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What to do with Used Coffee Grounds

Shahen Naidoo

Coffee is one of the world's top traded commodities, and has often been referred to as humanities favourite drink. It's not hard to see why. You can prepare it in a variety of ways, it's delicious and whether you're into decaf or the caffeinated version, nothing can touch the feeling you get from a warm cup of joe. So what's not to love, right? With all this coffee drinking, comes a whole lot of used coffee grounds. It's easy to throw it away in the dustbin? But in the midst of our changing climate, it's our responsibility to reduce our own carbon footprint.

But before you get into a flat panic at the thought of weaning yourself off your favourite beverage, here are a few tips on how to reuse and recycle your used coffee ground from one coffee junkie to another.

So don't throw those used grounds away just yet. They've only served a part of their awesomeness in the drink you've just made; now let them do the rest of their work sustaining the world around us.

Use as compost and fertilise your garden:

Used coffee makes great compost. Composting is a process of decomposing organic plant based waste into a nutrient rich soil conditioner that you can use as fertiliser in your garden. If you don't already have a compost bin going, this is a perfect opportunity to start one. They're great outside if you have a garden, but being eco friendly in a small apartment is actually not as difficult at it seems. Here's a great guide to setting up a compost bin in a small apartment: How to Make a Compost Pile in a Small Apartment

Composting already? Great, you're already there - just add your used coffee grounds to your compost mix with all your other waste. Scientific research has shown that adding used coffee grounds to your mix of kitchen waste enhances the quality of your compost.

Of course, if you have an immediate need for fertiliser, you can add the grounds directly to the soil. You will not get the same nitrogen boost that you get from compost, but it will be rich in micronutrients and will attract earthworms that bring along a whole new kind of richness to your soil.

Use as a pest repellent:

Did you know that caffeine is toxic to insects? Coffee acts as a deterrent to fruit flies, beetles and mosquitoes. So dry up your used coffee grounds and keep a bit of the coffee grounds in a small bag in your fruit bowl to repel flies or leave out in bowls around your outdoor seating areas.

Slugs and snails are also not fans of coffee grounds. Sprinkle some used coffee grounds around your plants and it creates a barrier that slugs and snails don't crawl over. 

Ticks and fleas don't like the smell of coffee, so you can use coffee to treat your pet's bedding. Just remember to not leave excess coffee grounds where your pet can consume it - caffeine can be toxic to dogs and cats. 

Use as a deodoriser:

The bad smells from spoiled food is a result of sulphur combined with carbon, and the nitrogen in coffee acts as a neutraliser. Place a bowl of coffee grounds in your fridge to neutralise odours from spoiled food, or fill up an old sock with used dried coffee grounds and place them in your cupboards. Placing one of these socks of dried coffee grounds under a seat in your car will get your ride smelling amazingly fresh... But be warned: you may just find yourself craving for a drive to your favourite coffee shop a bit more often.

Coffee grounds work as a great deodoriser for your hands too. Use your spent coffee grounds as a scrub to remove onion or garlic odours from your hands. It's a great exfoliator too.

Bring out your inner artist:

You can make dye by soaking your used grounds in water and using it as a stain to give your paper an antique look, or as a stain for wood or fabric... Your creativity is your only limit here!

Reduce, Reuse, Recycle 

I love drinking coffee. As I enjoy every sip of my favourite brew, I can't help continuously thinking of how to reduce the impact my caffeine habit has on our environment. I'm fortunate to always have a ready supply of beans straight out of the roastery, and never have to use single use packaging. I would certainly recommend avoiding the single serving packaging such as pods. Did you know that every day we discard 55 million used coffee pods worldwide. Apart from wasting the actual coffee in there, we end up with the problem of recycling the aluminium and plastic. Click here for an interesting article on recycling pods.

So the next time you brew your cup, think about reusing the ground afterwards using one of the methods above, or better yet share your hints and tips in the comments section below.

Happy recycling!!


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