We first crossed paths with Ninna and Kaitlin back in late 2016 when they were just getting started with Reground; a company built around repurposing used coffee grounds from local cafes. They've grown just a *little* since we first met them so we wanted to catch up with them to hear a bit more about their journey and the next steps in the world of sustainability.
What was it that led you to start a business based around the repurpose of waste?
Reground started when Ninna was working as a barista in Brunswick East. Pouring ground coffee into the general waste bin every single day she then found out where that was going and felt obliged to try and change the system. Learning that this is, in fact, a beautiful resource that can help amend our soil and grow quality vegetables but that it mostly ends in the landfill, turning to toxic gas in our atmosphere, sparked Reground.
Reground is an attempt to leave a positive mark on the environment and create a good impact. Our mission is to turn waste into a resource and see mindset and behaviour follow that change.
Can you tell us about the community that has developed around you since starting Reground?
Reground is built on community, by the community and for the community. We have been lucky enough to truly witness behavioural change, which is the reason we exist. The start of the journey was about educating - educating cafe’s that this is a resource that doesn’t need to go into the bin and is doing harm to the environment but also educating gardeners that this resource is great for their soil, worms, plants and compost.
We have gone from fervently searching for end users, or gardeners, to having a waiting list. This is the beauty of working with the community. If we were taking this to a composting facility we wouldn’t have seen hundreds of people’s mindsets change around this ‘waste’. It wouldn't be ending up in the landfill but would still be 'out of sight out of mind'.
Instead, we have brought transparency to the forefront and used this to connect the seemingly disconnected communities of coffee - cafe owners, baristas, coffee drinkers and community and home gardeners.
What types of initiatives come from the end users of Reground?
Delivering coffee to end users is the favourite part of our job, these are the people who are truly changing the world by keeping resources out of the landfill and using them to grow their own food, food for their community.
We are constantly learning from our end users. Stuart in Eltham, for example, has bought a cement mixer to more efficiently mix together his compost elements, he makes his own biochar, and loves a monthly delivery of coffee - a lot of Allpress lattes are sitting under his Apricot trees that’s for sure!
The common denominator between Reground end-users, being it volunteer-led community gardens, a retired individual or young family with chickens making the most of their Preston backyard, is being resourceful. Being connected to the soil, the seasons, the resources that feed their garden, is a requirement and pushes them to determine the most efficient way of working. We can all learn from this in our fast-paced, disconnected lives.
"...a lot of Allpress lattes are sitting under his Apricot trees, that’s for sure!"
What has been the most rewarding moment since beginning this journey?
Witnessing first-hand behaviour change take place. We set ourselves a very challenging task, aiming to use coffee diversion as a platform to change people’s mindsets on waste. In Australia, we do have an ‘out of sight, out of mind’ mentality and this has been a barrier for Reground but one we are overcoming.
To witness over the last two years more cafe’s coming to Reground searching for a solution, more people reaching out wanting to join us on our mission, more end users wanting to use this resource in their garden, more coffee drinkers supporting Reground cafes and more opportunities for waste diversion present itself to us, is the biggest reward and what keeps us going every single day.
We have diverted over 154 tonnes of coffee from landfill, this is 4.9 million coffees! We believe to see change happen you need to physically get out there and do something. We are truly proud that with our community we have achieved and are excited for the next part of the journey.
"The circular economy is the future, where our products are not made from new then thrown away but where everything is put back into the system and remade."
Where do you see the future of repurposing waste leading?
We believe that the future of waste will rely on us working together. We are stronger if we collaborate rather than work as individuals and businesses. We have a real opportunity in Australia right now to innovate on our current waste system, to demand change from our government and to make change happen on an individual level, as a community.
You summarised it in the question - the future of waste is in repurposing! The circular economy is the future, where our products are not made from new then thrown away but where everything is put back into the system and remade. This requires collaboration, resourcefulness and innovation as individuals and in business and is very exciting!
If we work together and individually say no to single-use plastic for example, or support businesses doing the right thing like sending their coffee back to the soil, use our business buying power to support repurposed products, lobby our government to provide us with these solutions, then we will see the positive impact of a society working together and we will see just how many resources we have in our waste.
1. Worms and compost! Your food scraps don’t need to end in the landfill, Even if you live in an apartment you can give a lot of your food scraps to worms, you can go to being a parent of 1000! Their castings are gold for a gardener so even if you don’t have a garden you can share the love. Make sure you put some carbon in there too - egg cartons and toilet rolls are good for that.
2. Have coffee in. It is such a beautiful opportunity to take a moment for ourselves - it reduces the waste of the cup and is like stealing a moment in time! And if you can’t, go the reusable cup all the way.
3. Use your buying power. We have so much power every single day with the products we choose - think of everything you’ve spent money on this week and the businesses behind those products or services. Choose to put your dollars toward the ones that are diverting their coffee from landfill, supporting local, minimising single-use plastic, sourcing quality non-harmful ingredients. We as customers have the power!