Austin Coffee Recycling Program Helps Community


ground to groundMore than eight tons a month. That’s how much organic material in the form of spent coffee grounds the Austin-based Ground to Ground program diverts from area landfills and makes available to people in the community as compost.

Since its inception last year, the not-for-profit, volunteer-based program established by the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service of Travis County and Compost Coalition, has been recruiting businesses to provide free used coffee grounds to Austin residents.

Richards said coffee grounds help facilitate the composting of other organic materials and provide a variety of key nutrients, including nitrogen, potassium and phosphorous.

Currently, more than 20 locations ” coffee houses, restaurants, convenience stores and other businesses ” participate in the program, providing their customers with 4-gallon repurposed food containers filled with spent coffee grounds for them to use as compost for their plants, gardens and landscapes.

Lindsay Razzaz, AgriLife Extension horticultural assistant in Travis County, who also attended the meeting, said when she and Richards returned to the office they agreed on the idea of developing a composting program centered around coffee grounds.

While most of the coffee shops and other businesses in the Ground to Ground program are small independents, several locations of the Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf chain as well as locations of large convenience store chains also participate.

AgriLife Extension personnel, Compost Coalition members and Travis County Master Gardener volunteers bring participating locations the 4-gallon plastic containers stamped with the program logo for them to fill with used coffee grounds.

Will Stewart, a co-owner of the East Village Cafe, said he decided to participate in the program as a way to provide an added service to people in his neighborhood.There’s also a strictly practical economic reason for participating in the program, said Mallory Alison, owner of Vintage Heart Coffee, another Ground to Ground participant.

Razzaz said a recent poll she took of participating coffee shop managers revealed that the program is currently responsible for keeping more than 4,002 gallons ” or more than 16,000 pounds of grounds ” out of area landfills each month.

Heather-Nicole Hoffman, a founding member of the Compost Coalition, said the Ground to Ground program helps meet the goals of the Zero Waste Plan adopted by the city of Austin.

As a grassroots volunteer organization, she said, the coalition helps connect those with resources with those who can use them to divert organic materials from landfills into nutrient-rich earth.

The City of Austin applauds diversion of organic materials from the waste stream via composting, said Woody Raine, a mechanical engineerspecializing in waste reduction and conservation with the City of Austin.

Denise Harrelson, a member of the Travis County Master Gardeners association and community captain for the Ground to Ground program, said one of the best aspects of the program is that almost any location where coffee is brewed can potentially become a grounds donor.

Program coordinators hope to expand the program beyond Austin, making it a statewide and possibly a national initiative.

Posted by Lauren Harrity 11/20/13

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