May 18th, 2023
By recycling ground coffee and chaff hyper-locally, Reground is helping to close the loop on food waste and food production.
Reground also work extensively in education and advocacy in the waste and sustainability sectors to increase clarity, transparency and accountability in the space.
Reground had successfully diverted over one million kilograms of ground coffee from landfill in the seven years from beginning operations to 2022, equating to 2,000,000kg of emissions avoided.
As a city that loves its coffee, Melbourne unfortunately sends large amounts of ground coffee to landfill. A typical café going through around 20 kg of coffee beans weekly generates around 40 kg of organic ground coffee waste weekly (due to the weight of water added during brewing), which adds up to two tonnes of ground coffee annually. This predominantly goes into landfill emitting approximately four tonnes of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere.
Reground is a commercial ground coffee collection service using behavioural science and systems thinking to effectively engage with the community around their waste habits and transform this waste into a resource. They now collect ground coffee and chaff from over 250 Melbourne businesses and provide it to the local community to turn it into valuable materials such as nutrient-rich compost for their gardens and as a soil conditioner. They also collect soft plastics, transforming it into oil.
Reground are uniquely positioned as a waste service company who are committed to positively influencing the coffee industry, rather than maintaining the status quo.
We sat down with Fiona Parsons, Communications Manager at Reground, and discussed how they are helping Melbourne businesses address the issue of ground coffee waste.
“Reground is a social enterprise helping organisations and individuals create a circular economy through waste collection, diversion and minimisation projects. Our organisation is founded on waste diversion - physically (and conceptually) transforming ground coffee from entering landfill to valuable organic resources. By recycling ground coffee and chaff hyper-locally we are helping to close the loop on food waste and food production. In addition to this, we also help facilitate soft plastics recycling throughout Melbourne. We have pioneered an innovative approach that is data-driven and based on the principles of behavioural science, while still firmly rooted in our hands-on work with waste and resource recovery."
"We also work extensively in education and advocacy around waste and sustainability, helping to pull back the curtain on waste processes and systems and increase clarity, transparency and accountability in the space."
“There is no room for business as usual in the climate crisis. We believe that a movement towards circular systems changes not only the way we use resources and view waste but also the way we relate to each other, our environment and our society. Contrasted with the linear economy - with its focus on extraction, consumption and a tendency to over-simplify - circularity reflects the truly complex, evolving and interconnected nature of our world and our relationships within it.”
“There is a lack of faith as well as a tremendous lack of information in the public towards the waste industry; a big part of our work is in bridging those gaps using respect, clear communication, accountability and transparency.”
There is no room for business as usual in the climate crisis. We believe that a movement towards circular systems changes not only the way we use resources and view waste but also the way we relate to each other, our environment and our society.
“We partner with local cafes (who pay a fee for the collection of waste) and provide them with a unique bin that makes it simple to empty their coffee knockbox. After collecting these in our Reground vans, community gardens and home gardeners can request coffee grounds which are delivered free of cost straight to their doors.”
“In a similar way, we also collect waste chaff, which is the by-product of the coffee roasting process, as well as soft plastic which are then turned into plastoil by our Victorian recycling partner.”
“Our founder Ninna Larsen’s unique vision, strength of character and dedication to creating real change could not have been replaced or replicated. Ninna worked tirelessly for the first few years of Reground’s existence, mostly by herself, showing that grit and hard work were requisite skills to get a genre-defying new service off the ground.”
“She sought to build an organisation in partnership with people who share the vision (or bring their own vision) while also being honest about her strengths and actively building the resilience of the organisation by resourcing to supplement them.”
“A hands-on relationship with waste has built unique knowledge and experience in our team and is still a vital part of how we work. Our sustainable growth model has ensured that we grow organically and sensibly, building our site, our fleet and our team slowly and with great consideration.”
“It has been vital for us to identify times when external support was needed. In the early days this took the form of a partnership with Abigail from KeepCup - a mentor to Ninna in the early days, who helped us get our first van on the road. Later on, we crowdfunded our second vehicle. Recognising when you need to call on your community or ask for advice or help is another reflection of circular thinking in practice.”
“Businesses wanting to become circular should start by working with experts or partners that they trust who can help them achieve this; we’ve found that working in concert with others to share knowledge and resources is the most efficient (and economical) way to move the needle.”
“Our approach has always been data-driven, so we document all resources collected and the endpoints to which we put them. We log this in real-time and make the information available to our partners - making it easy to measure our progress and impact as we grow.”
“By 2022 - our seventh year of operation, after two years of the pandemic and lockdowns severely affecting the hospitality sector – we partnered with over 400 Melbourne businesses and hit 1,000,000kg of ground coffee diverted from landfill equating to 2,000,000kg of emissions avoided. That’s more than 30 million lattes.”
“In the same year we were also named finalists in the Premier’s Sustainability Awards and the winner of the Melbourne Award for Sustainability. The Melbourne Award in particular is designed to recognise inspirational individuals and organisations that have dedicated themselves to making our city a better place; this recognition has been very special for us.”
“Truthfully, though, the greatest achievement so far is the extraordinary team we have built - these driven, energetic and brilliant individuals are the core to contribute the most to our future success.”
“For the Reground team, a transition to a circular economy also entails a transition to a more transparent, accountable and communal way of seeing the world; it necessitates compromise, collaboration and awareness of the complexity of the systems in which we operate. We want to grow our impact as much as possible, as sustainably (for our team, our operations and our planet) as possible.”
“Food and organic waste are one of the most pressing environmental issues we face and one of the top global contributors to emissions globally. It is also an issue we can all act on. Everyone should be actively seeking ways to minimise food waste in their home and at work and to productively repurpose what waste is unavoidable by composting at home, working with a logistical partner (like Reground) or getting on board with their local FOGO collection."
Learn more about our work in the circular economy at Reground.”