April 13, 2022

Three ways we recycle, reuse & upcycle at our roastery

Planet earth – where exquisite coffees are grown by talented producers. People, the planet and their health and wellbeing are integral to our Impact Strategy, a framework that ensures we hold ourselves accountable for our actions.

As we celebrate Earth Day, we are shining a light on how we reduce our environmental impact day to day. Here are three creative ways we recycle, reuse, and upcycle at Union...

Union Coffee Chaff

Coffee chaff – the light and fluffy by-product from roasting


Coffee chaff

What is coffee chaff? Green coffee beans (unroasted beans) are covered in a fine skin. During the roasting process, this skin dries and flies off the bean – this by-product is called coffee chaff.

We’re busy keeping up with the demand for freshly-roasted coffee so chaff is collected in high quantities. But none of it goes to waste...

In 2019, we began sending our chaff to Northiam Dairy, the dairy farm who supply our barista training milk. This light and fluffy chaff is naturally absorbent and is perfect for placing under cattle bedding. In 2021, we sent 100% of our coffee chaff, totalling 8481kg!

Union Coffee Bio Bean Coffee Logs
Image courtesy of bio-bean


Used coffee grounds

From the coffee-hungry Unionistas to our in-house customer training, we produce a fair amount of used coffee grounds at the roastery. But they don't end up in the bin, oh no.

All of our coffee grounds are reused to make Coffee Logs, a more sustainable alternative to wood for domestic fires. How does it work? 

Instead of putting our grounds in food waste bins, we use First Mile's coffee specific coffee ground recycling service. They send our grounds to bio-bean, a company dedicated to recycling waste coffee grounds on an industrial level. At bio-bean, they create the logs which generates 80% less carbon emissions compared to sending them to landfill!

The logs burn 20% hotter than wood, making them a more sustainable but toasty option for winter. Pop down to Waitrose and you can pick up both a bag of Union coffee AND Coffee Logs! How about that?

Want to reuse your coffee grounds at home? There are plenty of uses! Here are a few ideas for you to try out...

Union Coffee Hessian Sacks Brick Lane

Upcycled hessian sack jacket, Brick Lane


Hessian sacks

These are the strong, woven sacks that green coffee is packed in at origin to prepare for export. They travel across the globe – from Indonesia and Brazil to Rwanda and Guatemala – arriving at our roastery. But their journey doesn’t end there.

Once we’ve roasted the beans, our coffee sacks are used in different ways, but many are sold at markets or used to upholster furniture. Last year we upcycled 95% of our bags. These sacks often feature unique designs and logos which link them to specific farms, co-operatives or roasters, making them bold and distinctive – the perfect quirky decoration. Keep an eye out for café walls, market stalls and even celebrities’ halls!

Reducing our environmental impact at every stage is essential, while making a positive impact on the people and planet as we go. One major step we're making this year is updating our packaging to make it more sustainable and 100% recyclable. Keen for more details? Read about it here.


Fancy a deeper dive into what we achieved last year? Explore our Annual Impact Report 2021 and see exactly how we've made a difference, together...

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