the coffee conundrum

Words by Olivia Finlayson
Pictures by Matthew Kovacs

I’ll skip stating the obvious regarding Melbourne’s coffee obsession. We’re fiends, we know it, and we’re proud of it. Our collective habit, however, comes at a cost that few consider. Once we’ve thrown back our morning fix, do we ever think about the coffee grounds’ afterlife? Other than into a few packs of Frank Body Scrub here and there, where does it all go?


Working as a barista, Ninna and friend Kaitlin knew the answer: landfill. Like the common soiled mattress, coffee grounds are abandoned to landfill in alarming volumes to become Mother Nature’s headache. Grounds, however, have one up on the dump-dwelling mattress in terms of planet-damaging qualities: organic waste turns into toxic methane gas. Melburnians alone pump 5500 tonnes of coffee-born methane gas into the atmosphere each year. And how many of us are aware that methane gas is 20-40 times more potent than carbon pollution belched from cars?


Witnesses to mountains of coffee grounds heaped in the general waste bin daily and disturbed by this reality, Ninna and Kaitlin began redirecting the nutrient-rich grounds one bin at a time to a single community garden, and Reground was born.

Now servicing 20 cafes, Reground delivers coffee waste to community gardens and home gardeners around Melbourne with the aim of transforming the city into one big sprawling and sustainable urban farm. Reground’s complimentary service sees green thumbs using landfill-diverted grounds to compost, farm mushrooms and nurture worms. In doing so, the women behind the operation hope to stoke conversations across the city about how organic matter can be utilised for the benefit of all Melburnians and beyond.


To date, Reground can proudly claim 26 tonnes of coffee grounds diverted from landfill. The waste is ferried in a hired van, a costly element that also limits Reground’s ability to boost their efforts. The solution? Reground seeks its very own van, an addition to its team that would see capacity skyrocket from 1200kg of grounds diverted weekly to 5500kg. That’s 5500kg of waste transformed into an earth-nourishing resource every week. Whoa…

Every Melbourne coffee junkie plays a part in the problem, but how fortunate we are to have two women spearheading such a simple solution and grinding out all the legwork. To get behind Reground is to take action against climate change in a practical, logical and near-effortless way – simply donate to the initiative’s crowd-funding campaign, familiarise yourself with the motivation behind its mission (and the mission of like-minded organisations) and learn, bit by bit, how easy it can be to lead a more sustainable and planet-friendly existence.

Learn more at

Support Reground, donate to their Pozible crowd-funding campaign.

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