Post A: One Day Waste Audit

We don’t seem to realise how much waste we produce until we have to record the quantity and categorise them.  My one day waste audit consisted of noting down all organic waste that I produce on a normal day.

My day started with two shots of coffee topped with foamy milk, and breakfast consists of egg sunny-side up on toast (with crust cut off), bacon (with fat cut off) and a banana. Just from a 15 minute meal there is already a plethora of waste produced: Coffee Grounds, Egg Shells, Bacon Fat, Bread Crust and Banana peel. We do not have a compost heap so all of this waste goes into the bin.

From then on, I had a cup of tea with lunch, which produced more waste such as chicken bones, more egg shells, as well as cabbage stalks, which also went into the bin. Afternoon Tea created more coffee grounds, and dinner led to more bones, as well as skins and peels from carrots, onions and other vegetables – which all went into the bin.

Between four coffee addicts in the household, we have to empty our coffee grind container almost once a day, which led us to clear the kitchen bin once a day. While organic wastes mostly gets thrown into the red bin, we do put our eggshells outside into the veggie patch as fertilizer, and all aluminium and plastic bottles are put into the recycling bin for collection.

Looking at our pile of waste, I realised that the coffee ground might have an interesting life cycle – where did it come from, and where can it go? According to the Coffee Ground Recovery Program Report by Planet Ark, Australians consume 6 billion cups of coffee every year, producing 3000 tonnes of waste coffee grounds, where 93% end up in landfill and only 7% end up in worm farm or gardens. Coffee grounds sent to landfill can produce methane and Carbon dioxide, contributing to global warming, as well as creating financial cost on tax payers for running and maintaining landfills in Australia.

IMG_4057 copy.jpg
Circular Life Cycle of Coffee (and Coffee Ground).

Coffee ground is a valuable and a relatively unique organic waste, as cafes and shops collect their spent grounds separately to other waste, with little to no contamination, their brewing process using high temperature also means that a relatively clean waste is produced. This can create a circular economy, where waste from one process can be used as an input by another, thereby minimising waste generation.

Interestingly, coffee grounds can also be used as growth medium for mushrooms, also boasting the same nutrient quality as mushrooms cultivated on other mediums, and can satisfy the high demand for locally grown and sustainable mushrooms in Australia.

A Cameron & S O’Malley, 2016, Coffee Ground Recovery Program Report by Planet Ark, <http://planetark.org/documents/doc-1397-summary-report-of-feasibility-study-april-2016.pdf> Accessed 6th June 2016

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