A former barista turned entrepreneur has saved 268 tonnes of coffee grounds over four years from going to landfill, with the start-up working to find innovative uses for the coffee and plastic waste generated by Australian cafes.
Denmark-raised Ninna Larsen noticed a huge — and disturbing — difference in waste management when she moved to Australia.
Far from sorting household waste into eight different bins, Ms Larsen found that she would contribute an estimated 16kg of coffee ground into landfill each day while working as a barista in Melbourne.
It inspired her to do something about it, which is how her start-up Reground was born.
Reground works with cafes, restaurants and other local businesses to curb the amount of waste going to landfill, instead gifting the coffee ground and chaff to home and community gardeners for composting.
Other uses being trialled by third parties include using ground coffee to grow mushrooms, making compressed logs to burn for warmth and even for making cement.
Meanwhile, soft plastics are also collected and deposited at local recyclers for use in various materials that previously relied on “virgin materials”.
“Reground started as an idea in late 2014 but was rolled out as a service in March 2015 after a few months of refining the model and price point,” Ms Larsen told My Business.
“Our service is a paid subscription service for the waste producers. We charge all of our clients a monthly fee to collect either their ground coffee, chaff, which is a by-product of the coffee roasting process, or soft plastics. The receiver of the coffee and chaff receives it free of charge, straight to their door.”
Since first launching a website through Godaddy in March 2015, Reground now works with more than 70 cafes across Melbourne, and has plans to expand into Australia’s other major cities, as well provide education for operators in rural and regional areas to operate a similar model themselves.
“We want to engage local communities with a program called Remote Reground. This involves encouraging them to start and operate a similar service, which is eventually handed over to them as, at the end of the day, they know the local challenges best,” Ms Larsen said.
According to the entrepreneur, the waste industry has lagged behind on innovation in terms of delivering “hyperlocal and sustainable waste systems into the local market”.
“There were simply no options for busy hospitality or office businesses to turn to. The first hospitality venues that joined Reground had been looking for sustainable solutions, but weren’t sure how to make it work themselves,” she said.
She added that far from simply collecting soft plastics to then recycle, Reground focuses on actually reducing the amount it receives — effectively doing itself out of business on this type of waste, for the good of the environment.
“We work hard on minimising the amount of soft plastics we collect in the first place, as often it’s perfectly avoidable,” Ms Larsen said.
“When we do collect it, the soft plastics go to local recyclers that turn the waste into products such as building film, a resource which was previously made from virgin materials. We are continuing to explore new and innovative ways to dispose of plastics.”
Since launching, Ms Larsen estimates that Reground has diverted 268 tonnes of coffee ground away from winding up in landfill.
“On average, we collect 5,500 kilos per week currently. This number keeps going up as our movement grows,” she said.
Adam Zuchetti is the editor of My Business, and has steered the publication’s editorial direction since early 2016.