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Become Coffee Conscientious

Become Coffee Conscientious - A Coffee Lovers Guide to Sustainability 

Coffee is the most popular drink worldwide with 95 million cups made per day in the UK alone. Although instant coffee is still the most popular way Brits get their caffeine fix, ground coffee and single serve capsules are becoming increasingly popular with all age groups. So, if you use beans, grounds or capsules, how sustainable really is your brew? 


1.            BUY SUSTAINABLE 

Most coffee is a monoculture crop as it produces the highest yields and profits. Plantations have replaced areas highly diverse rainforest. More sustainable methods of growing coffee include a shade-grown variety. It both encourages biodiversity and uses farming methods which reduces rainforest degradation.  

·         Bird and Wild sell shade grown organic coffee and donate 6% of their profits to the RSPB. Their website is packed full of information including the differences between shade and sun-grown coffee. 


Most Zero-Waste shops have ground coffee and beans so you can refill your containers reducing the need for packaging entirely! Find your nearest Zero-Waste shop in Devon here.
If you can’t get to a zero-waste store, could you buy your favourite coffee in bulk online? Not only will this reduce packaging but could also save you money- win-win! 

If you use single serve capsules, is there a way your machine takes ground coffee so you can avoid single use plastics?  
Consider switching to an Evergreen reusable metal capsule, they just need to be filled with grounds and can be reused hundreds of times. The reusable capsules come in a variety of sizes to fit any brand machine. Alternatively, research if your brand of single serve capsules has a recycling scheme in place.  

  • Nescafe: Send your used pods back to Nespresso or post them at a collect+ outlets. A printable or downloadable label can be accessed online here.
  • Nespresso Drop off the used pods in Nespresso stores or order a free recycling bag online and drop to collect+ outlets or have them collected from your doorstep. Nespresso currently recycle 25% of all capsules sold!  

 “Compostable” Packaging 
You may have seen compostable capsules or coffee packaging on the market. This packaging in VERY UNLIKLEY to be appropriate for home composting. For the packaging to breakdown it often needs to be heated to 70˚C and regularly turned within an industrial composting process such as an In-Vessel Composting facility (IVC) where, even then, it can still take months to breakdown. Also, if this type of packaging enters the plastic waste stream it is considered a contaminant and will be removed and sent for disposal. Learn more about packaging on our website.

In Devon we no longer compost organic material at an IVC, instead it is sent to be anaerobically digested to produce energy. Compostable packaging WILL NOT decompose in these conditions, therefore it will be removed and sent to be incinerated at the Exeter or Plymouth Energy from Waste plants. Read more about where your food waste goes in Devon here

We recommend trying to buy zero-waste alternatives or 100% recyclable packaging which can be collected from your kerbside recycling or recycling bins in kitchens at County Hall. 

3.            BASIC BREWING

You don’t need a flashy electric machine to make coffee. Try using a cafetière which can make several cups without the need for fancy equipment. Not only is the option cheaper, quicker and more sustainable- it tastes delicious!


Nothing clogs drains more than coffee grounds. Over time they can clump together and block the drainage systems.  
District councils spends a lot of money on contractors to unblock drains. Many of these blocks are caused by people putting their coffee waste down the plughole. There are many other, more sustainable ways you can discard of your coffee waste. 

  • Use your food waste caddy. Most districts now have food waste collections, if your district collects food waste but you don’t have a caddy, please contact your local council. All food waste in Devon is sent to anaerobic digestion to make energy.  Andigestion state that 1 Kg of food waste produces enough energy to charge a smartphone for 79 hours!  
  • Compost at home. Composting grounds add nitrogen and potassium to your compost helping produce super fertile compost to be added back into your garden. Grounds also provide food for worms which help to breakdown compost bin waste.
  • Feed directly to plants. Coffee grounds can be added directly to the soil around your plants and can act as a barrier to keep slugs and snails away. 
  • If you don’t want them, someone else might! Ask around if they could be useful in someone else’s garden.  

Remember to carry a reusable cup! There are lots of reusable coffee cups on the market, Ashortwalk make their rCup in Cornwall from recycled coffee cup waste! Although, most importantly, using something you already own is ALWAYS the most sustainable option.