Coffee pulp will save the world

Person touches barrel of coffee beans
Photo: San Francisco Chronicle/Hearst Newspapers (Getty Images)

Coffee production is a wasteful business. The whole song and dance (separating the beans from the cherries, chucking out the cherries’ biomass, etc.) lands around 10 million tons of coffee pulp in the landfill every year. Improperly processed coffee waste can damage both soil and water sources—but, as Upworthy just reported, a new study could have planet-saving implications for the coffee biz.


The study published in the British Ecological Society journal Ecological Solutions and Evidence found that coffee pulp, when handled correctly, can have a positive impact on the planet. In 2018, researchers spread “30 dump trucks worth of coffee pulp” over a deforested area in Costa Rica. (Unclear exactly how much coffee pulp a dump truck can hold, but it seems to be a lot.)

“The results were dramatic.” study lead author Dr. Rebecca Cole said in the journal. In two years, the area treated with coffee pulp had an 80% canopy cover, compared to just 20% of a nearby control area. The coffee pulp reportedly “reinvigorated biological activity in the area,” leading to a canopy that was four times taller than that of the control. The coffee-treated area also eliminated an invasive species of grass that took over the land and prevented forest succession. Now, researchers hope to use the findings to support forest growth worldwide. “We hope our study is a jumping off point for other researchers and industries to take a look at how they might make their production more efficient by creating links to the global restoration movement,” Dr. Cole said. Bottoms up, coffee drinkers.

Staff writer @ The Takeout, joke writer elsewhere. Wrangling dogs and pork shoulder in Chicago.


Dr Emilio Lizardo

Unclear exactly how much coffee pulp a dump truck can hold, but it seems to be a lot.

Between 7 and 14 tons, depending on the size of the truck.  Or about 10 - 14 cubic yards.