Designing a collection and recovery process for Starbucks coffee grounds to reduce disposed waste.

We live in a coffee-fueled world. An estimated 2.25 billion cups of coffee are consumed daily around the globe

That is mostly a good thing for coffee lovers, the farmers that grow the stuff, and the companies that serve the drinks. What gets talked about less is the waste generated by coffee production – the grounds.

Why worry about coffee grounds? For every coffee that is made, 20 grams of coffee grounds end up in landfills.

That might not sound like much, until you consider that 5,000 lattes work out to about 100 kilos of used grounds. Everyday, those 2.25 billion cups of coffee consumed worldwide result in 45,000 tonnes of ground waste!

Most of the time, these grounds are not separated, so they end up in landfills where they are mixed up with plastic, paper and other waste types. In fact, 60-70% of the waste crowding landfills in Indonesia is organic.

That’s unfortunate, because you can do a lot of useful things with coffee grounds.

Recognising the many positive impacts of reducing coffee ground waste, Catalyze brought a proposal to Starbucks in Indonesia. With an expanding network of stores and only dismal public waste management systems available, we saw an opportunity for this major brand to rethink a new aspect of their environmental impact.

What if baristas no longer tossed coffee grounds away with other waste types, and instead separated them for reuse? Composting coffee grounds would also reinforce the brand’s commitment to sustainability and bring public attention to the issue – a triple shot of benefits all around!

Experience has shown us time and again that changing behaviour must begin with understanding key actors’ daily routines and motivations – that is, the how and why of baristas’ work behind-the-scenes. We needed to know what they had been doing before approaching them about doing things differently. So, we started with observation, using a structured research methodology to understand how baristas act at work.

Next, we enlisted the participation of Starbucks baristas in Bali to brainstorm ideas for how a collection system could work, using a Human-Centred Design process that we facilitated.

Our resulting blueprint detailed the journey from in-store disposal to external recovery, identifying the equipment and procedure changes that would be needed to facilitate this new process.

As of writing, we are monitoring Bali stores where collection is being trialed as they begin separating their coffee waste for composting, with an eye toward how this system could be scaled across the country – perhaps even around the world.