How Nespresso recycle: We inquire about the journey of the capsule

Coffee is always a good idea, and there are few things as satisfying as a delicious brew.  Nespresso burst onto the international coffee scene in 1991, changing the home coffee landscape for good. But have you ever wondered what happens to all the coffee capsules once they’re used? That’s a lot of coffee pods to think about. So, with South Africans becoming more invested in recycling and Yuppiechef committed to becoming more aware of our impact on the planet and practically more sustainable, we contacted Nespresso to find out exactly how the recycling of their capsules works.


Why capsules in the first place?

Nespresso pride themselves on the smooth and unique flavour of their coffee. They say it all lies in what the pods are actually made of – aluminuim.  Aluminium is the ideal material to protect the coffee quality and freshness of the Nespresso Grand Cru coffee from deteriorating factors like oxygen, light and humidity.  These little coffee vehicles are then hermetically sealed, and the good news is that aluminium can be infinitely recycled.

Recycled? Where?

Nespresso is not a South African brand. So, it was only fair to ask if the capsules are recycled in a local plant or shipped overseas. They tell us that more than 30 countries across the globe are benefiting from Nespresso established capsule collection systems and, fortunately for our local Nespresso loving market, South Africa is one of them.

Together with Oricol, a local environmental services company, Nespresso aim to divert waste from landfills, turning it rather into a resource.

The little capsules are transported from the drop off locations, by road, to Oricol’s Spartan facility in Johannesburg. Nespresso have developed a customised aluminium separation machine which Oricol put to use at the facility in Johannesburg. Here, sorting for separation, storage and recycling can begin.

Once the Nespresso capsules are separated and dried out, the aluminium undergoes further recycling, often up-cycled into other products. The coffee grounds are composted to produce a high-quality fertiliser for organic farming.

But what makes Nespresso special and different from other brand capsules?

First, they make it easy to feel like a skilled barista. The portioned coffee system creates exquisite crema, tantalising aromas and a full-bodied taste.  The designer capsules fit effortlessly into the Nespresso machine to deliver high pressure extraction like a professional espresso machine.

It is up to us, the consumer to do our part in the capsule recycling process too.  We are all guilty of being a little slack in this department at times. Nespresso have gone and made it easy for the Nespresso consumer.  These coffee giants have set up convenient return options to make returning the capsules effortless.

Here’s how to recycle your Nespresso capsules:

1. When you pop into a Nespresso boutique to buy your capsules, make sure you take home a specially designed capsule recycling bag. Each bag fits about 100 capsules.

2. At home, simply make sure you empty your capsules from the collection partition in the machine into the bag. No rinsing required.

3. Once you’ve filled your bag and are ready to purchase another batch of capsules, simply take the bag with you to the boutique store or any of the below drop off points.

4. Leave the rest to Nespresso.

There are recycling bins set up in all Nespresso boutiques as well as at handy collection points:

  • Cape Town – V & A Waterfront, Canal Walk
  • Johannesburg – Sandton City, Hyde Park
  • Pretoria – Menlyn Shopping Centre
  • Durban – Gateway

Nespresso Regional manager, Etienne Bennet, walked us through their recycling philosophy:

“Nespresso Club Members are now able to actively contribute to sustainability by returning their used capsules for recycling at no extra cost in one of the four boutiques in the country. This recycling initiative in South Africa – which is a first in Africa, demonstrates our commitment to sustainability and creating positive impacts which are now linked to The Positive Cup commitments.  We will continue to work towards expanding our capacity to recycle and, increasing the number of capsules recycled while exploring innovative programmes which increase awareness and convenience for our consumers”.

We also asked Nespresso how they feel about Germany’s new capsule ban. This was their response:

“The City of Hamburg recently published a set of guidelines for environmentally compatible sourcing, covering a broad range of products ranging from detergents to portioned coffee. In doing so, they highlighted the need to move towards a more sustainable society. Nespresso agrees with this principle. Our approach to sustainability is all-encompassing: it starts with the coffee farmer and ends with the recycling of used capsules. Using Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) allows us to measure the environmental performance of our products across the whole value chain. Coffee growing has the biggest impact, followed by the machine use phase, incl. washing the cup. Packaging comes third.

We believe that portioned coffee makes sense in terms of managing the environmental impact of coffee consumption and avoiding food waste.”

Recycling from past to present

Nespresso is set on continuing to make progress when it comes to recycling and lessening the carbon footprint.  In 2013, they stated under their recycling initiatives section that they were part of Ecolaboration focusing on a drive to increase the number of collection points in each market committing to being able to collect 75% of all capsules sold worldwide.

  • They also exceeded their goal of sourcing 80% of their coffee from the AAA Sustainable QualityTM Program.
  • In addition they’ve implemented systems to recycle over 75%.
  • Nespresso has reduced the carbon footprint of a cup of coffee by 20%.

They also have the ambition to reach The Positive Cup vision by 2020. This is a vision based on the idea that a cup of coffee can create shared value and a greater, positive impact on society and the environment.

Is Nespresso for you?

Taking all the above into consideration should arm you with the information you need to make sustainably minded coffee choices.

Our team office coffee station has a semi automatic machine for everyone’s use, but our boardrooms sport Nespresso machines, so we can definitely see the benefit to both.  Since discovering more about the recycling process of Nespresso pods, we are committed to doubling our efforts when it comes to making sure our pods go through the correct channels too.

Keen on the convenience and quality coffee Nespresso can bring to your life? Here’s our range of Nespresso machines.

All information provided in this article supplied as accurate at the time of publication by Nespresso International.