Sustainability at USM

Coffee Grounds Recycling

University of Southern Maine Coffee Ground Collection Program

In a partnership with USM Dining Services (Aramark) and the USM Grounds department, the USM Recycles team have started a program to collect and recycle used coffee grounds from all dining locations that serve coffee on the Portland and Gorham campuses of the University of Southern Maine. Coffee grounds are then used as a soil amendment and diverted from the waste stream.

University of Southern Maine Coffee Ground Collection Program - 5 Gallon collection bucketsUsing reclaimed buckets, leftover paint, and a handmade stencil the USM Recycles team started the program in January 2012 with zero monetary investment. As of April 24, 2012, 2,800 lbs of coffee grounds had been collected and spread on the campus landscape.We are on track to divert about nine tons of grounds from the trash each year!

Used coffee grounds are collected at each dining area by Dining Service employees. Full buckets are picked up from the buildings during the recycling collection run and spread directly onto the campus grounds in mulched beds, tree wells, and on lawns to build up compacted soil. Used grounds are a slightly acidic soil amendment that do not need to be composted and begin breaking down immediately after application.

University of Southern Maine Coffee Ground Collection Program - Grounds freshly emptied into a mulched campus bed before being spreadWet used grounds are a heavy and messy waste item which makes them difficult for the cleaning staff to handle as well as expensive to dispose of in the trash. This program will save the university at least $1,000 a year in waste disposal costs, reduce the number of plastic trash bags used, and reduce time and labor required to handle grounds as part of the trash stream.

Does your office drink a lot of coffee (and generate a lot of used coffee grounds)? If so, please get in touch. We are hoping to expand this program beyond just eateries to include offices as well!