You can indeed! And well done for thinking environmentally. Giving a new lease of life to your grinds is doable in many ways.
One reason recycling them is important is you shouldn’t pour coffee grounds down the kitchen sink! It’s likely to cause clogs and stick to greasy bits in the drains. If you must, empty your equipment straight into the bin after it’s cooled down. You can put it in your organic waste bin, which is a form of recycling. In a bio-bin, it’ll be returned to the ecosystem to biodegrade naturally. But making use of it in other ways is an even better option.
Speaking of ecosystems, coffee grounds make superb fertilisers for plants. If you drizzle some into the soil around your plants, you might find yourself with some rather spritely rhododendrons. Coffee grounds are full of the nutrients plants crave – nitrogen, potassium, magnesium and more – so they’ll lap it up. Work them into the soil a bit with a trowel too, to improve aeration and water retention, or chuck some in your compost pile.
Elsewhere in the garden, you can use leftover grinds to repel a variety of garden pests, such as ants, slugs and snails, simply by building a wall around your plant pots (it’s a bit nicer than using salt). Cats don’t like coffee either, if you want to keep them away from certain areas.
Remember how we advise keeping your coffee grounds sealed in an air-tight container, especially when they’re around food & drink with strong aromas? Well, use that to your advantage – put a small amount of coffee grounds into a cup or bowl and leave it at the bottom of the fridge. It’ll absorb smells so you’re not blasted with a waft of the farmers’ market when you open the door. (The same can be done in cupboards if you put the grounds in a stocking or other fabric). You can also use grounds to rub on your hands with a bit of water to remove strong smells, like onion, fish or other meats.
What else can you use coffee grounds for? Well, they can work as a scourer if you don’t have one handy, for cleaning tough stuff out of pots and pans. They also work to repair minor scratches in wooden furniture – mix them into a teaspoon of olive oil, dip a cloth or cotton bud in, and apply it to the scratch (although make sure to test it on an inconspicuous area first).
And then there’s the health and beauty side of things. Ground coffee is said to be a natural cleanser and toner due to its astringent and antioxidant properties, so you can mix it into things like coconut oil or jojoba oil to make a useful exfoliating scrub to use in the shower. You can also use coffee grounds as part of homemade soaps, toners and cleansers.