From fresh fruit, to roasted bean, to used up grounds, coffee’s chemical composition offers a range of uses beyond making your daily brew.
The answer is that processing and production can be more complex than you might imagine – even when we’re talking about simply using coffee grounds in your garden. What’s more, many recycling initiatives to turn waste coffee into valuable commodities are still in their early stages.
The spent coffee must be detoxified by composting for a minimum of 98 days for plants to benefit from the potassium and nitrogen contained in the roasted beans. Without adequate composting, the benefits are scant (see below). So if you do take some coffee grounds home from your local cafe, make sure you compost them before sprinkling them on the veggie patch.
The good news is that properly composted coffee grounds offer a cheap alternative to agro-industrial fertilisers, potentially helping urban communities become greener and more sustainable. Savvy businesses have begun processing coffee grounds on a commercial scale, turning them into nutrient-rich fertilisers or soil conditioners in convenient pellets for use in the garden.
As undersized and imperfect beans are discarded at this raw stage, many businesses have seized the opportunity to market green coffee extracts as a weight loss product, although more research is needed to confirm this potential.
With abundant waste supplies due to the popularity of coffee consumption, by recycling the byproducts, perhaps we can enjoy one of our favourite beverages without too much guilt.
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