly products such as:

  • Compost
  • Growing mushrooms (particularly oyster mushrooms)
  • Pyrolysis (a thermal decomposing process that produces bio-oil, biogas and biochar)
  • Food, cosmetics and pharmaceutical uses
  • Anaerobic digestion – a process that creates biogas that can be used as a fertiliser or fuel.

Now we know that all this costs money and no one really wants to pay extra for their coffee, but what would you say if I told you that paying only five extra cents would dramatically change the way cafes treat their coffee grounds waste? That’s nothing! I’m always happy to get rid of my five cent coins, especially for such a worthy cause.

Like their cartridge collection campaign, Planet Ark’s is proposing a parcel collection service, collecting used coffee grounds, a solution that’s both economical and flexible.

Results

Of all the cafes surveyed, Planet Ark found that 77% of cafes would be keen to participate in a ‘coffee grounds recovery program’, 20% said no and 3% weren’t sure! Of all coffee drinkers who were asked if they would be keen to pay five cents extra, nine out of ten said yes!

How can you get involved? It’s simple! Just head over to ‘The Coffee Ground Recovery Project’ and register your interest. Also, why not encourage your local cafe to get on board?!

Emma Watson

From creating her own ‘Ozzie Mozzie Editorial’ newspaper when she was 10 to writing for ‘The Sydney Morning Herald’, Emma has always loved to write. She spends her time looking after her two kids and tapping away at the keyboard blogging at filmandfood.com.au, writing for Howards Storage World and of course, for Sacred Grounds Organic. Her love of a good small cappuccino (with one sugar!) and social justice makes this a match made in heaven. Emma loves a good book, travelling and hanging at the beach with her little crew.

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