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Coffee Grounds as Ice Melt: How it Works for Slippery Winter Sidewalks

coffee in the snow

If you’ve kept up with the latest coffee innovations, you’re probably familiar with things like Coke Coffee, coffee filters designed for specific roasts, and solar-powered French presses. You may even have heard of coffee being used as a COVID detector! But there is one use for coffee grounds that you probably haven’t heard of — yet.

A new initiative in Krakow, Poland is testing coffee grounds as a sand replacement for slippery winter sidewalks. Here’s what to know about this fascinating new program — and why you might want to try it at home!

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What’s the coffee grounds instead of ice melt program?

The parks program in Krakow, called Zarząd Zieleni Miejskiej or ZMM, started testing a new, eco-friendly program this winter. It is collecting used coffee grounds from local coffee shops to spread on snow-covered sidewalks in city parks. The grounds are being used instead of sand, which the city currently has to buy.

ZMM has received over 50 applications from local coffee shops to participate in this grounds recycling program. The idea for it originated in Scandinavia, where several cities have already implemented coffee recycling programs.

For the time being, ZMM is putting up signs marking the sidewalks involved in the experiment. The reason? So that pedestrians can choose between sandy or coffee-coated walkways. If your shoes are trying to switch to decaf, you might want to stick to the sand path.

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Why use coffee grounds on icy sidewalks?

1. Easier on Paws

dogs in the snow

One benefit of using coffee grounds? Protecting your dog’s feet! Ian from Pango Pets says that the salt and ice melt used on a lot of commercial sidewalks can hurt bare paws. That’s why many pet owners invest in booties for their dogs. Switching to coffee grounds could protect puppy paws while helping pedestrians stay upright.

2. Good for the Garden

coffee for roses plants

Coffee grounds are often used as fertilizer because they’re full of nitrogen, a nutrient that plants need to grow. Plants like lilies, roses, blueberries, azaleas, carrots, rhododendrons, hydrangeas, cabbage, radishes, and hollies are all like coffee grounds.

If your neighborhood park has a community garden or a rose garden, the grounds sprinkled on the sidewalks could help the garden thrive when spring comes. Instead of corrosive salt or nuisance sand, you could end up with a beautiful garden when the snow melts!

3. …And How About That City Budget?

Coffee Grounds on Coffee Filter
Image Credit By: Tyler Nix, unsplash

City budgets aren’t exactly a glamorous topic, but it would be nice if your tax dollars could go toward something a little more fun than ice melt, right? The Krakow program uses donated coffee grounds, giving coffee shops something to do with all that coffee waste while providing free traction materials for the city to use. That sounds like a win-win to us!

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Final Thoughts

If you usually toss your old coffee grounds in the compost or trash, maybe it’s time to consider a new use! This cool program from Poland is putting coffee grounds to use on icy winter sidewalks — an eco-friendly concept that could benefit neighboring plants, your dog’s feet, and even city budgets.

As long as the future’s coffee-centric, we’re all for it. Why not test this out on your sidewalk next time it snows?


Featured Image Credit: Kristaps Ungurs, Unsplash


Kate MacDonnell

Kate is a lifelong coffee enthusiast and homebrewer who enjoys writing for coffee websites and sampling every kind of coffee known to man. She’s tried unusual coffees from all over the world and owns an unhealthy amount of coffee gear.

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