Brewed Coffee Guide

The Environmental Impact of Coffee Grounds: How to Dispose of Them Sustainably

April 11, 2023 | Kurt Parker

Coffee is one of the most popular beverages in the world, with millions of people consuming it every day. However, the process of making coffee produces a significant amount of waste, including coffee grounds. Many people are unaware of the environmental impact of coffee grounds and how to dispose of them sustainably.

In this article, we will discuss the impact of coffee grounds in our precious earth and provide tips on how to dispose of them responsibly.

Definition of coffee grounds

coffee processing plants

Coffee grounds are the remnants of brewed coffee beans. They are the brownish-black residue left behind in the coffee filter or espresso machine after the brewing process. Coffee grounds are rich in nutrients and organic matter, making them an excellent addition to compost and other soil amendments.

Importance of coffee grounds disposal

Coffee grounds disposal is an important aspect of sustainability. According to the National Coffee Association, Americans alone consume more than 400 million cups of coffee each day. This equates to billions of pounds of coffee grounds that end up in landfills, contributing to greenhouse gas emissions and environmental pollution. Proper disposal of coffee grounds not only reduces waste but also helps to promote sustainable practices. In this article, we will discuss the environmental impact of coffee grounds and how to dispose of them sustainably.

The Environmental Impact of Coffee Grounds

coffee drinkers

Coffee grounds are one of the most common waste products generated during the coffee-making process. According to the National Coffee Association, coffee grounds make up around 20% of the waste generated by the coffee industry. When coffee grounds are disposed of improperly, they can have a significant impact on the environment.

Methane Emissions

When coffee grounds are sent to landfills, they decompose and release methane gas. Methane is a potent greenhouse gas that is 28 times more potent than carbon dioxide over a 100-year timescale. Methane emissions from landfills are a significant contributor to global warming.

Water Pollution

Coffee grounds contain high levels of nitrogen and phosphorus, which can be harmful to aquatic life. When coffee grounds are sent to landfills or dumped into bodies of water, they can contribute to algal blooms and eutrophication. Eutrophication occurs when there is an excessive amount of nutrients in the water, leading to a depletion of oxygen and the death of aquatic life.

Energy Use

The production and transportation of coffee grounds require significant amounts of energy. When coffee grounds are disposed of improperly, this energy is wasted. By disposing of coffee grounds sustainably, we can reduce our energy consumption and carbon footprint.

How to Dispose of Coffee Grounds Sustainably

shade grown coffee

There are several ways to dispose of coffee grounds sustainably. Below are some tips on how to do so.


Composting is one of the most sustainable ways to dispose of coffee grounds. When coffee grounds are added to a compost pile, they help to create nutrient-rich soil. Coffee grounds are high in nitrogen, which is an essential nutrient for plants. Adding coffee grounds to a compost pile can also help to reduce methane emissions from landfills.

Using Coffee Grounds as Fertilizer

Coffee grounds can also be used as fertilizer for plants. The high nitrogen content of coffee grounds makes them an excellent fertilizer for acid-loving plants, such as roses, blueberries, and tomatoes. To use coffee grounds as fertilizer, simply sprinkle them around the base of the plant.

Recycling Coffee Grounds

Some coffee shops and roasters have programs in place to recycle coffee grounds. Check with your local coffee shop or roaster to see if they have a program in place. If they do not, you can still recycle coffee grounds by using them in your compost pile or as fertilizer.

Using Coffee Grounds for Cleaning

Coffee grounds can also be used for cleaning. They can be used to scrub pots and pans, remove odors from the refrigerator, and exfoliate skin. Using coffee grounds for cleaning is an excellent way to repurpose them and reduce waste.

Donating Coffee Grounds

Some organizations, such as community gardens and urban farms, may be able to use coffee grounds for composting or as fertilizer. Check with local organizations to see if they are interested in receiving coffee grounds.

Avoiding Single-Use Coffee Pods

Single-use coffee pods, such as Keurig pods, generate a significant amount of waste. In addition to the plastic and aluminum pods, the coffee grounds inside are often not compostable. By avoiding single-use coffee pods, we can reduce our waste and environmental impact. Additionally, coffee grounds are a valuable source of nitrogen, a key nutrient that is essential for plant growth. As such, many gardeners use coffee grounds as a natural fertilizer to enrich their soil. By composting coffee grounds, you can reduce your waste and help nourish your garden at the same time.

How to Compost Coffee Grounds

spent grounds

Composting coffee grounds is a simple and sustainable way to dispose of them. Here are the steps to follow:

  1. Collect your coffee grounds: As you make your daily cup of coffee, collect the used coffee grounds in a container. You can also ask your local coffee shop if they have any used grounds they are willing to give away.
  1. Add to your compost bin: Add the coffee grounds to your compost bin along with other organic materials, such as fruit and vegetable scraps, leaves, and grass clippings. Make sure to add a balance of “greens” (nitrogen-rich materials) and “browns” (carbon-rich materials) to your compost bin.
  1. Mix well: Use a pitchfork or shovel to mix the coffee grounds and other materials in your compost bin. This will help to distribute the nitrogen-rich coffee grounds evenly throughout the compost pile.
  1. Monitor your compost: Keep an eye on your compost pile to ensure that it remains moist and aerated. Turn the pile every few weeks to ensure that the materials are breaking down evenly.
  1. Use your compost: After a few months, your compost should be ready to use. Spread it on your garden or use it as a potting mix for indoor plants.

Other Sustainable Ways to Dispose of Coffee Grounds

repurpose coffee grounds

Composting isn’t the only way to dispose of coffee grounds sustainably. Here are a few other ideas:

  • Use coffee grounds as a natural deodorizer: Place a bowl of dry coffee grounds in your fridge or freezer to absorb unwanted odors.
  • Use coffee grounds as a natural exfoliant: Mix coffee grounds with coconut oil or honey to create a natural exfoliating scrub for your skin.
  • Use coffee grounds as a natural dye: Boil coffee grounds in water to create a natural dye for fabrics.
  • Donate coffee grounds to local farms or gardens: Some local farms or community gardens may be interested in using coffee grounds as fertilizer. Contact your local farmers’ market or community garden to see if they accept donations.
  • Use coffee grounds as a pest deterrent: Sprinkle coffee grounds around your plants to deter pests, such as slugs and snails.
By implementing one or more of these sustainable disposal methods, you can reduce your environmental impact and give your coffee grounds a second life. Coffee is one of the most popular beverages in the world and is consumed by millions of people every day. However, the production and consumption of coffee also have a significant environmental impact. One of the byproducts of coffee production and consumption is coffee grounds, which can have negative effects on the environment if not disposed of properly. Coffee grounds are the residue left over after brewing coffee. They contain caffeine, tannins, and other compounds that give coffee its characteristic taste and aroma. Coffee grounds are typically wet and heavy, making them difficult to dispose of in traditional ways such as throwing them in the trash or flushing them down the drain. Improper disposal of coffee grounds can lead to a range of environmental problems. For example, when coffee grounds are sent to landfills, they decompose and release methane gas, a potent greenhouse gas that contributes to climate change. Additionally, coffee grounds that are disposed of in waterways can cause harm to aquatic life by reducing oxygen levels and increasing the acidity of the water. Fortunately, there are several sustainable ways to dispose of coffee grounds that can help reduce their environmental impact. Here are some options:
  • Composting: Coffee grounds are an excellent addition to compost piles. They are rich in nitrogen and can help balance the carbon-to-nitrogen ratio in compost, which is essential for healthy decomposition. When added to a compost pile, coffee grounds break down quickly and help create a nutrient-rich soil amendment that can be used in gardens and landscaping.
  • Repurposing: Coffee grounds can be repurposed in a variety of ways. For example, they can be used as a natural fertilizer for plants, as a natural deodorizer in refrigerators or garbage disposals, or as an exfoliant in homemade skincare products.
  • Donating: Some organizations accept coffee grounds for use in community gardens or as a soil amendment for urban agriculture projects. Donating coffee grounds to these organizations can help reduce waste and support local food systems.


coffee plants

In conclusion, it’s clear that the proper disposal of coffee grounds is essential for reducing their environmental impact. By utilizing sustainable methods of disposal, such as composting, recycling, or repurposing, we can reduce the amount of waste that ends up in landfills and contribute to a healthier planet. Additionally, it’s important to continue to educate ourselves and others on the importance of sustainability in all aspects of our lives, including our morning cup of coffee.

If you’re interested in learning more about the world of coffee, including brewing techniques, coffee varieties, and more, be sure to check out the Brewed Coffee Guide website. They offer a wealth of information and resources for coffee lovers of all levels, making it easy to explore and expand your knowledge of this beloved beverage. So, whether you’re a seasoned coffee pro or just starting on your coffee journey, Brewed Coffee Guide is a great place to start.


Q: How do you dispose of coffee grounds environmentally friendly?

A: There are several ways to dispose of coffee grounds in an environmentally friendly way. One option is to compost them, as they are rich in nitrogen and make a great addition to a compost pile. Another option is to use them as a natural fertilizer for plants or mix them into soil for gardening. Additionally, some cities offer programs for curbside collection of food waste, including coffee grounds, which are then composted on a larger scale.

Q: How can we reduce coffee waste?

A: One way to reduce coffee waste is by being mindful of how much coffee we brew and only making what we need. Another way is to use reusable coffee filters instead of disposable ones, and to avoid single-use coffee pods. Additionally, finding creative ways to use coffee grounds, such as in cooking or DIY beauty treatments, can also help to reduce waste.

Q: Is coffee grounds sustainable?

A: Coffee grounds themselves are a sustainable resource, as they are a byproduct of coffee production and would otherwise go to waste. However, it’s important to consider the sustainability of the entire coffee industry, including factors such as fair labor practices, responsible sourcing, and minimizing the environmental impact of coffee production.

Q: How is coffee waste recycled?

A: Coffee waste can be recycled in a number of ways. As mentioned earlier, coffee grounds can be composted and used as a natural fertilizer. Coffee chaff, which is the outer skin of the coffee bean, can be used as a biofuel. Additionally, coffee wastewater can be treated and reused for irrigation or even to generate electricity. Some companies are also finding innovative ways to upcycle coffee waste, such as using it to make sustainable clothing or building materials.