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

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

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

Why worry about coffee grounds? Well, for every cup of joe that is made, 20g of coffee which grounds end up in landfills.

That might not sound like much, until you consider that 5,000 lattes work out to about 100kg 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 really is a waste, 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 types of waste, but 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 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 (HCD) process that we facilitated.

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