Reduce, Reuse, Reground
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Reground turns ground coffee waste into a resource.
Story

Reduce, Reuse, Reground

by Grace Potter See Profile
Melbourne VIC, Australia
18th Mar 2019
Reduce, Reuse, Reground

Coffee is one of Australia’s biggest crutches. Our flat whites and piccolos are world-renowned. With 75% of people drinking at least one cup of coffee every day and statistics estimating about 9,700 cafés and coffee shops in Australia, that’s a lot of leftover coffee grounds that are carelessly disposed of with our frivolous single-use attitudes.

Luckily, Ninna Larsen and Kaitlin Reid have come up with an innovative business model to combat the problem of Australia’s coffee grounds ending up in landfill. Their business, Reground, operates locally out of Melbourne. After completing a Bachelors’ degree in Design, Culture and Economics from the University of Southern Denmark in 2012, Ninna moved to Melbourne and worked as a barista. It was then that she was confronted with the problem.

“I, as a barista, was creating all this waste myself. The amounts were so huge. I thought, this needs to be addressed. At that point in time, I wasn’t necessarily looking to start a business, but I had a commitment to the fact that all of that waste, which I had learnt was going to landfill, needed to not go to landfill.”

In 2014 she began Reground to provide a sustainable solution to café owners to reduce their impact, and two years later was joined by business and marketing expert Kaitlin.

“For me, the challenge was to build a business and not create a project that I would have to commit to forever. I needed to know that whatever I started and put my energy towards could live on without me as well,” Ninna explains. “That’s why it turned into a business, and that’s why it’s so imperative that we are sustained in our business model and not just by grants.”

The mission of Reground is simple: to turn all waste into a resource.

“We do that by educating both the hospitality industry and the general public on how to use organic waste in their gardens and its nutrients for their soil. It’s about identifying waste streams that are currently ending up in landfill and redirecting them so it can also be used as a resource.”

The Reground concept is simple, efficient and locally focused. Their van does five runs a week and collects around 16 bins full of coffee grounds. They swap them and leave the cafes with a fresh bin, taking the full bins directly to a home gardener or a community garden, depending on who the end user is that day.

“We don’t store the coffee, we don’t treat the coffee, we don’t do anything with the coffee. We’re just facilitating the coffee being redirected out of landfill and into the hands of passionate people who want to turn it into a resource.”

Seven Seeds Specialty Coffee in Melbourne have been using Ninna’s service for a few years and have halved the size of their waste bins. Business costs have improved, but General Manager Marcus says the biggest impact has been the huge reduction in waste that they send to landfill. They have moved from using 1,110lt bins to 600lt bins. If every café in Australia was able to cut their waste in half, it would make a huge impact in the grand scheme of organic waste.

Niina says that her biggest challenge when it comes to growing their business and making certain business processes more sustainable is changing behaviour. Reground’s concept is so effective and mutually beneficial, it makes you wonder why no one has done it before. New, sustainable practices must battle the tide of decades of societal conditioning and rigid behaviour and behaviours that work well enough. As Ninna says, the challenge is in the ‘It might work for you but it doesn’t work for the planet’ conversations.

The notion that the toxic gases produced by a business’ organic waste in landfill is a business owner’s responsibility is only slowly reaching mainstream consciousness. We are moving towards a society where people are aware of the impact their waste has on the environment, which opens up an abundance of opportunities for innovative businesses to leap on.

Ninna says that motivation is still a challenge .”I think the answer is giving them a reason to change, which is community,” she says. “If your community expects you to do something or rewards you for doing something, they’ll support your café more if you actually are engaged. People think climate change is so huge that no one can actually do anything, no individual can actually do anything to change anything. That’s just not true.”

In terms of business growth, Reground has a waitlist until December, proving that there’s no shortage of locals who are eager to make a positive change in their business. In the beginning, there was a focus on educating the gardeners on organic waste. Now, Reground’s following within the gardening community in Melbourne is so solid that they’re selling it for them.

“The response to the business has been that it’s a no-brainer. I love that people think ‘of course I should do that’. What we’re creating is peer pressure, and that’s what’s needed.”

Reground will continue to grow and spark social change through continuing education which, as Ninna says, is crucial to actual change. In coming years, expanding to Sydney may be in the cards, along with setting up ‘Remote Reground’, which will be a program where people from remote places and other towns across Australia can set up a similar model to Reground.

“We will eventually be looking at organic waste in general, because that is the most harmful, but the Reground model is looking for two things. It has to be hypo-local, and it has to be single strain. We need to collect waste that we can divert to a hypo-local end use. There are not a lot of compost facilities that are very local so we are looking at building up more local compost facilities, because anything that’s big is not sustainable,” Ninna says.

It’s this middle-ground that’s important for businesses making sustainable impact – growing their idea so it reaches communities, but not growing too big that it’s no longer sustainable. Whilst the business exists to redirect waste and help reduce the impact of other businesses, it is also inspiring people to also make their own contribution to the sustainability of the planet. Whether directly or indirectly, this effect is changing the individual attitudes to reflect mindfulness and proactiveness, which is ultimately what we need for communities to band together and enact sustainable change.

Support Reground.

Reground
Grace Potter

About Grace Potter

Grace is a Communications and Media graduate with a major in Journalism and a passion for storytelling. She resides by the coast where she enjoys dog-watching, wine and cheese and spinning a good yarn.

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Our Environment
Melbourne VIC, Australia
18th March 2019

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