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  • Seoul Introduces Recycling System for Coffee Grounds

  • Press Releases SMG 91
    • The new recycling system for coffee grounds will be: separating coffee grounds at coffee houses → collecting the grounds by district offices→ recycling by companies. The SMG is looking for businesses to be in charge of the last step
    • High in calorific value, coffee grounds can be used in many ways, from compost and feedstuff at farms to eco-friendly construction materials
    • Recycling coffee grounds can reduce the cost of incineration and landfills by removing 53,000 tons of domestic waste. Also, it can cut greenhouse gas emissions and expenses on standard garbage bags

    SEOUL, SOUTH KOREA, December 23, 2021 – Seoul decided to introduce a recycling system for coffee grounds generated 145 tons a day at coffee shops. According to the Seoul Metropolitan Government (SMG), it will recycle the coffee grounds in many ways, such as bio-energy resources and compost. Doing so will allow the city government to cope with the domestic waste issues aggravated by increased coffee consumption.

    Currently, there are 13,516 coffee shops in Seoul. In sum, one out of five (19%) cafés in the country are centered in the capital. With the increased number of coffee shops and preferences for premium coffee, Korea’s coffee imports hit a record high of 176,648 tons in 2020.

    Coffee grounds can be turned into bioenergy resources as they are high in calorific value. In addition, they can be used as compost or feedstuff at farms, green construction materials, or even mushroom grow kits. Nonetheless, most coffee waste is incinerated or buried as it is difficult to collect them separately, and its demand is low. Household waste amounts to 53,000 tons a year due to such difficulties in recycling. And other expenses incurred by the coffee waste are burdening many. For example, coffee houses should pay for standard garbage bags to throw away coffee grounds, while district offices should pay for incineration and landfills.

    Since 2018, Seoul has been composting coffee by collecting and providing approximately 500 tons of coffee to farms. However, most of the waste was thrown away as domestic waste due to lack of demand.

    To tackle this issue, the SMG plans to offer incentives, such as certified marks, to induce cafés to separate and recycle their coffee grounds. At the same time, it will establish a system where district offices collect the grounds and stably resource recycling businesses.

    Seoul said that once the system is completed, it can protect the environment by reducing domestic waste and cutting 48,000 tons of greenhouse gases a year. Furthermore, participating coffee shops can reduce the standard garbage bags expenses. When district offices connect coffee ground collection to their self-help promotion centers, more jobs will be created for the vulnerable.

    Seoul is recruiting recycling businesses to handle the coffee waste by January 31. Also, the SMG will suggest ideas to improve the current collection and recycling system to facilitate coffee grounds recycling to the central government.

    For example, mandating makers or importers of coffee capsules, whose consumption is skyrocketing, collecting the coffee waste, or burning the wet coffee grounds from cafés with main fuels at thermoelectric power plants will be discussed.

    “This project will help us preserve the environment by recycling the coffee waste in numerous ways, reduce social costs of burning and burying of the waste, save on the money spent on garbage bags and create jobs for the vulnerable class,” said Yoo Yeon-Sik, Director General of Climate & Environment Headquarters of Seoul. “We will encourage every coffee shop to participate in the program.”

    Seoul Introduces Recycling System for Coffee Grounds
    Coffee grounds
    Coffee grounds used as mushroom grow kits Coffee grounds used as compost or feedstuff at farms