Final Map- Darlinghurst Waste Solution



We studied the Darlinghurst local area to assess waste and associated issues arising from that waste. With the numerous cafes, restaurants and various other businesses purveying food and beverage in the area, food and other organic waste was identified as a key waste concern to be addressed. Food and other organic waste makes up a large proportion – on average 50% – of waste being sent to landfill where it produces methane gas, which is 21 times more potent than carbon dioxide as a greenhouse gas emission, contributing to climate change.

‘Recaf’: The Business

For the development of our products, we focused on conceiving of an alternative use for the residual coffee grounds disposed of after the production of abundant cups of coffee dispensed in the area, to save it from landfill and the environmental damage it causes there.

The primary use of coffee grounds is in the dispensing of coffee and after they have fulfilled that purpose, it is thought that they have reached their end of life and are hence directly disposed of as waste. However, we have found that used coffee grounds have properties which allow them to be productively utilised in numerous ways, not only saving the grounds from landfill, but also effectively supplanting other unsustainable materials which would otherwise be used.


  • The first product we have created is a disposable takeaway coffee cup, essentially reusing the residual material from the production of coffee to contain the coffee at the same point. A group of Canadian designers have recently created a modest sized piece of machinery which, through a simple process of heating and pressure moulding, is able to produce a takeaway coffee cup made from a composite of up to 95% coffee grounds with paper pulp and polylactide resin (made from corn derived dextrose). This coffee cup is also fully biodegradable and compostable.

  • Our next product is an ashtray. Through a similar process, an ashtray can be produced from a composite of up to 95% recycled coffee grounds, bound with an organic resin and a flame retardant additive. As coffee grounds possess odour-absorbing properties, they act as a deodoriser in the ashtray, diminishing the stench of cigarette butts.

  • The same composite of materials used for the ashtray can be heat and pressure moulded to form a plant pot. The coffee grounds in the pot function as a repellent for ants, snails and slugs as well as warding off cats, serving to protect the life and health of the plant contained.

We have also found several cosmetic applications in which used coffee grounds can be employed.

  • An invigorating body scrub is made from the recycled coffee grounds, combined with raw sugar, vanilla extract, cinnamon and jojoba oil. The body scrub exfoliates and softens the skin and the caffeine content of the grounds has been found to be effective in helping to reduce cellulite.

  • A gentle exfoliating and renewing facial mask is made from the recycled coffee grounds, salt, honey, brown sugar and egg white, with grapefruit seed extract used as a natural preservative. This mask is helpful in brightening the skin and also reducing facial acne.

  • Additionally, we designed a a small dispenser of multi-purpose coffee grounds for the use of the general public. These coffee grounds in these containers are versatile and can be used as a personal deodoriser for cupboards and refridgerators to cigarette butt holders. It can also be used for the garden as a fertiliser or even a scrubbing agent for pots, pans or hands. The container is portable and can be stored away quite neatly to give of the coffee aroma.

A Social Enterprise- Incorporating Rough Edges

We propose that the collection of used coffee grounds from local businesses and the manufacture of these products could be undertaken by the disadvantaged and impoverished members who attend the local Rough Edges community outreach centre, located on Victoria Street, Darlinghurst, under the supervision of the employees and volunteers who run the centre. This would allow the attending members to productively contribute as well as help integrate into the community, a step towards an improved life. It will allow them a sense of responsibility and achievement in this task.

The products produced would be sold at a modest price, covering operational and material costs with a small profit contributing to the outreach centre’s works in benefit of those who attend. The aim of production is principally as a service to the local community – both in terms of reducing waste and in assisting the underprivileged – as opposed to generating large revenues.

The products would firstly be offered for sale to the local businesses contributing their used coffee grounds to the project, then to the wider community through the Rough Edges community outreach centre and at the weekly Saturday morning sustainable markets held at Taylor Square.



The machinery required to produce the takeaway coffee cups, ashtrays and plant pots and thesimple kitchen utensils required to produce the cosmetic products would necessitate a small investment. This could be supplied through a grant by the City of Sydney Council or could be raised through donations driven by St. Johns Anglican church who support the centre next door. The machinery would take up minimal space – it was originally designed to be housed beneath the bench of a café, below the coffee machine.

Other ways to recycle coffee grounds:

Through our research, we have discovered multiple other applications for used coffee grounds, some requiring advanced processes, others are simple home remedies.

  • “Curface” is a biocomposite material developed by Re-worked (a UK-based design group) in conjunction with Axiom Polymers (a UK plastics reprocessor), composed of 30% recycled coffee grounds and 70% recycled high-impact polystyrene from waste electrical and electronic equipment with fire retardant additives. The material has been used to fabricate furniture items including chairs and coffee tables with a faint coffee aroma.
  • Taiwan based fabric manufacturer Singtex has developed and patented a process which converts recycled coffee grounds and recycled polyethylene terephthalate (PET) bottles into yarn used in the production of apparel fabrics which are fast drying, provide odour control and UV protection.
  • Spent coffee grounds contain 11-20% oil by weight which, through an inexpensive and efficient transesterification process using methanol and potassium hydroxide, can be converted into biodiesel fuel with the benefit of being more stable than conventional biodiesel owing to coffee’s high antioxidant content. The residual solids from the conversion are able to be converted into ethanol or used as compost.
  • Eco-friendly fire-logs can be produced using recycled coffee grounds with natural-based waxes generating 25% more energy and emitting 96 percent less residue after combustion, 87 percent less carbon monoxide, 86 percent less creosote deposits, and 83 percent less particulate matter than standard fire-logs.

Simple home remedies include:
  • Recycled coffee grounds can be added to compost or worm farms.
  • Recycled coffee grounds can be used as a fertiliser sprinkled around the garden as they are nutrient-rich and thrive in acidic soil.
  • Moist recycled coffee grounds can be used to grow mushrooms.
  • Recycled coffee grounds can be used as a deodoriser, placed in a bowl or a sachet in the fridge/freezer (or any other areas such as cupboards or drawers where there are unwanted odours).
  • Recycled coffee grounds are extremely abrasive and acidic and can be used as a cleaner to scrub hands, pots, pans and any other greasy and dirty stain-resistant items (also removes odour).
  • Recycled coffee grounds can be used as a drain cleaner by pouring half a cup down the drain immediately followed by approximately five cups of boiling water.
  • Recycled coffee grounds mixed with water can be rubbed on pets for a shiny coat, additionally acting as a flea-repellent.

Other waste management strategies for the Darlinghurst area:

We have also conceived of various other strategies to address overall waste issues in Darlinghurst:
  • City of Sydney Council should take over waste and recycling services for local businesses, incorporating the cost into the business’ council rates. This allows the provision of recycling services to all businesses as are provided to residents. Additional or larger recycling bins would be provided to businesses who requested them at no extra cost, however increased rates would be applied to businesses who required additional general waste bins, encouraging businesses to reduce general waste and increase recycling efforts.
  • Street waste disposal bins should include compartments for recycling disposal.
  • Establishing a Council operated community food garden at Green Park adjacent to St Vincent’s Hospital. Local volunteers as well as members attending the Rough Edges community outreach centre would be responsible for the upkeep of the garden with the produce used by the centre to provide meals for the homeless. Alternatively, produce could be sold at the local weekly organic market at Taylor Square, with proceeds going towards the centre’s works. This again would allow a productive activity and sense of responsibility and accomplishment for the members attending the centre and a way of integrating into the community.
  • Establishing enclosed compost bins at numerous convenient locations throughout Darlinghurst allowing for the disposal of organic waste by residents and businesses. The compost would be collected by local volunteers as well as members attending the Rough Edges community outreach centre for use at the community food garden.
  • The Council should hold a competition open to local students, individuals residents and businesses (there are a plethora of design students and businesses in the area) to devise an original and effective campaign educating locals about the effects of waste and ways to reduce waste, providing publicity and possibly a small financial reward to the winning campaign which will then be implemented.