UK: Waste food project can turn out to be a growth industry

A YMCA in Newcastle is turning waste coffee grounds and recycled cardboard into oyster mushrooms. But they need funding. The YMCA runs an urban farm at its Walker base, with young people helping to grow oyster mushrooms on used coffee grounds. They collect the waste grounds from local coffee outlets. These are then pasteurised and mixed with recycled cardboard and mushroom spawn.

The resulting coffee “logs” are rested in the dark and in around a month are ready to start fruiting. They are then moved to a controlled environment and nurtured, with the crop ready for picking in about two weeks.

The project produces four varieties of oyster mushrooms - grey, pearl, white and yellow, each with its own taste and texture, which are sold to city restaurants and venues such as the Tyneside Cinema. The proceeds help fund the YMCA’s services.

Around 55 million cups of coffee are consumed per day in the UK, with over 500,000 tons of coffee grounds going to landfill every year. So far the Newcastle project has saved six tons of grounds being dumped.

The urban farm competes against other ventures for £50,000 in funding in a competition run by The People’s Projects, a partnership between ITV and the National Lottery.

“If we’re successful, we will use the funding to provide more jobs and training opportunities for Newcastle’s young people at our mushroom farm,” says YMCA business manager Tracey Mienie. “We will also buy equipment to create more growing space and increase production at our farm.”

The project involves young people who are furthest away from the jobs market and gives them work experience and skills, boosts confidence and increases their employment chances.

As reported on¸ at present the farm produces six kilos of mushrooms a week but the funding would mean a significant increase.

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