Reuses of many kinds have been explored for coffee grounds, the nitrogen-rich, nearly-pH-neutral byproduct of coffee brewing, and even for coffee pulp, the natural byproduct of coffee production at the origin level as fleshy coffee cherries are reduced to their seeds.
Agronomists, stewards of the environment and opportunistic entrepreneurs have devised many ways to divert these millions of tons of potential waste from landfills or groundwater, most commonly converting them for uses such as compost, bio-energy, or even food products such as coffee flour or cascara-based drinks.
Fewer formalized reuses have been devised for coffee chaff, the bits of super-thin dried skin that fly off of coffee during the roasting process. While all commercial coffee roasting machines have mechanisms for collecting and containing chaff, it remains a flyweight nuisance typically headed from the roastery to the waste stream, despite many existing examples of reuses such as compost, farm animal bedding, bio-energy, livestock food, etc.
As one of the largest coffee roasters in the United States, Massimo Zanetti Beverage USA surely collects mountains of the stuff at its production headquarters in Suffolk, Va. The company — representing coffee brands including Hills Bros., Chock full o’Nuts, Segafredo Zanetti, Kauai Coffee, MJB, and Chase & Sanborn — has now entered into an agreement with Minnesota-based JavaCycle to supply its chaff for repurposing as a packaged, branded garden fertilizer.
JavaCycle has been formulating an organic blend of fertilizer using chaff as a primary component, citing its nitrogen richness and water absorbency characteristics as optimal for indoor and outdoor garden applications. The company now has its product on shelves at numerous nurseries, garden centers and groceries in the Upper Midwest, and it is currently negotiating with numerous other retail channels and national retailers.
“With over 32 million pounds of coffee chaff generated per year in the U.S. alone, our team is working to find innovative uses for this material and other coffee waste,” JavaCycle Founder and CEO James Curren, who also happens to be a longtime coffee roaster, said in an announcement of the MZB partnership. “With plenty of ideas and several new products in development, we are excited to be taking these first steps with MZB.”
For MZB’s part, the deal reflects a push toward improved sustainability efforts led by the company’s recent launch of fully compostable K-cup pods. Available for MZB’s primary coffee brands and through private-label services offered by the roasting giant, the pods are made with Toronto-based Club Coffee’s PurPod100, which has been certified as fully compostable by the Biodegradable Products Institute.
MZB and JavaCycle did not disclose the terms of the partnership.