White Petaled Flowers and a take away coffee

Let’s get real, coffee grinds are more than just for your morning coffee…

In a world where reuse, reduce and recycle should be everyone’s life motto it can be hard to find areas in your daily routine that could benefit from some consideration for the environment.

Planet Ark states that when coffee grounds and other food waste is sent to landfill, they decompose to produce methane which is a greenhouse gas with more than 20 times the global warming capacity of carbon dioxide – yikes!

Okay so, we aren’t trying to make you feel too guilty for having that oh so important part of your morning routine… because how would any of us function if we had to quit coffee?! But the bad news is that our cafes on campus have to throw out over eight bags of used coffee grounds on a busy day (we haven’t even taken into consideration the other coffee shops and restaurants in the community).

So, what can you do to help stop so many coffee grinds entering landfill? Well, turns out there are so many different ways you can incorporate used coffee grounds into your garden, self-care, and even dinner!

The good news is that Café Life empties their coffee grinds into bags that only contain pure grounds so there is no way the contents can be contaminated, which makes them perfect for someone wanting to reuse them. 💬

Coffee grounds on your garden

John Baker is a staff member at UNE who for the past year has been collecting the coffee ground bags from The Café for use on his garden.

“I was inspired by a friend who used to collect grounds for probably a year or two prior to myself, and she had very good results with her garden. I found I saw result immediately with crops like Asparagus!

I also would prefer to see waste minimised. So I always ask at the team at  The Café, who provide me with coffee grinds and I always return the plastic bags.  It is great to keep things out of landfill and it’s something I am very passionate about.”

The most common use of coffee grounds for any garden enthusiast is using the grounds on their plants and in their compost.

John found that coffee grounds have acidic properties that have helped the pH level of his soil. Most favourably for John has been how the coffee grounds can be extremely useful to his compost mix.

“The grounds help break compost down very quickly, coffee grounds seem to generate enormous heat in a mix – even more than mixes of fresh cut grass I believe, and the compost is beneficial because it helps to retain moisture and improves our poor soil.

Unfortunately, the drought has been so severe that it is very difficult to be confident to what degree this is the case, because with the water restrictions it has made gardening harder for us than ever before. But we would usually add the coffee grinds every few weeks to our garden. We have a bit of a system going that helps fertilise our garden. We begin by sieving the bags lovingly provided by The Cafe staff, mixing them into bins with food scraps and manure, and then digging this into the garden.”

Composting and fertilising your garden with coffee ground helps your garden maintain its nutrients and water. Remember earlier we mentioned that when coffee grounds are sent to landfill, they contribute to global greenhouse gas emissions? Studies have shown that when you dedicate 40% of your compost to coffee grounds; not only is the quality of the compost improved, but there are also fewer greenhouse gas emissions!

However, as John has indicated, the drought has affected how often he can compost and contribute the coffee grounds to his garden. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t other ways you can recycle used coffee grounds!

Healthline.com gave us some handy tips on the different ways and benefits of reusing coffee grounds.

Beans Brew Caffeine Coffee 2061

Insect and pest repellent

Yup! Now that we are coming into those hotter months where mosquitoes like to inhabit the air and ruin a good outdoor barbeque – you need to be prepared. Caffeine is very toxic to insects and so by placing bowls of grinds or sprinkling it around your outdoor seating area can help keep pests out of your garden and off your skin! 🙌🏼

You can also use coffee grinds to rid fleas from your pets’ fur. Simply rub the grounds into your pets’ fur after shampooing, and then rinse as normal.

Cosmetic use (our favourite)

Caffeine in coffee grounds has potent antioxidant properties that can help protect the skin from sun damage, increase blood flow and can even break down the appearance of cellulite.

The latest coffee scrub trend has taken the internet by storm – by why spend money on a scrub that you can easily make yourself at home? Here’s a simple recipe! 

The coarse particles in coffee grounds are a wonderful exfoliating agent to remove dirt and dead cells from the skin. A quick and easy fix is to mix coconut oil, sugar and coffee grounds in a bowl and then directly onto your face and body. You can also mix the ground with a small amount of honey for an exfoliating lip scrub – ooh!

Coffee grounds can also be used as an exfoliating scrub for your scalp to help remove dead skin cells and product build-up, and can even help speed up hair growth.

In the kitchen

Tenderising meat helps break down the muscle fibers and proteins that make them tough in consistency. Coffee contains natural acids and enzymes, making it especially effective at tenderising meat and also enhancing the flavour. All you need to do is add the used coffee ground to your favourite dry-rub recipe and apply the rub two hours before cooking. Bon appetite!

Feeling inspired yet? If you are interested in trying any of these techniques, pop by The Café between 8am and 4pm to see if there are any grounds available (there almost always is) if you can’t see the bags sitting at the front door simply ask the staff!

We appreciate John’s waste reduction methods by returning the empty coffee bags back to the café to be reused, and we welcome this for anyone else who in interested as long as the bags have been washed out prior to returning.

For more coffee grind recyclable tips check out these websites:


At UNE Life sustainability is really important to us, saving water, using compostable materials and promoting reusable packaging are just some ways we support our community and environment every day. We will be publishing more blogs on this topic in the new year – so #WatchThisSpace and power to the planet! ✌🏽🌏