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The City of Krakow is Spreading Coffee on Icy Walkways

Giving new meaning to the phrase coffee grounds, the Polish city of Krakow has begun spreading used coffee on city sidewalks in wintry conditions.

The city’s parks and greening agency, Zarząd Zieleni Miejskiej (ZZM), said this month that the pilot program has generated applications from more than 50 local coffee shops through a coffee grounds volunteering and collection program that was modeled after coffee waste recycling programs found in Scandinavia.

The idea to use expired coffee grounds to provide pedestrians with better grip in snowy and icy conditions was adapted from the western Ukranian city of Lviv, where a similar pilot program proved successful.

In Krakow, Poland’s second most populous city, coffee grounds are being dispersed at two separate park locations. Planty Park near Wajda Square and the Park Lotników Polskich (Polish Aviator Park). Paths treated with the grounds will be marked separate from those treated with sand, so pedestrians may have a choice.


ZZM photo.

The pilot program in winter maintenance came as Krakow was heavily blanketed by snow in a series of early February storms. With plans to do soil testing in the spring and beyond, the city says it could envision numerous financial and environmental benefits to using coffee in place of salt or sand.

For starters, volunteer coffee supply could reduce materials purchases, as the city estimates it spreads about 75-80 tons of sand per week to maintain park walkways during the snowy season. The city also said coffee’s known use as a compostable fertilizer may prove its residue beneficial to the environment, and less harmful to the feet of pets.

The city is also turning the street-level coffee spreading into an opportunity to promote the city’s many wonderful coffee shops.


A sign posted on the pilot paths reads (translated): Experimental coffee path project using coffee grounds to sprinkle icy alleys. ZZM photo.

Said ZZM (translated from Polish): “We hope that social commitment… will remind Krakow residents how tasty coffee can be ‘in the city,’ and help Krakow’s cafes in this difficult time.


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