McCafé brews up a new plan to reduce waste

Arizona McDonald’s are working with school children to turn used coffee grounds into compost for community gardens.

The restaurant chain is working with the state Department of Education on the initiative, “‘McCafé School Gardens Grow.”

It is designed to divert used coffee grounds from the waste stream by promoting the reuse of coffee grounds to add nutrients to soil or compost.

“The average McDonald’s produces 30 pounds of coffee grounds every day. (That’s) 11,000 pounds of coffee grounds a year,” said Jerry Gehrke, a director of operations for McDonald’s. “How can we keep it out of the landfills? Well, we can give them to the schools to use in their garden beds.”

Madison Simis Elementary, one of 130 schools in Arizona signed up with the new program, is working with a nearby McDonald’s on 16th Street and Glendale Avenue.

The school has the longest running gardening program in Arizona, DIGGS, or Discovery is Growing Gardens at Simis. It is 17 years old.

“The McCafé (School) Gardens Grow program has been amazing for us,” says Rebecca Nieto, DIGGS co-chair. “In the past, (we’ve) had to hunt down where we’re going to get our coffee grounds.”

It’s a win-win situation for both the environment and the school.

Nieto said children also learn important science skills.

“Coffee basically just makes them (the plants) more hyper and lets them have power, more energy and to grow faster,” said Spencer, a second grader at Madison Simis.

Schools or community gardens interested in participating in McDonald’s coffee grounds program can call Rhonda Grundemann, 602-739-8810.