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The Future of Recycling Coffee Grounds

  • 4 min read

The UCI World Cycling championship rolled into town over the past few weeks, bringing with it excitement, passion, and quite a lot of road closures. Alongside this incredible event, the Glasgow Chamber of Commerce ran a campaign called Grounds for Recycling. The campaign aimed to divert used coffee grounds from food waste, transporting them via bicycle courier to Glasgow Botanic Gardens, where they would be used to increase bio-diversity in the soil.

It is Time to Take Action

Now that the cycling championships are over and so too is the Grounds for Recycling campaign, what's next? It's simply not enough to highlight a huge issue like this for two weeks and then immediately forget it exists. The truth is, there's no transparency when it comes to disposing of used coffee grounds. This nutrient rich bi-product is added to food waste and then carted away without a second thought. The worst part is, Coffee grounds that aren’t processed correctly emit huge amounts of carbon dioxide and methane, two primary causes of climate change.  

In this blog we'll explore ways in which businesses and home baristas can break the linear cycle of one time use, and turn this waste item into a resource. Using Grounds for Recycling as a catalyst to put processes in place to repurpose coffee grounds and make lasting changes to the culture of waste management. 

For Businesses

The easiest and quickest option for coffee businesses has always been to add coffee grounds to food waste and carry on as normal. But there are other options that are not only just as easy, but also better for the environment. Not only that, but in turn you can influence others to think more carefully about their waste and be a catalyst for positive change within your community. 

Work with a Local Gardening Project

Across Glasgow, or wherever you're reading this from, there are numerous local gardening projects that will happily take your used coffee grounds. The grounds will then be used as a natural fertiliser for plants, improving the biodiversity of the soil. This is also a great way to grow your relationship with the local community in your area.

Another great option is composting your used coffee grounds. That could be in your garden at home or working with a local business to donate your grounds to their composte.

Use Them to Create a Zero Waste Dish

If you own a cafe that serves food, then you’re in luck, because there are several unique and interesting ways that used coffee grounds can be used in cooking. Why not go all out and have a go at creating a completely zero-waste dish for your menu. 

At Home

From your garden to your kitchen, and even in your beauty routines, there are loads of ways to make the most of your used coffee grounds at home. 

Natural Fertiliser & Bug Repellant

Starting off in the garden, there are few different ways you can utilise your used coffee grounds.

First up, they make an incredible natural fertiliser for your plants and can even be used as a natural bug repellent, perfect for warding off those vegetable eating beasties.

When in doubt they always make a great addition to any compost bin and even encourage earthworm activity.

Cooking, Odour Absorbing & Tough Stain Removal

Let’s head over to the kitchen now. From marinades to syrups and even coffee jams, there’s plenty of different ways to incorporate your used coffee grounds into your favourite recipes.

If cooking with your grounds is not your thing, then adding a small bowl of used coffee grounds to your fridge or counter can work wonders for absorbing natural odours from food storage or cooking.

Once you’ve done all that cooking, you’ll need to do the dreaded dishes. Used coffee grounds can help with that too. Add a small amount to your washing up liquid to remove stubborn stains with ease. 

Skin Care Routine

Not only does coffee keep you caffeinated, but the used grounds can also keep your skin looking great too.

With the help of used coffee grounds, you can create an incredible home-made exfoliating cream. All you have to do is add unrefined coconut oil & unrefined almond milk to the grounds and you’re good to go. 

The Future of Coffee Ground Recycling

What does the future hold for used coffee ground recycling? That’s a good question, and only time will tell if the ‘Grounds for Recycling’ campaign will make a lasting impact on how we process and recycle this nutrient rich by-product, not just in Glasgow but across Scotland. With Scots drinking an average of 676 cups of coffee per year, you can be sure that this is a problem that won’t be going anywhere anytime soon. Each year, over 980,000 tonnes of food waste is produced by consumers, costing the average food business around £10,000 per year. With costs rising for hospitality businesses across the board, there’s never been a more crucial time to consider and implement sustainable solutions to this massive problem.‘Grounds for Recycling’ reported over 4 tonnes of used coffee grounds were collected across the two weeks which is excellent. However this indicates that the annual estimate of 40,000 tonnes of used coffee ground waste per year in Scotland is far from the reality. Now is the time to take action and help turn this incredible campaign into meaningful change for Glasgow & Scotland’s linear waste management procedures. You can help by signing the petition. 


With projects like Revive Eco working to find sustainable solutions to our waste, including the creation of a palm oil replacement made from used coffee grounds, there is reason to be hopeful that we can, sometime in the near future, make our waste work for us in a sustainable way, creating a circular food system that reduces waste.

If you own a Glasgow based tourism or hospitality venue, you can sign the legacy petition for ‘Grounds for Recycling’.


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