Gardens: so you think coffee grounds are good for plants

Gardens: so you think coffee grounds are good for plants

A real-life test and all the science explodes this popular myth

Bean and gone and done it: the caffeine in coffee plants reduces the growth in other plants.
 Bean and gone and done it: the caffeine in coffee plants reduces the growth in other plants. Photograph: Juan Carlos Ulate/Reuters

It’s one of the most common gardening tips going: apply spent coffee grounds around your garden for amazing results. A quick internet search for “coffee grounds + plants” will draw up close to four million hits, with consistent claims they can add essential minerals to the soil, boost populations of friendly soil bacteria and even reduce the pH of growing media for acid-loving plants like rhododendrons. In fact, on a trip to an achingly eco organic coffee shop in San Francisco last year I saw big barrels of used coffee grounds with scoops and brown bags, free to customers to collect, under a sign detailing their many horticultural virtues. What a great idea!

Always keen to try out a quirky horticultural tip, and being a bit of a caffeine fiend, I decided to put the theory to the test this summer on two identical vegetable beds containing a mix of tomatoes, lettuce, herbs and flowers. Now, this was hardly a rigorous scientific trial, just a rough-and-ready experiment to satisfy passing curiosity. I’d just dump my daily coffee grounds on the surface as a mulch once they had cooled (the way books and blogs suggest), creating a beautiful dark inch-thick layer of coffee compost by the end of the summer.

So I had a look at the scientific literature, and frankly I kicked myself. Coffee grounds are of course a rich source of caffeine – in fact they can be richer than coffee itself, depending on brewing technique. One of the key functions of caffeine in the plants that produce it is allelopathy – the ability to reduce competition from surrounding species by suppressing their growth. Caffeine is packed into coffee seeds for the very function of suppressing the germination of other seeds.

There is a stack of studies to suggest it also stalls root growth in young plants, preventing their uptake of water and nutrients. Yet others have shown it has antibacterial effects (so much for boosting soil bacteria). And guess what? It isn’t even always very acidic. OK, its effects have varied widely depending on plant species, but it’s never shown colossal benefits that could outweigh the risks. I love a quirky piece of hort advice, and some are repeated so often you assume they are true, but often they call them old wives’ tales for a reason.

Email James at or follow him on Twitter @Botanygeek


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UN Habitat : Solid Waste Management in The World’s Cities (2010)

UN Habitat : Solid Waste Management in The World’s Cities 2010

Water and Sanitation in The World’s Cities 2010

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short link : Link Download file PDF (SolidWaste.pdf)


Regardless of the context, managing solid waste is one of biggest challenges of the urban areas of all sizes, from mega-cities to the small towns and large villages, which are home to the majority of humankind. It is almost always in the top five of the most challenging problems for city managers. It is somewhat strange that it receives so little attention compared to other urban management issues.

The quality of waste management services is a good indicator of a city’s governance. The way in which waste is produced and discarded gives us a key insight into how people live. In fact if a city is dirty, the local administration may be considered ineffective or its residents may be accused of littering.
Available data show that cities spend a substantial proportion of their available recurrent budget on solid waste management, yet waste collection rates for cities in low- and middle-income countries range from a low of 10 per cent in peri-urban areas to a high of 90 per cent in commercial city centres.
Many developing and transitional country cities have active informal sector recycling, reuse and repair systems, which are achieving recycling rates comparable to those in the West, at no cost to the formal waste management sector. Not only does the informal recycling sector provide livelihoods to huge numbers of the urban poor, but they may save the city as much as 15 to 20 per cent of its waste management budget by reducing the amount of waste that would otherwise have to be collected and disposed of by the city. This form of inclusion in solid waste management shows how spectacular
results can be achieved where the involvement of the informal sector is promoted.
The struggle for achieving the Millennium Development Goal and related targets for water and sanitation is being waged in our cities, towns and villages where solid wastes are generated. It is at this level that policy initiatives on solid waste management become operational reality and an eminently political affair: conflicts have to be resolved and consensus found among competing interests and parties.
This publication, Solid Waste Management in the World Cities, is the third edition in UN-HABITAT’s State of Water and Sanitation in the World Cities series. It aims to capture the world’s current waste management trends and draw attention to the importance of waste management, especially regarding its role in reaching the UN Millennium Development Goals. The publication acknowledges the escalating challenges in solid waste management across the globe. It seeks to showcase the good work that is being done on solid waste by cities around the world, large and small, rich and poor. It chieves this by looking at what drives change in solid waste management, how cities find local solutions and what seems to work best under different circumstances. The publication endeavours to help decision-makers, practitioners and ordinary citizens understand how a solid waste management system works and to inspire people everywhere to make their own decisions on the next steps in developing a solution appropriate to their own city’s particular circumstances and needs. Most readers will never travel to all the 20 cities featured in this report, but through this publication they will have access to real experiences of people working on the ground. We hope it will provide a reference point for managing solid waste in the world’s cities and towns, and that many will follow in the footsteps of our authors, and we can move to an improved set of global reference data.
Anna Tibaijuka
Under-Secretary General, United Nations
Executive Director, UN-Habitat

Foreword v
Acknowledgements vi
Contents ix
List of Figures, Tables and Boxes xii
List of Acronyms and Abbreviations xvii
A Note to Decision-Makers xix
Key Sheet 1: Modernizing Solid Waste in the Asian Tigers xxvi
1 Executive Summary 1
Bharati Chaturvedi
2 Introduction and Key Concepts 3
Introducing this book 3
About the authors 5
About the organization of this book 6
The scale of the solid waste problem 6
What is municipal solid waste (MSW)? 6
Key Sheet 2: Special Waste Streams 8
Taking the measure of MSW 11
Managing more and more waste 13
Key Sheet 3: Health Risks Related to Solid Waste Management 14
Learning from history 19
The role of development drivers in solid waste modernization 19
Modernization of solid waste management systems in developed countries 20
The solid waste challenge in developing and transitional country cities 21
Moving towards sustainable solutions 22
Solid waste and the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) 22
The integrated sustainable waste management (ISWM) framework 23
Sustainability in solid waste management is possible 23
Dare to innovate 25
Key Sheet 4: Recyclers and Climate Change 26
3 Profiling the Reference Cities 28
Selecting the reference cities 28
Understanding the reference cities 30
Methodology 31
Information quality 38
Quick look at the main indicators in the reference cities 39
City indicators 39
Interpreting the data 39
Description of each indicator 39
City Inserts 41
Adelaide 46
Bamako 48
Belo Horizonte 50
Bengaluru 52
Cañete 54
Curepipe 56
Delhi 58
Dhaka 60
Ghorahi 62
Kunming 64
Lusaka 66
Managua 68
Moshi 70
Nairobi 72
Quezon City 74
Rotterdam 76
San Francisco 78
Sousse 80
Tompkins County 82
Varna 84
4 The Three Key Integrated Sustainable Waste Management System Elements
in the Reference Cities 87
Waste collection: Protecting public health 87
Basic issues 87
Insights from the reference cities and global good practice in waste collection 89
Key Sheet 5: Examples of Municipal Waste Collection and Transfer Systems 90
Key Sheet 6: Emerging Global Good Practice in the Design of Small-Scale Solid Waste Equipment:
The Situation in Solid Waste Divisions in Cities in Low- and Middle-Income Countries 93
Waste treatment and disposal: Front lines of environmental protection 104
Basic issues 104
Key Sheet 7: Draft Report of the Inaugural Meeting on the Regional 3R Forum in Asia,
11–12 November 2009 106
Insights from the reference cities and global good practices in waste disposal 108
Key Sheet 8: Phasing Out Open Dumps 111
Resource management: Valorizing recyclables and organic materials and conserving resources 116
Basic issues 116
Key Sheet 9: Waste Concern and World Wide Recycling: Financing Dhaka Market Composting
with Public–Private Partnerships (PPPs) and Carbon Credits 117
Key Sheet 10: Building the Private Sector and Reducing Poverty through Sustainable Recycling
in South-Eastern Europe 124
Key Sheet 11: Key Insights on Recycling in Low- and Middle-Income Countries, from the
GTZ/CWG (2007) Informal-Sector Study 128
Key Sheet 12: The Dutch Approach to Producer Responsibility 133
Insights from the reference cities and global good practices in resource recovery 134
5 Integrated Sustainable Waste Management Governance Features in the
Reference Cities 141
Inclusivity 141
Key issues and concepts 141
Key Sheet 13: WIEGO, Its Work on Waste-Pickers and the First World Encounter of
Waste-Pickers in Colombia in 2008 145
Key Sheet 14: First World Conference and Third Latin American Conference of Waste-Pickers,
Bogotá, Colombia, 1–4 March 2008 146
Inclusivity in the reference cities and global good practices 149
User inclusivity: Consultation, communication and involvement of users 149
Key Sheet 15: The Evidence Base for Household Waste Prevention: How Best to Promote
Voluntary Actions by Households 150
Key Sheet 16: The International Labour Organization and the Model of Micro-Franchising in East Africa 157
Financial sustainability 164
Collection 164
Disposal 165
Key Sheet 17: Closure and Upgrading of the Open Dumpsite at Pune, India 167
Resource management and sustainable finance 169
Insights from the reference cities and global good practices in financial sustainability 170
Key Sheet 18: Solid Waste, Recycling and Carbon Financing: Fact or Fiction? 179
Sound institutions, proactive policies 184
Issues 184
Key Sheet 19: Waste Management and Governance: Collaborative Approaches for
Public Service Delivery 187
Cities and experience with good governance practices 191
6 Reflections and Recommendations 203
Reflecting back on the key messages of the book 203
Lessons from the cities 204
Local solutions to local problems 204
Different approaches to a similar problem 205
Data is power: Indicators of good practice in integrated sustainable waste management 206
Putting integrated sustainable waste management into practice 207
Consider all the dimensions of integrated sustainabile waste management 207
Building recycling rates 207
A focus on waste reduction 208
Use all available sources of finance 209
Our key conclusion 210
Moving towards financial sustainability and the role of donors 210
Closing words: What makes an ISWM system sustainable? 212
Glossary of Terms 213
References 217
Index 223


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Biogas Facility Opened in Denmark

Utility firm, E.ON Denmark, has opened a 300,000 tonne per year Grøngas Vraa organic waste to biogas anaerobic digestion facility.


Soren Gade turns on the tap connecting the Grøngas Vraa biogas plant to the Danish gas network.


Utility firm, E.ON Denmark, has opened a 300,000 tonne per year Grøngas Vraa organic waste to biogas anaerobic digestion facility.

The company said that the 115 million crown ($17.5 million) facility will produce biomethane from manure and organic wastes and is directly connected to the Danish gas network.

The new biogas plant in Vrå will process 300,000 tonnes of biomass annually, of which approximately 250,000 tonnes is expected to be manure that would otherwise have ended up as untreated on fields.

“When we open the taps for the new biogas plant today, we make it easier to convert manure and food scraps to green energy,” commented Tore Harritshøj, adm. director of E.ON Denmark.

He added that the plant will also reduce Denmark’s CO2 emissions by approximately 25,000 tonnes annually.

The biogas plant, which is the size of 12 football fields, is expected to supply the Danish gas grid with approximately 9 million. cubic meters of biomethane. This corresponds to the annual consumption of 4300 cars or 250 buses if they were running on biogas or the gas consumption of 6500 homes.

E.ON noted that there is still a long way to meet Denmark’s policy objectives of converting 50% of the country’s manure into biogas by 2020. With Grøngas online and several new plants  due for completion in 2016 it said that barely 15% of Danish manure is now used for biogas production.

The company said that the Grøngas Vraa employs approximately 10 people.


Belajar Mengelola Sampah dari Negara Maju

Cara terbaik mengurangi sampah adalah dengan tidak menghasilkannya. Hal ini berlaku bagi semua negara tak terkecuali di negara maju.

Masalah sampah muncul seiring pertumbuhan ekonomi dan meningkatnya kesejahteraan masyarakat. Data dari Lembaga Perlindungan Lingkungan AS (Environmental Protection Agency) menyebutkan, penduduk Amerika menghasilkan 250 juta ton sampah padat per tahun pada 2010. Bandingkan dengan jumlah sampah padat yang dihasilkan oleh penduduk Indonesia pada periode yang sama yang mencapai 56,3 juta ton pertahun.

Menurut data statistik Eurostat, setiap tahun, masyarakat Uni Eropa membuang 3 miliar ton sampah – 90 juta ton di antaranya adalah sampah beracun. Dari angka tersebut berarti, setiap pria, wanita dan anak-anak di Eropa membuang 6 ton sampah padat setiap tahun.

Namun menemukan cara mengelola dan membuang sampah – tanpa merugikan lingkungan – terus menjadi masalah besar di semua negara hingga saat ini. Di Eropa, kebanyakan dari sampah tersebut dibakar di tempat pembakaran sampah (incinerators) atau dibuang ke tempat pembuangan sampah akhir (67%). Namun kedua metode ini sama-sama merusak lingkungan.

Kebutuhan lahan untuk lokasi pembuangan sampah terus meningkat. Sampah juga mencemari udara, air dan tanah, melepas karbon dioksida (CO2) dan metana (CH4) ke udara, serta bahan kimia dan pestisida ke tanah. Hal ini membahayakan tidak hanya bagi kesehatan manusia, namun juga bagi hewan dan tumbuhan.

Amerika Serikat maupun Uni Eropa, berpegang pada tiga prinsip berikut untuk menangani sampah:

1. Mencegah produksi sampah

Strategi ini adalah yang terpenting dalam pola pengelolaan sampah yang sangat terkait dengan upaya perusahaan untuk memimimalisir kemasan dan upaya memengaruhi konsumen untuk membeli produk-produk yang ramah lingkungan.

Jika upaya ini berhasil – dengan bantuan media dan lembaga terkait – maka dunia akan bisa mengurangi sampah secara signifikan dan mendorong penggunaan bahan-bahan ramah lingkungan dalam setiap produk yang dikonsumsi oleh masyarakat.

2. Mendaur ulang dan menggunakan kembali suatu produk

Jika kita masih sulit untuk mencegah terciptanya sampah, langkah daur ulang adalah langkah alternatif yang bisa dilakukan untuk menguranginya.

Baik AS maupun negara Uni Eropa, mereka sudah menentukan jenis sampah apa saja yang menjadi prioritas untuk diolah dan didaur ulang, meliputi sampah kemasan, limbah kendaraan, beterai, peralatan listrik dan sampah elektronik.

Uni Eropa juga meminta negara-negara anggotanya untuk membuat peraturan tentang pengumpulan sampah, daur ulang, penggunaan kembali dan pembuangan sampah-sampah di atas. Hasilnya tingkat daur ulang sampah kemasan di beberapa negara anggota Uni Eropa mencapai lebih dari 50%.

Di AS, keberhasilan upaya daur ulang sejumlah produk juga sangat menggembirakan. Jumlah baterai (aki) kendaraan yang berhasil didaur ulang mencapai 96%. Jumlah surat kabar dan kertas yang berhasil didaur ulang ada di tempat kedua sebesar 71% dan sekitar duapertiga (67%) kaleng baja berhasil didaur ulang. Tantangan terbesar ada pada upaya mendaur ulang produk-produk elektronik konsumen dan wadah gelas. AS baru berhasil mendaur ulang seperempat (25%) dan sepertiganya.

3. Memerbaiki cara pengawasan dan pembuangan sampah akhir

Jika sampah tidak berhasil didaur ulang atau digunakan kembali sampah harus dibakar dengan aman. Lokasi pembuangan sampah adalah solusi terakhir. Kedua metode ini memerlukan pengawasan yang ketat karena berpotensi merusak lingkungan.

Uni Eropa baru-baru ini menyetujui peraturan pengelolaan TPA yang sangat ketat dengan melarang pembuangan ban bekas dan metetapkan target pengurangan sampah yang bisa terurai secara biologis.

Batas polusi di tempat pembakaran sampah juga telah ditetapkan. Mereka juga berupaya mengurangi polusi dioksin dan gas asam seperti nitrogen oksida (NOx), sulfur dioksida (SO2), dan hidrogen chlorida (HCL), yang sangat berbahaya bagi kesehatan.

Catatan penting, berdasarkan data EPA, upaya daur ulang dan pembuatan kompos di AS berhasil mencegah pembuangan 85,1 juta ton sampah pada 2010, naik dari hanya 15 juta ton pada 1980.

Prestasi ini setara dengan mencegah pelepasan sekitar 186 juta metrik ton emisi setara karbon dioksida (CO2) ke udara pada 2010 atau setara dengan memensiunkan 36 juta mobil dari jalan raya dalam satu tahun!

Upaya pengelolaan sampah yang baik tidak hanya memecahkan masalah pencemaran lingkungan tapi juga bisa menjadi solusi memerlambat efek pemanasan global. Sampai di mana kita?


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Produced but never eaten: a visual guide to food waste

Whether the wastage is measured in tonnes of spoiled goods, hectares of agricultural land or household expenditure, the scale is frightening

How much food is wasted globally each year?

Each year 1.3bn tonnes of food, about a third of all that is produced, is wasted, including about 45% of all fruit and vegetables, 35% of fish and seafood, 30% of cereals, 20% of dairy products and 20% of meat.

What does this mean for agriculture?

About 1.4bn hectares, or close to 30% of available agricultural land, is used to grow or farm food that is subsequently wasted. This is particularly alarming given estimates that by 2050 food production will need to have increased by 60% on 2005 levels to feed a growing global population. Reducing food wastage would ease the burden on resources as the world attempts to meet future demand.

Where, how and when is most of the food wasted?

In developing countries there are high levels of what is known as “food loss”, which is unintentional wastage, often due to poor equipment, transportation and infrastructure. In wealthy countries, there are low levels of unintentional losses but high levels of “food waste”, which involves food being thrown away by consumers because they have purchased too much, or by retailers who reject food because of exacting aesthetic standards.


How about the UK – What type of foods do we waste most?

In the UK, 15m tonnes of food is lost or wasted each year and consumers throw away 4.2m tonnes of edible food each year. The foods most commonly found in British bins are bread, vegetables, fruit and milk.

What does this mean for the average family?

The average family throws away £700 worth of perfectly good food a year, or almost or almost £60 worth of food a month. The average weekly expenditure on food and non-alcoholic drinks in 2013 was £58.80 according to the ONS, which means a typical family throws away a week’s worth of groceries each month.

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