recycle coffee grounds

How to Reuse and Recycle Your Coffee Grounds

Every pot and cup of coffee that’s brewed leaves behind a bunch of coffee grounds, and most people simply throw these in the garbage. With a little creativity, however, you can reuse small amounts of grounds that collect in the filter of your drip coffee machine or at the bottom of your French press coffee.

Here are some simple ways to benefit from your coffee grounds and be more sustainable with each beverage you brew:

1.    Add Nutrients to Your Garden’s Soil

Used coffee grounds are still rich in many nutrients, and they’re especially beneficial due to their high nitrogen content. Gardeners will know that nitrogen is one of the essential elements of fertilizers and is especially well-liked by green, leafy plants. Thus, your used coffee grounds can make a great addition to your garden’s soil. There are two ways to utilize your leftover grounds for gardening: add them to a compost pile or throw them on your soil. All brewed coffee is compostable, and both natural paper filters and used grounds can go into a compost pile.

Composting is an especially good way to reuse small amounts of grounds that are packaged in a sealed paper filter, such as those that come in recyclable coffee pods. You can utilize a tool like the Recycle a Cup® cutter to separate the pod easily. This allows you to remove the filter and grounds, which you can then add to your compost pile or soil. If you’re unsure how to compost coffee, don’t worry – the process is quite simple! All you need is a bin, shredded newspaper, dirt, and redworms. First, put the paper on the bottom of your container, and add the dirt and worms on top. Then, add organic material whenever you’re ready to dispose of it. There are more nuances to advanced composting, but getting started really is this easy.

If you have biodegradable coffee pods, the entire pod (not just the filter and grounds) can go into your compost bin or pile. However, if you’re using standard coffee cups, such as K-Cups®, you’ll have to dispose of them in another way. You may be wondering, “are K-Pods recyclable?” While these aren’t able to be recycled in their original state, the individual plastic pods and aluminum tops can be processed by most recycling facilities.

2.    Repel Insects

Many people don’t know that caffeine is a natural pesticide, and its role within the coffee plant is to keep insects from eating its leaves and cherries. Caffeine is effective against most insects, with the exception of the coffee borer beetle, which actually lives on the substance. Thus, coffee grounds can be used as a deterrent for almost all of the bugs in or near your home.

Even though a lot of caffeine is extracted as coffee brews, some still remains in leftover grounds. The amount will vary depending on your brewing method and how strong you make your coffee, but any amount can serve as an insect repellent. To take advantage of this unique characteristic, sprinkle your coffee grounds where you don’t want bugs to take up residence. You can place them inside or out, but most people don’t want coffee grounds scattered across their interior. Instead, try placing them along the exterior border of your house, where they’ll act as a perimeter that will keep pests from coming in. Plus, they’ll also fertilize any nearby plant life – it’s a win-win!

3.    Eliminate Undesirable Odors

In contrast to commercial products that merely mask unwanted smells, coffee grounds can actually counteract unpleasant odors. This is because the grounds absorb the odors of anything they’re near, which can be both a benefit and a drawback. In coffee shop settings, baristas must be careful that the perfumes they wear or any smells on their fingers don’t infiltrate open bags of beans. At home, however, you can use this characteristic to your advantage.

When left in an open-air container, the grounds will release nitrogen into the air. These molecules then bind with carbon and sulfur, which gives off that “rotten egg” smell. As a result, any unwanted odors will be reduced and neutralized. Coffee grounds continue to absorb odors even after they’re brewed, so you can use your leftovers to counteract unpleasant scents in your home. Simply leave an open container of used grounds near your garbage, under your sink, or in your garage for effective odor elimination. Additionally, for a portable solution, you can fill a sock or pair of tights with used coffee grounds, tie them, and place them wherever you need to eliminate smells. This is a great option for gym bags, drawers, shoes, and cars.

4.    Cleanse Your Skin

The abrasiveness of coffee grounds makes them adept at scrubbing dirty surfaces, and research shows that they might also have antimicrobial properties. These traits make coffee an especially good addition to skincare scrubs, and many commercially produced products even incorporate grounds!

In addition to removing dry skin, coffee scrubs are believed to treat cellulite. This is because the caffeine in coffee helps to dilate blood vessels, increasing blood flow and minimizing the appearance of skin dimples. While more research is needed to determine whether coffee scrubs can get rid of your cellulite, the exfoliating properties alone make it a worthwhile addition to your skincare routine.

You probably don’t want to use coffee grounds on their own to scrub your skin, but you can add them to almost any homemade scrub recipe. Just mix them into your favorite concoction until you reach your desired level of abrasiveness. Then, rub the scrub on your skin (avoiding sensitive areas like around the eyes) and rinse for a soft, smooth appearance.

In need of some recipe inspiration? We like mixing ½ cup coffee grounds with ¼ cup brown sugar and ¼ cup coconut or grapeseed oil.

5.    Scrub Your Pots, Pans, and Grill

The same characteristics that make coffee grounds a good addition to skincare scrubs also make them ideal for cleaning pots and pans. Even better, utilizing coffee grounds in this way allows you to minimize the use of chemicals throughout your home. For heavy-duty scrubbing, throw a handful of grounds onto the pot or pan that you’re cleaning. Then, use a standard sponge or dish brush to scrub.

This method is a particularly good use if you brew coffee with a French press or drip coffee maker, as you can simply dump the grounds on the dirtiest pan you have when you do the dishes. It’s also great for cleaning cast iron products, which you usually don’t want to use soap on.

Beyond pots and pans, you can also use coffee grounds to clean your grill. While grill brushes have stiff metal pieces that are effective at scrubbing, they can’t always remove all leftover food, dirt, and other materials on their own. Adding some coffee grounds to your brush can enhance its abrasiveness.

Looking for a way to make your morning coffee drinking a little eco-friendlier? After you’re done brewing your coffee, don’t just throw out your used grounds! Instead, reuse and recycle them, so you can benefit the environment and your daily life.

At Recycle a Cup®, we love coffee and the convenience of coffee pods – but what we don’t like is how most end up in landfills, as they’re not recyclable in their natural form. That’s why we created a product that cuts and separates used coffee pods, so they can be recycled and reused.



Nikki is an author and writer specializing in green living ideas and tips, adventure travel, upcycling, and all things eco-friendly. She's traveled the globe, swum with sharks and been bitten by a lion (fact). She lives in a tiny town with a fat cat and a very bad dog.

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