Millions of cups of coffee grounds from Neste K service stations as raw material for a circular economy project – first of its kind in the world

Kesko and Berner started a pilot for a pioneering circular economy cooperation scheme in January 2022 where coffee grounds from Neste K service stations are used to make Pirkka home gardening products. Now, the first test batch of earth for growing has been processed from coffee grounds, and the practice will be expanded for use at all Neste K service stations.

For many Finns, a stop at a service station means a refreshing coffee break. Millions of cups of coffee are brewed at Neste K service stations every year, which means that huge amounts of coffee grounds also accumulate in biowaste. The use of coffee as a fertiliser for plants and flowers is a hack familiar to many home gardeners. In the cooperation model between Neste K service stations and Berner, this old hack is turned into a world-class act of sustainability when tens of thousands of kilos of coffee grounds are put to use by processing them into raw material for Pirkka home gardening products.

“In the K Group, we promote circular economy in an open-minded manner. The project is unique and, as far as we know, the first of its kind in the world,” says Timo Jäske, Vice President of Sustainability for K Group’s grocery trade division.

The first batch of earth is already in test use

The cooperation model was developed at ten Neste K service stations during the pilot launched at the beginning of this year. A test batch of earth for growing has been prepared from the coffee grounds collected from the pilot stations at the Saarijärvi plant used by Berner. The suitability of the test batch for growing will be tested in a consumer panel made up of the K Group’s customers later this year.

You can also find a pot of new earth for growing at the Neste K Linnatuuli service station, where both the staff and customers enthusiastically watch the growth of the lettuce planted in the earth. The father of the idea is Seppo Lauer, retailer at Neste K Linnatuuli, who was involved in the project pilot. “I realised that huge amounts of coffee grounds are disposed as organic waste every day. Collecting coffee grounds has been easy as part of the station’s everyday routine. Our customers have been pleasantly surprised when they have heard that the grounds left from the precious raw material are now used to the full,” says Lauer.

Journey of coffee grounds from the coffee machine to store shelves

Coffee grounds with filter bags are collected from Neste K service stations as part of normal reverse logistics to the central warehouse of K Group’s grocery trade division in Hakkila, Vantaa. The filter bags are put to good use at the same time, because together with the Finnish fibre hemp added to the material, they make the dense material airier and thus facilitate the composting of the coffee grounds.

From Vantaa, the coffee grounds continue their journey to the production facility of Berner’s GreenCare brand partner in Saarijärvi, where the coffee waste is processed into material for Pirkka home gardening products, such as organic fertiliser and earth for growing. The coffee grounds are composted, and the nutrient-rich broad bean hulls created as a by-product in making Raisio Beanit bean products is added to the material. Thanks to coffee waste, the use of growing peat can be reduced in production.

“We are happy to participate in offering an innovative circular economy solution for home gardeners. The pilot cooperation has progressed smoothly and we are looking forward to the experiences of the consumer panel. The products will be finished just in time for home gardeners to use in the coming growing season,” says Jussi Petäjä, Category Manager at GreenCare, Berner.

The new Pirkka home gardening products will arrive in K Stores in early spring 2023.

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