Coffee ground waste is a vast, relatively unknown and urgent problem. There are a plethora of coffee shops in Exeter alone, and with even some of the smaller outlets producing 80 kg of coffee grounds a week, a huge amount of potential reusable resources are going to landfill. Although it might seem like an inconspicuous pick-me-up, the coffee habit in the UK clocks in at 95 million cups of coffee per day, leading to the production of half a million tonnes of coffee waste each year in the UK alone. This amounts to one-twelfth of the country's total food waste.
We have researched the environmental impact of coffee grounds waste and have discovered how damaging it can be. When coffee or other organic matter is sent to landfill, it decomposes to release greenhouse gases. In particular, it releases methane, a gas 72 times more potent than carbon dioxide. These greenhouse gases are in addition to those generated in the transportation process.
With less than 1% off the coffee bean actually ending up in our cups, our social enterprise model tackles this waste by upcycling coffee grounds, preventing it from going to landfills. Instead we create a product to sell to restaurants and shops locally aiming to reduce the food miles of the product.
At UMC we’re aware that our growing process is not perfect. Our team is actively researching more eco-friendly ways to improve our business model. For example, we hope to make the switch to sustainable grow bags (such as compostable version) or another sustainable method such as growing from buckets. By doing so, we can create a truly sustainable enterprise.
- Over the last year, we have upcycled over 127kg of coffee grounds. This equates to 1400kg of CO2 emissions, or in other words, one flight to Los Angeles, driving from Shanghai to Kiev or heating the average UK household for 3 months.
- Using zero-carbon transportation, we collect coffee grounds from local cafes and use this valuable yet discarded material to sell our produce to local businesses.