From Garbage to Gourmet: Sustainable Waste Prevention and Mushroom Cultivation from Used Coffee Grounds

EPA Grant Number: SU835510
Title: From Garbage to Gourmet: Sustainable Waste Prevention and Mushroom Cultivation from Used Coffee Grounds
Investigators: Mladenov, Natalie
Current Investigators: Mladenov, Natalie , Chapman, Jacob , Hong, Joseph , Oldani, Kaley , Slough, Anastasia
Institution: Kansas State University
EPA Project Officer: Hahn, Intaek
Phase: I
Project Period: August 15, 2013 through August 14, 2014
Project Amount: $9,391
RFA: P3 Awards: A National Student Design Competition for Sustainability Focusing on People, Prosperity and the Planet (2013) RFA Text |  Recipients Lists
Research Category: Pollution Prevention/Sustainable Development , P3 Challenge Area - Materials & Chemicals , P3 Awards , Sustainability


The technical challenge of our proposal is to transition the Kansas State University campus to a closed loop waste management system where materials will be used to their fullest before they are properly disposed. This is essential because the current waste management system and community culture is leading to nearly 80% of the waste generated on campus ending up in the landfill, of which the majority is recyclable or compostable. Our proposal will feature a pilot study of an economically- and culturally-feasible closed loop waste management system, the “From Garbage to Gourmet Project”. In this pilot study, spent coffee grounds that would otherwise be landfilled will be used to create local and high quality edible mushrooms before they are composted. The proposed work will introduce the option of composting food waste to students at a popular coffee house on the KSU campus and will educate the community about the importance of sorting waste and disposing it properly. To ensure the successful performance of this first waste separation-with-composting station, employees and customers will be trained to sort their waste. Educational trifolds and posters will be professionally designed to explain the importance of separating waste and highlight the profitability of material reuse and composting.


The proposed project is focused on the reduction of waste to landfills by introducing a composting pilot study to be conducted at Radina’s Coffeehouse and Roastery in the Leadership Studies Building on the Kansas State University campus in Manhattan, KS. Instead of landfilling the organic waste produced at Radina’s, both pre-consumer and postconsumer compost will be collected and new receptacles for compost will be set up in the coffeehouse. One novel aspect of this pilot study includes cutting-edge research on different mushrooms species that can be cultivated from the spent coffee grounds.

The proposed project relates to the three aspects of sustainability as follows: People will be able to gain knowledge about the benefits of composting, as well as how composting affects them directly by decreasing landfill waste and landfill pollution, which ultimately has positive effects on people’s health; the project relates to prosperity through long term savings in the form of useful products (mushrooms) being generated from waste and reduced costs from landfilling trash; the planet will benefit in that waste sent to landfills is reduced, methane and CO2 generation in landfills is reduced, and compost, a beneficial soil amendment, is produced.

The Radina’s pilot study will provide both the university and community with educational materials about the benefits of composting as well as the reuse of waste to produce a valuable and edible good. On each table at Radina’s there will be trifold displays informing Radina’s customers about the Garbage to Gourmet study and educating them about the benefits of composting over sending waste to landfills. Along with these tri-folds, signs will be displayed above each waste receptacle bin to demonstrate the differences between trash, compost, and recyclable materials. A website will also be created in order to show the progress and success of the mushroom research that is being conducted using the spent coffee grounds from Radina’s. This website will include information about what type of gourmet mushrooms are being grown and how successful used coffee grounds are in producing gourmet mushrooms.

Expected Results:

The expected outputs of the project will include: 1) compost, 2) mushrooms for demonstration 3) report and website documenting recommendations for gourmet mushroom cultivation and results of the pilot study, and 4) tri-fold displays. The expected outcomes of the project will include: 1) diverting compostable material, 2) educating the community, 3) research on the optimal conditions for gourmet mushroom cultivation in coffee grounds, 4) knowledge gained on how to conduct closed loop waste management on campus and 5) momentum for the campus and community towards sorting all waste and disposing it properly. The results will be measured by determining how much organic waste is diverted and composted instead of landfilled, as well as the amount and biological efficiency of different types of gourmet mushrooms produced from spent coffee grounds. Formative and summative evaluations will be completed on the pilot study to determine the degree of success, and the results as well as recommendations will be published in a paper and presented on a KSU recycling website. Our pilot study prevents pollution to the air, water, and land by diverting waste from landfills, decreasing the need for transport of the waste to the landfill, and using resources to their fullest before they are recycled.

Supplemental Keywords:

waste reduction, sustainable development, community-based, sustainable industry/business, pollution prevention, sustainable environment, environmental sustainability, sustainable development, waste minimization, conservation, resource recovery, energy efficiency, waste management, renewable resource;

Progress and Final Reports:

  • Final Report