Repurpose Coffee Waste and Soft Plastics
As the global climate crisis unfolds, there’s an urgent call for all of us to make changes. While we’re all doing our part, we don’t often get to hear about the everyday heroes that are creating impactful initiatives to reverse climate change.
One of these initiatives that we can really get behind is called Reground. Reground is a social enterprise that is working with the local Melbourne community to repurpose coffee waste and soft plastics from cafes and businesses.
I had a chat with Luke from Reground who generously offered his time to educate me on the way they are making a difference and having a positive impact on both the environment and the community as a whole. Here’s what he had to say...
First things first - what is Reground and how does it work?
Hi there! Reground is a waste education and collection service. We exist to help businesses, councils and apartment complexes reduce their impact on the environment by reducing the waste they produce. We do this by using our expertise in behaviour change and by collecting their coffee, chaff and soft plastics waste. Everything we collect is recycled hyper-locally into valuable products. The coffee and chaff we collect is recycled at community gardens by mixing it through their compost, meanwhile the soft plastics we collect are recycled by our local partners.
When did this project begin and how did the idea come about?
Reground started in 2014 when our founder, Ninna Larsen realised just how much of Melbourne’s world famous coffee was ending up in our landfills. This amazing resource converts to toxic greenhouse gases in our atmosphere when it ends in landfill, it can also be a great help to growing nutritious food and building resilient communities, Reground started to solve this problem. We then grew to providing waste audits for our customers and seeing the volumes of avoidable waste ending in bins, by helping our customers reduce their waste, we save them money and help the planet. That is when we started collecting soft plastics to be recycled, and expanding to supporting more businesses, individuals and government to reduce their waste.
What region do you service?
We predominantly service Melbourne’s inner metropolitan area and northern suburbs. However we have recently branched out to the western suburbs to start helping cafes and businesses divert their waste from landfill here as well.
What kinds of businesses can approach you and what are the costs involved?
We’re open to all kinds of businesses. We service hospitality, retail and office based businesses and will always come up with a solution that's right for the specific case. The costs for our collection service are subscription based. We base this on the volume of coffee you use each week or how much soft plastics you have so its really simple.
Can cafes empty tea leaves and/or chai into their knockbox for collection? And what do they need to be careful about NOT putting with the coffee grounds?
Yes absolutely! Loose leaves and chai go terrifically well with the coffee grounds when mixed through a compost. The coffee bins are emptied into a compost system, so we need to be careful that anything that goes in the bin can also be composted. No wrappers, bones or large pieces of food for example.
Do you know roughly how many tonnes of coffee you guys have saved from landfill and similarly how much methane gas you have saved from being released into the atmosphere?
We’ve saved over 560 tonnes of coffee from landfill which means we have avoided over 1 million kilograms of methane gas! We have also saved over 25 tonnes of soft plastics from landfill. This is an incredible achievement by our community and one we are working hard to build upon.
I love that you guys pick up soft plastics also - as far as I know there are no other services that do this for businesses. What do you do with all the soft plastic?
That's exactly right! We’re the only business that offers this sort of hands on, education based recycling service for soft plastics. We collect the plastics, sort them and bale them at our depot in Alphington. We then transfer them to our local recycling partners who process them into valuable products like building film and road base to ensure that the plastics are kept in the community.
What has been the biggest challenge and what have you learned from it?
The biggest challenge we’ve found is in recalibrating society's perspective of waste. We’re all conditioned into an “out of sight, out of mind” style of thinking, which is disastrous for our environment as we’re starting to see. Viewing our waste as a valuable resource really is the only way we can ensure our consumption behaviours are sustainable. After that comes focussing on avoidance, people think recycling is the first answer but we want to show that there are some things that can avoid becoming waste at all, and it is crazy to pay for throwing these in the bin. Breaking down these barriers and norms are something we work hard at everyday.
Often it’s difficult for people to know where to start when it comes to making positive changes around waste management. What would be your top 3 tips to reduce your waste?
It definitely can be overwhelming at the start, but it really doesn’t need to be that daunting. We recommend the following basic tips to start yourself off on your sustainable waste journey!
- Drop plastic bags! Despite the conversation around plastic shopping bags being louder than ever, we are each still prone to grabbing a bag out of convenience during the impromptu shopping trip. Ensuring you have a canvas bag of sorts with you when you shop is one of the easiest and most effective ways to avoid accumulating soft plastic waste.
- Make the most of your leftovers. Discarding food waste is one of the worst things we can do for the environment. Organic matter (such as food) anaerobically breaks down in landfill to release methane gas, which is reported as being over 80 times more potent than carbon dioxide for our atmosphere.
- Compost compost compost! The next best solution for food waste is to compost it so that the nutrients can be released back into the soil. While we might not all be lucky enough to have a backyard that can house a compost bin, there are plenty of community compost depots around Melbourne. For those living in the Alphington area we run one at the Melbourne Knowledge Centre, look out for Regrounds Resource Hub.
To find out more please jump onto our website and social media channels (listed below) or feel free to shoot through an email:
Find out which of your favourite cafes are using Reground here!