Swaffham cafes and allotment holders help Costa wake up to recycled coffee potential

A collaboration between four Swaffham cafes and local allotment holders has helped one of Britain's biggest companies wake up to the environmental potential of used coffee grounds.

The idea of using the waste product for compost was the brainchild of Charlie Cousens, restaurant manager at Stratton's Hotel, during a brain storming session about reducing the business's environmental impact.

At first the hotel dried out the spent coffee grounds naturally, bagged them up in their original packaging and offered them to guests to use on their gardens.

But as the bundles piled up, the hotel contacted Swaffham allotment group Scalga, which added the Market Cross, Legends and Costa to the scheme, and starting distributing the materials to members.

Vanessa Scott, director at Strattons, said: 'This is a great way to reduce a significant organic waste stream from our onsite composting and gives the benefits to a group who totally understand and appreciate its value. I am also a fan of this natural treatment for cellulite and have been testing it since Charlie showed me her idea.'

Scalga secretary Christine Wright jokes she is known as 'the bucket lady' as she walks the streets collecting the grounds before dividing them into 2kg packets that four deliverers pass on to allotment holders each month.

She said: 'I layer it with grass cuttings, leaves and roots and if you keep turning it, it will heat the compost up and clear off any fungus and any weed seeds.

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'I'm just about keeping up with demand. If anyone else wants it I will have to find a new supplier – we might need to expand the scheme.'

She said that during the scheme's first 12 weeks she has collected more than 300kg of used coffee grounds, which she said also act as a natural defence against slugs and snails when mixed with crushed egg shells and spread around the plants.

Now both Strattons and Mrs Wright have contacted hotel and catering giant Whitbread, which owns Costa Coffee, and received positive feedback about rolling the scheme out nationally.

In an message to Mrs Wright, the company's head of corporate responsibility Claire Hornsby said: 'I have forwarded your email to the Costa Corporate Responsibility team to see if it is something we can promote nationally.

'We also own Premier Inn and a number of restaurants, such as Beefeater and Brewers Fayre, who all sell Costa Coffee, so I will also discuss with these teams to see if we can introduce it to these sites too.'

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