Recycle and Repurpose your Coffee: A Win-Win for our Environment

By Cllr Dr Verity Greenwood

Congratulations to Witham’s Coffee Hornsby, who have been recently recognised as Local Waste Champions. Apart from having fabulous coffee, Witham’s has stepped up by recycling and repurposing its roastery and café byproducts, to ensure minimal waste and less recycling contamination. In acting local, using sustainable practices, they contribute to global environmental sustainability.

Australians love of coffee means an estimated 90% (around 2.7 million) of all disposable coffee cups thrown away daily end up in landfill. Most paper coffee cups are lined with waterproof plastic lining that do not break down and they contribute around 60,000 kilograms of plastic waste each year. Even when their paper breaks down, soft plastic will remain and become a pollution hazard.

How can we dispose of our coffee products in a way that results in minimal waste and sustains our environment? Withams Coffee donates used coffee grounds to Edgeworth David Community Garden and recycles coffee chaff with Herfo’s Woodshed, to create coffee compost. Galston cafes have done that too.

Over a five-year period, my husband collected coffee grounds from two Galston cafes weekly and used it in our compost. Coffee grounds have a high nitrogen content and assist in creating organic matter, improving the ability of soil to hold water. Now we just use our own coffee grounds, adding them directly to our soil.

There are advances in production of recyclable coffee cups, but the process is costly. However, there are opportunities in our Hornsby Shire that assist in coffee cup recycling. Simply Cups has three drop off locations in the Shire for separate disposal of cups and lids.

Simply Cups recycles cups to make various items, including furniture and car park bumpers. RecycleMe has a collection point for 100% recyclable coffee cups at Thornleigh, which Shred-Xm collects and processes into new paper products, such as 100% recycled copy paper. You can also choose to buy coffee from Responsible Cafes whose ratings are based on their positive environmental actions.

How can we work with our Hornsby Council to reduce waste and safeguard our environment? The present recycling contamination rate in Hornsby is 10%. There is some resident misunderstanding as to what part of the coffee cup can be recycled.

The plastic coffee lid goes into the yellow recycling bin to be recycled with other hard plastics, but the cup must go into the general red bin. Our Hornsby Shire Council Single-Use Plastics Policy, which was adopted in 2020, requires community-run and supported events on Council land to phase-out use, sale or other provision of food, drinks, and packaging items made from single-use disposable plastics. This includes coffee cups.

Hornsby Council also highlights sustainable business practices like Witham’s Hornsby and promotes sustainable coffee cup swap programs, such as Green Caffeen, Huskee cups, Returnr and Claycups.

Simply Cups locations:
Coffee cup swap programs:
Responsible Cafes:
If you have any concerns or issues where I may assist, please do not hesitate to contact me at [email protected]