Asking for coffeegrounds, vegetable, and fruit trimmings?

LumpySpaceKingSeptember 9, 2013

I recently decided that I would try gardening this spring and finally settled on the square foot gardening method. Rather than buy bags of compost, im making my own. Problem is getting my pile large enough. Apparently some people head over to coffee shops and grocery stores for their compost ingredients. Is there some type of etiquette for this? I was thinking of asking my college's cafe for their coffee grounds and heading over to the grocery store and asking for their fruit and vegetable trimmings. Am I supposed to provide anything to store these things in? how often should I propose that I come by? Im thinking i might be a nuisance if i went everyday after school lol. I plan to stop by several Starbucks as well, as we practically have them every few blocks here. A little nervous about this as I expect weird looks.

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I doubt you get any unusual or weird looks at Starbucks - every store in my area has a little sign at the pickup end about coffee grounds for gardeners. I have no idea if they hand them out in plastic bags or you bring your own container, so I'd go prepared. I hear that the competition for them can be fierce. Consider other coffee cafes that might be in your area - any Peet's, or local independent?

For grocery produce, ask for the Produce Manager, tell him what you're doing, and I would bet you won't be the first, and I doubt he'll be surprised. Just ask nicely, ask if you should bring something for them to put 'em in, and ask about the best time to pick-up. You may have better luck at a local independent.

Also consider checking with any local small restaurants, especially any that may have a "green" bend. What you want is their fresh, pre-consumer, produce trim - no meats, oils or post-consumer product.

So now a question - everything you're looking for is a green. Do you plan on trenching, in-ground, or do you have an adequate source of brown material to go with those greens?

    Bookmark   September 9, 2013 at 7:24PM
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Likely most of us who have done this have felt nervous at first. What I found is that every store has different ideas and requirements so best to speak with the produce manager to determine what theirs are. Supposedly there are laws here about removing anything from dumpsters so you have to get the stuff before it hits the dumpster.

There are only 3 grocery stores in my small town and one was very willing to give me the clear plastic bag filled with produce trimmings whenever they had them. However, they did say that someone else came in regularly for them for their chickens so I couldn't be bothered competing with anyone. The second store said they had someone who collected them. The third store's policy is that if I happened to ask while the trimmings were still in a produce box, before they were dumped in the large garbage container in store, I could have them but they couldn't take them out of the container.

As for coffee grounds one winter we came to an arrangement with a chain coffee shop and left large totes for them to fill and picked them up twice a week. Keep in mind a large tote full of coffee grounds weighs quite a bit. This worked well for many months over winter but I came to feel they really didn't want to do this so eventually stopped.

A non-chain coffee shop packages their UCG in the bags the beans come in which are probably 10 pound bags, seals them, and leaves them in a shelf unit near the front door. Anyone can pick them up. Sometimes when there aren't any there I ask and they usually have a bag to give me.

All you can do is ask nicely and say please and thank-you. :D They will let you know how often to come by.

Perhaps you can ask at schools or office cafeterias, have friends collect theirs to give you, and it's coming up to leaf season. One year we drove around town the day before bulk pickup and asked people if we could have their bagged leaves that were at the curb. I got some really weird looks and had to explain but filled the pick-up with bags of leaves.

Good luck and don't be afraid to ask. Take pics so we can see your bounty!

    Bookmark   September 9, 2013 at 7:39PM
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I wish I had leaves. :-(

    Bookmark   September 9, 2013 at 8:52PM
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nancyjane_gardener(Zone 8ish North of San Francisco in the "real" wine country)

I worked with students at a local grocery store. They had farmers who picked up on a regular schedule, so it was a no go on the produce, but their coffee lady was very nice about it! I gave her a nice bucket (Kept it clean, so it didn't look all icky since you could see it from the counter) I also wrote in large letters NANCY'S COFFEE GROUNDS, so it wouldn't get stolen. It did a couple of times, but I could always find it!
Just make sure you don't forget to pick them up! They go through the trouble to bag them and put them in a bucket for you and they can get a bit testy if they are still there the next morning! I know this for a good reason! LOL Nancy

    Bookmark   September 9, 2013 at 9:06PM
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Eliminate the human interaction and just head for the curb in October. As soon as people drag bags of leaves there, they lose it and you can take it. Coffee grounds are not special. I have used many 5 gallons buckets of them, and at the bottom there was a whole zoo of green molds always. Unsanitary, difficult, and very little compost for the effort.

    Bookmark   September 9, 2013 at 9:41PM
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â¢TXEB Wrote on
Mon, Sep 9, 13 at 20:52
I wish I had leaves. :-(
I wish I had hair but if leaves aren't hard to manage I might settle for them if that was my only choice.

    Bookmark   September 9, 2013 at 10:04PM
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I'd take either : /

This post was edited by TXEB on Tue, Sep 10, 13 at 3:40

    Bookmark   September 9, 2013 at 10:07PM
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SOME municipalities will have ordinances about dumpster diving, but not all. What's more often an issue is that many grocery stores have policies about giving away their produce waste. It sounds dumb but it's a liability thing for them. I think in the future we (as a society) will not be able to afford the cost of disposal and waste of nutrients, so you'll see this change. But for the moment, expect some stores to tell you they can't give you their produce waste.

    Bookmark   September 10, 2013 at 10:52AM
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Tox,you are right about stores having policies forbiding thier waste to be picked up. So that someone doesn't think they are unfairly excluded by a store alowing a farmer to have the waste but refusing the composter or rabbit grower,here is why. The farmer is feeding it to hogs which are to my knowledge the only thing that will eat it eventhough diesel or kerosin has been poured on it. IMO,this like so many other silly things are thanks to U.S. citizens having it far too good and lawers making laws for lawers. I am in favor of people being held accountable for thier actions but I also believe waivers should be available for situations such as the one discussed here. I feel safe in saying 95% of those who compost and raise food crops for home use recieve no tax payer support. S.S. and military pensions are not tax payer support programs,they are earned benifits.

    Bookmark   September 10, 2013 at 11:54AM
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A Search on just this forum for 'Starbucks' found 97 hits. Lots on info available.

Tips- Leave the dumpster cleaner than you found it.

    Bookmark   September 10, 2013 at 3:40PM
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No self respecting farmer would feed his livestock anything contaminated with petroleum, and I expect it would violate any number of farming and food safety regulations.

The reason most often given is that they don't want anyone eating discarded food, possibly getting sick and then blaming the store. It's become quite a popular practice among 'Freegans'.

Injury lawsuits are the biggest reason stores don't give away their waste, whether it's a grocery, hardware or toy store.

    Bookmark   September 11, 2013 at 3:57PM
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toxcrusadr 5 wrote on
Wed, Sep 11, 13 at 15:57

No self respecting farmer would feed his livestock anything contaminated with petroleum, and I expect it would violate any number of farming and food safety regulations.
Tox are you questioning if it's true that farmers give the corn to hogs,or are you only disparaging those that do?
Are your expectations about violations of farming and food safty regulations based on past experience with the practice or some other basis?
Why do you feel those statments are needed or how they are relavent? My comment was intended to offer possiable explaination of why some were alowed to have the waste while others were not. More acuratly,I suppose anyone is welcome to the stuff after it has been dowsed with diesel to asure no human will consume it.

    Bookmark   September 11, 2013 at 5:19PM
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After receiving many bags of used coffee grounds I dropped off a bag of gorgeous tomatoes to one of our local coffee shops, we have many, however not going to mention in case there is an anti tomato policy.
The people I gave them to were ecstatic, never had coffee grounds returned like this

    Bookmark   September 11, 2013 at 11:13PM
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I've never heard of any organisation dousing waste with a petroleum product. Is this something new? Seems like a huge waste of money what with the cost of fuel these day not to mention a HUGE fire hazard.


    Bookmark   September 11, 2013 at 11:26PM
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Klem, it sounds like you are speaking from direct experience so I will take your word that it happened. No, I have never heard of or observed this practice. You didn't give much detail. What corn are you talking about? I assume you found produce waste in a dumpster doused with diesel. I would venture to guess they did this precisely to deter people from taking it. I am sure you can understand my incredulous reaction to the idea of farmers feeding that to livestock. Perhaps you can tell us more about it.

BTW in my earlier post I did not mean to imply that making illness claims was popular among Freegans, but rather that eating discarded food from groceries is popular.

    Bookmark   September 12, 2013 at 1:45PM
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pt03 2b Southern Manitob wrote on
Wed, Sep 11, 13 at 23:26
To which Klem replyed ( Klem's response in parenthesis)
I've never heard of any organisation dousing waste with a petroleum product. ( You have now) Is this something new? (Absolutly not,it has been done for more than 100 years to pervent animals eating deseased carcasses,humans that couldn't be buryed or burned and such) Seems like a huge waste of money what with the cost of fuel these day ( Calm down,a single gallon will treat several hundred pounds. No way that can start a fuel shortage or cause budget problems for a business) not to mention a HUGE fire hazard. (Relax,you couldn't light it on fire once it is in the waste if you tried,and besides there is so little fuel it wouldn't make much flame anyhow.) ( I took time to respond to what might look retorical on the chance you actualy are interested in such things. Return the jesture please and tell us what you are actualy trying to acomplish. )

    Bookmark   September 12, 2013 at 7:52PM
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I guess I should have been more specific. I've never heard of any store dousing waste materials in their dumpsters with fuel. If someone did that in a city, the odour alone would result in massive calls to 911 about fuel odours. I suspect it is also forbidden in most jurisdictions.

Care to publish the name of a store that practises this?


    Bookmark   September 12, 2013 at 8:16PM
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Tox I am disapointed with you. I reitirate that my remark about intentionaly tainted waste was to spare stress to someone witnessing the waste being hauled away eventhough they had been refused. I hear complaints daily from those who swear they are singled out because they are of some color,religion,sexual orintation,from a certain place,gender or other emagined reason. As far as my not going into details,are you kidding. You might want details but I don't believe there are many others that are so I saw no reason to go farthur than was relivant to what we are discussing.. If more than six people simply say they want to discuss hogs and/or health risks associated with the practice,I will cheerfuly join in and perticipate. I will not however post links and put effort into seeing who can squirt highest on the wall but I will not tolerate off the wall cracks either. We already have a very sad case in a person who does that on any and everything emaginable,we don't need another.

    Bookmark   September 12, 2013 at 8:47PM
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Lumpy - seems like your thread got jacked. Back to your question about protocol and how, you've had some good suggestions about places you can ask. I think it just comes down to decent manners, and if they say no be gracious and accept their answer. I really liked nancyjane's idea of leaving a marked container - maybe a covered bucket - that they could fill up at their pace, and then you pick-up daily. Maybe two containers for each supplier - one to take and one to leave (very clean of course, and preferably with a lid). Make it easy for them, and then follow through on your end. You should be able to come up with way more than you thought. Which then raises the issue of sourcing enough browns.

    Bookmark   September 12, 2013 at 10:01PM
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Suggestion to original poster for additional sources of compost materials:

browns: dried grass clippings (once dried can be stored until used in compost), collect your household papers from junkmail, paper napkins, & facial tissues (without cleansers)

When I added a 2nd trash next to each trash can for compostables our compost building doubled. I line the compost trash with a paper sack as a reminder. Our house guests often ask which trash or why are there 2 in the bathroom. Regular guests know the routine.

I also added a shredder in our kitchen for the papers. When I didn't have the shredder the household paper was put in a box or basket for later. It's much more prolific to shred as you go.

greens: food waste from friends if you can get them to put in the freezer for you. You give them the container & ask them to keep in the freezer to fill up.

Find a source of rabbit manure to build up your compost quickly. Second choice would be chicken.
Third choice sheep, llama or alpaca.
Final choice would be horse, cow or goat if that's all you can get -- & prefer it to be partially composted before you get it so your job is faster, but it all works!

I was biased against horse manure for many years, but once I found a source that fed alfalfa hay, beet pulp & oats ONLY with no grass hay...... I began to use it with abandon. Wow, did my soil build up quickly. I do keep it covered with mulch & have not had a weed problem. I patrol for weeds & any errant seed that germinates is quickly removed. Not sure if those are blown in weeds or come with the horse compost & bedding.

If you are concerned about odors do a small quantity in your pile & turn often. I live in a rural location, but do prefer to spread in fall for less odor. I forgot your zone, so don't know if you plan to plant right away in your garden beds. Manure will take some time to compost, so don't burn your plantings. I plant right away with alpaca, llama or rabbit manure, but I don't over do it and prefer to use it as a top dressing on top of the soil or just scratched in the surface a bit. Then covered with the dried grass clippings as mulch. It disappears in a few months.

If doing greens like lettuce & spinach that you're not cooking, don't use manure until fully composted. You can look that up.

Wishing you the best on your new gardening adventure. SFG & diy composting do work together rather well. Enjoy gardening!

    Bookmark   September 12, 2013 at 10:10PM
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Okay...i found some sources. Starbucks was a bit confused though. Seems this was the first time they've been asked for their used coffee grounds for compost. Possibly a benefit of living in the city where not many have the space for gardening??? Absolutely no competition but they were happy to collect for me. And my pile is getting larger. This should be a good sign but i found worms around my pile. I did find a slug though. Unfortunate for him as I killed it right in my pile. Perhaps he will become compost now. Im excited now. I did see some fruit flies so im thinking I need more browns but that shouldn't be a problem. Fall is coming, plus my dad has tons of sawdust. I have a bunch of cardboard boxes from ordering textbooks. Plus all those free newspaper thingies like Am New York that they have everywhere. This pile is growing quickly.

    Bookmark   September 13, 2013 at 9:19AM
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Way to go Lumpy, sounds like you are on your way!

Klem, I don't think you realize how you are coming across here. I am very interested in waste handling practices at retail stores and was simply asking for more info, after clearly stating that I have no reason to doubt your claims. If you want to inform us, please do, but it is not a pissing match and there is no need to be defensive. It's only compost.

Have a good day.

    Bookmark   September 13, 2013 at 11:52AM
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Wouldn't a real pissing match be a great way to get some compost going? Just need some good browns.

    Bookmark   September 13, 2013 at 1:24PM
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gregbradley(Upland, CA USDA 9b Sunset 19)

I never thought to ask for supplies for my compost pile as it is already larger than I need.

I do give one local mexican restaurant avocados, limes, lemons, and oranges. They stopped charging me for margaritas with dinner..........

They do know I'm pickier about the way I grow them than any organic commercial grower.

    Bookmark   September 13, 2013 at 5:31PM
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The Starbucks I've been to know all about the used coffee grounds, just depends on where you are.
On the Pa turnpike a Starbucks told me they save all their grounds for local farmers.
I took so great pictures of my garden ( SFG ) this year, showed them to our local grocery store, told him I could use all or any of his discarded veggies waste for my compost piles..
I am getting loads of all kinds of veggies..
Being polite, respectful, and diligent pays off in the end.
Of course isnt that true in life ???

    Bookmark   September 20, 2013 at 9:33PM
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Indeed, a picture paints a thousand words too.

    Bookmark   September 23, 2013 at 10:52AM
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I pick up about 4-5 boxes a week from my local grocery store...
Almost a shame what is tossed out, into my compost pile they go..

    Bookmark   September 23, 2013 at 9:41PM
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