Whether you drink coffee at home or love visiting your local café, for every beautiful brew served, there is a handful of spent grinds, something that we typically view as a waste product. BUT, it's not all bad news! In an age of focused sustainability, there are new ways to look at this - and one's trash is another's treasure.
This week is National Recycling Week (13-19th November 2023) and we at Five Senses Coffee wanted to use this opportunity to share some thoughts, tips and ideas about how to use these coffee grinds to your advantage. The way we perceive and look at a waste product is shifting, and there are ways to reduce, reuse and recycle our brown gold.
Depending on your soil quality and plant needs, your average garden soil isn't always the best option to provide the right minerals to nourish your plants. Coffee contains service key minerals for this - nitrogen, calcium, potassium, iron, phosphorus, magnesium and chromium. Whew! Do a quick search of your plants to check on their needs and to ensure that you use these coffee grinds relatively quickly to ensure there has been no mould or bacterial growth. Used coffee grounds are a pH of 6.5-6.8 so contrary to popular knowledge, they are relatively pH neutral. Sprinkle and break up the clumps, turn it through the top layer of soil, give the plants a good watering after and leave them to it! Ensure the layer isn't too thick - you can top it up with a fresh sprinkle every few weeks or so. It also makes a great pest repellent - sprinkle over the top and create a barrier around your plants to ensure that slugs and snails don't help themselves to your garden goodies.
If you're a little worried about the impact on your plants, compost first! Adding the grinds to your compost bin is a great way to neutralise funky smells and create balance between other decomposing materials. The key to a great compost is a good balance of both carbon-rich and nitrogen-rich ingredients. The carbon-rich are your dried leaves, dried lawn clippings, cardboard and straw. These help with aeration, to absorb excess moisture and should be the largest percentage of your compost pile to avoid excess odors and rotting. The nitrogen-rich are your food scraps, coffee grinds and fresh garden waste. Ensure these are in a big pile or tub and use a pitchfork or spade to turn and aerate the mixture every few days. You may need to add extra dry materials as they break down or if there has been a large amount of rain.
Place a bowl of used grinds in your fridge or freezer and the nitrogen will eliminate and absorb unwanted smells from the air. This one is short and sweet and speaks for itself. You can replace this every week.
There's nothing like that fresh soft feeling after scrubbing your skin in the shower and making your own body scrub at home is not only a great way to reduce waste, it'll save you some coin! Mix your grinds with coconut oil and store in a a jar within a cool place. Take it in the shower with you and enjoy! You can also mix a small amount of grinds with honey and use it as a lip scrub. I always find myself collecting used makeup or pots of lip balm that cannot be recycled so this is a great way to reuse multiple things at once. With Christmas around the corner, this is the perfect opportunity to gift a loved one! Ensure that the grinds are fresh when you are making this and use within a few weeks.
Connect with Reground!
Reground is a Melbourne based social enterprise helping individuals and organisations create a circular economy through innovative waste collection and waste minimisation projects. We are super grateful that all of our coffee waste from our West Melbourne Barista Academy is collected by Reground and finds a better home rather than becoming part of the waste system. They offer free drop offs to home gardeners and local community garden projects as well as business consulting to review waste procedures and finding opportunities to break these cycles. At the time of writing this, they have diverted 1,389,707kg of coffee from landfill, and prevented 2,895,260kg of harmful emissions. They are a fantastic company and if you’re a Victorian based café, they would love to hear from you!
The key thing here is to find everyday ways to reduce our waste, and keep looking to see how we can all improve! We are always open to suggestions and ideas at Five Senses Coffee, so if you have something you love to use your coffee grinds for, we’d love to hear about it, or tag us on social media and show us how you’re reusing this National Recycling Week.