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Your used coffee pods are being recycled to grow organic veggies in Singapore

Nespresso's sustainability drive has resulted in a partnership with a vertical farm in Lim Chu Kang. Around 500kg of cai xin and bok choy are harvested every day.

Your used coffee pods are being recycled to grow organic veggies in Singapore

Fresh organic Singapore vegetables are grown using compost made from recycled Nespresso ground coffee. (Art: Chern Ling)

Small, convenient and available in a variety of options, single serve capsules are how many of us get our coffee fix every day. But have you thought about what happens to that aluminium pod and its contents once all that java goodness has gone into your cup?

Environmentalists have long highlighted the wastefulness of these coffee pods, pointing out the sheer volume that ends up in landfills and incinerators around the world.

But in Singapore, the contents of all those pods of Ristretto, Arpeggio and more are being recycled in a very tangible way: To grow fresh vegetables in our very own backyard.

Yes, made-in-Singapore, pesticide-free, organically grown veggies –available for purchase at FairPrice Finest supermarkets.

Three kinds vegetables are grown at Sky Greens - Xiao Bai Cai, mini Cai Xin and mini Moi Bai. (Photo: Genevieve Loh)

Under Nespresso’s One Pod At A Time sustainability campaign, which is in its fourth year running, coffee lovers are encouraged to return their used capsules at any of the capsule coffee maker’s stores or hand them over to the courier when ordering capsules online.

READ: How Singapore’s restaurateurs are rising to the challenges of sustainability

Once transported to A1 Environment recycling plant in Woodlands, the coffee grounds are separated from their aluminium pods and delivered directly to Sky Greens, a low-carbon  vertical farm in Lim Chu Kang. 

The separated aluminium undergoes further recycling, often up-cycled into other products.

At Sky Greens, the recycled Nespresso coffee grounds are mixed with manure pellets from local farms and vegetable waste to make fertiliser and organic compost. Three types of vegetables are currently grown with ground coffee compost – mini cai xin, xiao bai cai (bok choy) and mini moi bai.

Every day, around 500kg of vegetables is harvested, which are then sold at FairPrice Finest stores.

The Nespresso coffee grounds in the compost also serve as a natural pest repellent and helps reduce water use on the farm. (Photo: Genevieve Loh)

Sky Greens is the first in Singapore to secure a new national standard for organic produce grown in or near urban environments, recently receiving an SS 632 Certification at a ceremony attended by Singapore's Environment and Water Resources Minister Masagos Zulkifli.

The farm grows 10 times as many vegetables as traditional farming, using up to 9m-tall tiered towers holding rows of Asian vegetables. To avoid pesticides, Sky Greens started to produce mini-vegetables in 2017.

Sky Greens is Singapore’s first farm to secure a new national standard for organic primary produce grown in or near an urban area. (Photo: Nespresso)

Andrew Law from Sky Greens told CNA Lifestyle that the coffee grounds in the compost also serve as a natural pest repellent and helps reduce water use on the farm.

“The use of coffee grounds in the compost mixture improves the PH value of the soil and helps with water retention,” he said. “We can now use less water for the plants”.

“The coffee grounds are acidic, which really helps keep away the pests,” he added.

Using the Nespresso ground coffee compost to fertilise the vegetables at Sky Greens (Photo: Genevieve Loh)

Jack Ng, Sky Greens’ chief executive officer, said in a statement that the farm is excited to continue delivering innovative solutions to urban agriculture in land-scarce Singapore.

“This partnership with Nespresso to reuse recycled coffee grounds into our compost mix not only ensures minimal wastage of food resources, but also has a low-carbon efficiency and is one that is extremely cost-efficient.”

​​​​​​​According to Nespresso Singapore, Nespresso’s recycling rate stands at approximately 27.7 per cent globally, with Singapore contributing to this figure through both its consumer and business-to-business offerings and recycling touch points.

“We are proud to be partnering with Sky Greens, the innovators in the low-carbon, vertical farming space,” said Han May, Country Manager of Nespresso Singapore in the same statement. “By working together we will give our recycled coffee grounds a second life as compost, and this will encourage consumers in Singapore to recycle and realise that the last drop isn’t the last use.”

Source: CNA/gl