The Wonders of Used Coffee Grounds

I have two new reasons to love Starbucks aside from their classic café mocha: 1.) the new Starbucks card, which I can use as a debit card and rewards card whenever I purchase drinks, and 2.) the free used coffee grounds.

There’s a tiny shelf in every Starbucks store around the globe that says, “Grounds For You Garden: Free Coffee Grounds to Make Your Plants Even Happier.”


As part of their daily recycling efforts, Starbucks baristas scoop used coffee grounds into black plastic bags and place the 3-lb. packages on the shelves for customers to take home as they please. While the sign clearly suggests you use it for your greenery, I found other ways to recycle coffee grounds.

Option 1: Soil Fertilizer

If you’re into gardening, you can mix the used grounds into your soil with other compost materials such as banana peels or crushed eggshells. Unfortunately, my green-thumbed grandparents told me that used coffee grounds don’t really work well as fertilizer, but they’re okay as additives to increase your soil mass.

I now mix used coffee grounds into our flowerpots and grassy areas at home because I noticed that our soil is thinning out.

Option 2: Cat Litter

When I started rescuing stray cats this year (I now have 5), my biggest problem was keeping up with their potty training. I purchased a kitty litter box, which I have to clean up and refill everyday. I noticed I began spending a lot of money on kitty litter.

I could no longer afford to buy 10-lb. sacks of kitty litter every month, so I started doing online research about DIY kitty litter. After a few experiments, I discovered that I could mix baking soda and used coffee grounds into my cat litter. I don’t purchase as much cat litter as I used to, and the coffee grounds help neutralize the nasty smell that is cat poop. And no, my cats don’t mind the scent of coffee.

Option 3: Potpourri

There’s always something heartwarming about entering a coffee shop, especially those hole-in-the-wall types. The permeating smell of fresh brews makes it a great place to hang out, and for writers such as myself, a venue to help the creative juices flow.

To give my bedroom the same kind of ambiance, I fill up a jar or any container with used coffee grounds and place it on a table. The scent of coffee fills up my room for days and I throw out the coffee grounds after about a week.



1. If you need a lot of used coffee grounds, go directly to the barista and ask if you may have a whole sack. They’d be more than willing to give it to you. “We use up about three huge sacks of coffee a day,” a barista of Starbucks Molito told me when he helped me carry a sack of grounds to my car. “That’s why when a customer asks for used grounds, we ask them if they’re willing to take a whole sack, because otherwise we’ll just throw them out,” he said in Tagalog.

2. Keep them dry. The used grounds are mostly likely wet, so open the bag immediately and lay them out to dry under the sun before mixing them into your cat litter. I noticed that the moist coffee grounds develop molds in just 3 or more days. Drying them under the sun before use prevents molds and worms from building up.

3. Spread the word. Tell your fellow cat lovers and eco geeks about used coffee grounds and see if you can find other ways to reduce, reuse, and recycle.

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