Planet Ark finds new ways to use spent coffee grounds

Planet Ark Environmental Foundation has discovered new ways to control coffee waste.

The not-for-profit Australian organisation conduced a six-month feasibility study into commercial viability of recycling spent (used) coffee grounds produced by cafés and coffee shops within the City of Sydney.

With the support of the City of Sydney, Planet Ark’s study found that 921 cafés and coffee shops within the City of Sydney alone are selling more than 100 million cups of coffee each year. Collectively these cafés produce more than 3000 tonnes of spent coffee grounds annually.

Of the left over grounds, 93 per cent are sent straight to landfill where they can produce methane and carbon dioxide that contribute to global warming. Only 7 per cent are used in an organic waste processor or used on gardens and compost.

While some coffee businesses are taking an active approach to reusing their grounds, some even turning them into body scrubs and exfoliants, Planet Ark says more can be done.

“We love our coffee but we don’t love the amount of greenhouse gases our beans emit when they’re lefts to decompose in landfill,” Planet Ark said in a statement.

As such, Planet Ark has researched better ways businesses can make use of spent coffee grounds. This includes using coffee grounds to grow mushrooms, as a compost, as a pyrolysis and biochar, a bioactive compound, and in anaerobic digestion.

“Our new report aims to highlight the many resources available to businesses, from how to get buy-in from your manager and colleagues, using Bin Trim to measure waste and create an action plan, to local recycling providers and equipment. It’s not simply the environment which benefits from businesses reducing their waste – businesses themselves can save money, find efficiencies and boost staff morale,” said Ryan Collins, Planet Ark Recycling Programs Manager.

On average, Planet Ark says cafés spend approximately $900 each year in waste collection costs to send their spent coffee grounds to landfill.

As such, Planet Ark has proposed that instead of using a conventional waste collection company, spent coffee grounds could be collected through a box collection service that collects and delivers up to 25 kilograms. Planet Ark says this could be the most coffee effective, flexible and environmentally friendly arrangement.

The study also found that nine out of 10 coffee drinkers would be willing to pay an extra 5 cents for a cup of coffee if they knew the spent coffee grounds were being diverted from landfill.

The next stage of the Planet Ark project involves a pilot study to trial options for the use of spent coffee grounds and provide a more detailed economic model.

Planet Ark is seeking businesses to get involved. To find out more, download the summary of the report, visit or register interest in the Coffee Ground Recovery Program at

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