Apr 5, 2022 3 min read

Thai youth treat wastewater with spent coffee grounds

Thai youth treat wastewater with spent coffee grounds
Urban wetlands help to filter 'nasties' out of our water ways. This is a great example close to Lake Ginninderra in Canberra, Ngunnawal Country. Photo: GeoNadir on Unsplash

Youth in Thailand, who are at the forefront of solving issues related to climate change, find a simple, sustainable solution for wastewater treatment. Their economical solution using spent coffee grounds to treat wastewater can easily be adopted by communities.

Thailand is among the countries most vulnerable to climate change. It constantly faces extreme weather events such as flood and drought, which severely impact its economy and ecosystems. Yet 'water' is often overlooked in the climate debate, even though it plays a key role in food security, energy production, economic development and poverty reduction.

Management of our water resources and wastewater is essential in addressing climate change.

At a time when we need all hands on deck to solve pressing climate issues, youth show that small ideas can spark big changes to achieve sustainable solutions in water management.

Screenshot First Blue Net Camp in Thailand.

Youth at the forefront

There are solutions for managing water and climate change in a more integrated manner, and we all have a role to play

To drive a youth-led sustainable water management, the Office of the National Water Resources (ONWR) and GIZ, an international development organisation, organised Blue Net Camp, an online event.

I had the opportunity to participate in the event. We learnt a lot from experts in the domain and from each other about water resources management in Thailand’s 22 river basins. The program helped me get a clear idea of the problems, and ways to find solutions in a systematic way, in addition to helping me develop my own project.

Putting coffee grounds to good use

As a solution to improve water quality in Thailand, I started Coffee Sorb, a project that participating youths at the Blue Net Camp developed. Our solution uses ground coffee waste in constructed wetlands for water treatment.

Coffee ground. Photo: Katy Tomei on Unsplash

We drink coffee at home and in cafes. If you pay attention to little things, you will wonder what happens to the spent coffee grounds.

Our own observation led us to finding a productive use for the coffee grounds. We found that we could use it for treating wastewater. This solved the problems of managing waste – used coffee grounds in this case – and wastewater treatment.

In our solution, the media was a mixture of coffee grounds, zeolite, bentonite and laterite soil – each serving a different purpose. For example, the coffee grounds absorb heavy metals in wastewater, and laterite removes phosphorous. The ingredients were mixed with water, made into spheres, fired and then sintered.

The wastewater goes through constructed wetland of plants and a filtration unit filled with tablets of the coffee grounds mixture. As the filtered water is rich in plant nutrients such as phosphorous and nitrogen, it can be used for watering plants. The filtration process can be used in aquariums and fish ponds too.

Leveraging social media

While participating in the Blue Net Camp, we started a campaign through social media platforms such as TikTok, Facebook and Instagram, to interest the community about using water efficiently.

Personally, I would like to do more on YouTube on a daily basis.

Youth can play an important role through personal involvement with local and diverse communities to design the pathways for problems and in including their voices by using (com)passion. In addition, youth can use social media to achieve this.

I hope to work with other youth and professional partners to drive Thailand’s integrated and sustainable water management.

An eco-friendly and economical solution

As this treatment is based on a natural process involving vegetation and soil, it is eco-friendly and economical. From making the sintered balls, to constructing the wetland and testing the water quality, the total cost was 17,600 baht for a unit measuring one square metre.

Coffee sorb can be an effective tool to solve water pollution too.

This nature-based solution can easily be implemented in communities. It will also help Thailand achieve its SDG 6 – clean water and sanitation.

Anchanikran Nantasook
Anchanikran Nantasook
Anchanikran is a student at Kasetsart University, and member of Youth Leadership Development in the Thai water sector in Thailand.
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