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5 Quick, Easy and Useful ideas to Minimise Coffee Waste

Here at North Star, we aim to have a positive impact both socially and environmentally, wherever we trade. As part of this commitment, we are constantly trying to develop innovative ways of recycling our waste products and with the recent controversy around the wastage of disposable coffee cups, we thought it would be appropriate to write a short blog on waste in the coffee industry and how we can all play our part in reducing it – not only because it is a good thing to do, but because there are actually some really useful things that can be done or made using coffee.

We specifically wanted to focus on ground coffee waste as we feel this is relevant to both the home user and coffee shops all across the world. Whilst ground coffee isn’t necessarily a harmful waste product, it is frustrating to see it go to waste when it could be successfully re-used in a variety of ways that can not only benefit the environment, but also assist us in ways you might not have expected.

1. Odour Absorption
If you have an espresso set up at home you will probably know how frustrating it is to dial your grinder in every morning. As well as being a frustrating process, you will also end up with wasted ground coffee as you continue to purge your grinder in an effort to re-set it and calibrate it to your machine. Instead of throwing this unusable coffee away, you can use it to absorb any unwanted odours in the fridge (nobody likes a smelly fridge!). The finer the grind of the coffee the better as this means it will absorb more of the aromas more easily. Simply place it into a glass or container and sit it in your fridge, then marvel at its effect as you no longer smell that peppered mackerel or slightly past its best broccoli!


2. Repel the bugs!
Everybody has been rudely disturbed by wasps, flies or other things at some point during the UK’s sketchy, inconsistent summer season. We don’t prepare for this because we can’t bank on it coming around at all, and normally find ourselves unprepared without an effective insect repellent.Your extracted coffee grounds, for reasons unknown, tend to be unattractive to the types of bugs that disturb your summer relaxation, so keep some around in a perforated container and they should be sufficiently warded off.

 3. Compost it.
Everybody knows somebody with a garden, and everybody knows of a green space nearby them. Keep a large (1kg) coffee bag that was originally used to hold your coffee beans before you used them, and empty your used coffee into it. Free from the coffee oils that have been extracted after use, it’ll act as a good bulking agent for compost.

Equally, if you’re a roaster and don’t know what to do with all the chaff that falls off during the roasting process of coffee – save it. When using the vacuum cleaner on your roaster to clear this stuff out, empty it into a GrainPro sack (or old coffee sack). Once you’ve filled a few large sacks, donate it to a nearby allotment or to anyone with a compost bin. It’ll bulk out their compost perfectly, they’ll thank you for it, and it saves it going to waste. If anyone would like to come and collect some chaff for their garden, get in touch – we would be happy to give you some! 

4.Let it make your skin glow.
Mixed with different nut oils, olive oil, sea salt or even cocoa butter, your extracted coffee grounds can help you make an exceptional face/body scrub. If you have any friends that’d like to make up a batch, loads of recipes can be found online, though one that makes a good starting point is simply equal parts of coconut oil & finely ground, extracted coffee, mixed together in an empty container. A little sea salt can be added too for extra benefits, or even using older ground coffee that hasn’t been brewed will work nicely. Try using coffee of different particle sizes to suit different body parts’ – a coarser particle will give a much ‘sharper’ & tougher scrub, while finer grounds will be a little gentler on the skin. One scrub for the face & one for the body works a treat.


5.Grow your own ‘shrooms.
Coffee grinds – stray & unused or extracted ones – will act as an excellent fertiliser for growing fungi. If you or anyone you know is growing or planning to grow mushrooms, you could really help them out by donating some of your unused or extracted ground coffee.


There are so many alternative uses for coffee and we have certainly not covered them all off here. For an excellent insight into a café doing things differently, be sure to check out this video on the fabulous ‘Silo’ in Brighton – a zero waste restaurant, bakery and brewery which reuses waste products from coffee in incredibly innovative ways.

We know there are hundreds of other uses for used coffee grounds and we would love to hear from you with how you have reduced coffee waste in your home – be sure to tweet us a picture of how you reuse your coffee grounds using the #coffeewaste


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