Grounds for Recycling: caffeinating Glasgow’s journey towards net zero

By Rebecca Ricketts, Senior Project Advisor, Circular Glasgow, Plate up for Glasgow and Grounds for Recycling Campaign Lead

CleanShot 2023-07-16 at 21.09.57@2x

June 2023

As Scotland slowly started coming out of the pandemic, 2021 saw the launch of Plate up for Glasgow – Scotland’s first hospitality industry led campaign. Scheduled to coincide with COP26, the campaign aimed to highlight and encourage Glasgow city-based hospitality businesses to act upon the global issue of food waste and its impact on climate change.

Over that five-week period, a total of 41 venues took part, serving up more than 4,192 low waste ‘Food Hero’ dishes and drinks – preventing ingredients from ending up in food waste bins. The campaign reached an audience of over 55.5 million, at home and abroad, which felt both humbling and energising. Furthermore, 88% of participating venues committed to keeping their campaign dish or drink on the menu in the future and 92% were keen to participate in future collaborative and sustainable initiatives.

Recognised as a finalist in Scotland’s Environmental Awards, the VIBES, it was clear that Plate up for Glasgow had a positive short-term and long-term impact in reducing Glasgow hospitality’s food waste output.

Keen to ensure the momentum was sustained, our attention turned to the ‘what’s next?’

Following the original Plate up for Glasgow campaign, most venues told us that they found used coffee grounds one of the most challenging food waste items to dispose of responsibly. Coffee grounds can quickly fill food waste bins, and in some cases, used coffee grounds from smaller cafes do end up in landfill. 

They’re heavy, wet, and there’s always plenty of them, with leftover coffee grounds having a knock-on impact on our climate. That’s right. Our daily coffee fix might keep us all connected and caffeinated, but it does have its own hidden, and harmful, waste stream. Coffee grounds, if not processed correctly, emit greenhouse gases, a key cause of climate change. 

Reflecting on the success of Plate up for Glasgow, there was no denying that the global lens of COP26 helped immensely when it came to leveraging greater awareness and participation in the campaign.  The conundrum we now had was identifying a second high profile event that might be well placed to help profile the issue around used coffee grounds. The answer? The 2023 UCI Cycling World Championships, billed as being the “biggest cycling event ever.”

Perplexed by the connection?  Let me explain…

Cycling and coffee have been tightly linked for centuries, and there’s no sign of that changing any time soon. If anything, the bond is stronger than ever! Which makes perfect sense when we think about it. Tasty? Check! Stimulant that gives energy and can boost performance (legally!)? Check! Tight knit communities that promote a sense of passion, sharing and belonging? Triple check!

Through Grounds for Recycling, we hope to raise the added environmental benefits of this historic connection, by repurposing used coffee grounds and encouraging greater participation in active travel around the city.

How are we planning to bring this match made in heaven to life?

Ground for Recycling is an innovative hospitality and tourism led, twenty-day campaign, launched in the run up to the 2023 UCI Cycling World Championships and delivered throughout it. Led by Glasgow Chamber of Commerce, in partnership with Glasgow Life and Zero Waste Scotland, the campaign aims to encourage our city’s businesses and citizens to adopt more innovative and circular options for dealing with used coffee grounds.

Grounds for Recycling’s vision is to encourage everyone to act upon the wider global issue of food waste and its devastating impact on our climate – supporting the Scottish Government’s bold ambitions to reduce food waste by 33% by 2025, Glasgow’s own city goal of becoming carbon neutral by 2030 – and fully circular by 2045. Not a lot then!

Launching on Tuesday 25 July, coffee lovers across the city are invited to jump on a bike (or alternative form of active travel) and visit any one of Grounds for Recycling’s participating venues.

Having pledged to divert all used coffee grounds from food waste bins during the campaign period, participating venues will see their used coffee grounds delivered to Glasgow’s Botanic Gardens by e-cargo bike. From there, they’ll be turned into compost to help build ecosystems that capture carbon, rehabilitate soil, and support biodiversity.

With over 60 participating venues, including Gordon Street Coffee, The Good Coffee Cartel, Drygate and Emirates Arena, housing the Sir Chris Hoy Velodrome, Grounds for Recycling will also offer advice on how to repurpose your own used coffee grounds, both at work and in the home. From fun and engaging toolkits, to thought pieces from global leaders and case studies on innovative Glasgow business who’ve turned used coffee into profits, you’ll come away brimming with ideas for how to tackle food waste.

Why not take a look at our participating Grounds for Recycling venues? And, when you pop in for a coffee* between 25 July – 13 August, you’ll be helping to “make a difference one coffee at a time!”

You can also help spread the word by sharing your pictures and thoughts on your socials using #groundsforrecycling. And don’t worry if you’re not a coffee lover – there are plenty of other tasty treats on the menus, so please feel free to lend your support however you choose.

*Don’t forget to take along your re-useable cup and benefit from a 50p reduction on the cost of your coffee.  Just make sure to check the venue profiles to confirm that they’re participating in this reduction scheme before heading out with your cup.

If you’re a business and would like to support a longer-term solution for our city’s used coffee grounds, please click here.  To learn more about how the circular economy might benefit your organisation, please contact me on:

Thanks to partners and funders