Nespresso uses aluminum pods, which in theory are easy to recycle. Is this enough though? Apparently not. Nespresso has invited rival coffee pod makers to join its global recycling programme in a move to improve the convenience of recycling for customers using single-use aluminium coffee capsules.
Nespresso has invited rival coffee pod makers to join its global recycling programme in a move it claims will improve "accessibility and convenience" of recycling services for customers using single-use aluminium coffee capsules.
The portioned coffee brand said it wanted to engage with its competitors in order to develop a global recycling solution for coffee pods, amid concerns the sector encourages throwaway behaviour among consumers.
As one of the leading brands in the sector, Nespresso has come under scrutiny over its green credentials in recent years due to its business model of selling single-use aluminium capsules, which customers place into the firm's branded coffee machines to produce just one cup per pod.
The coffee pods can only be used once before being discarded, but are fully recyclable. However, public recycling infrastructure is unable to process such small light metal items, and so Nespresso has developed its own programme in the UK offering customers three ways to recycle their aluminium capsules free of charge.
UK customers can either take used pods to a Nespresso boutique, request a home collection, or drop off the used capsules at around 7,000 points - including Collect+ locations - around the country. The used pods are then sent to a specialist recycling firm to produce raw metal material that can be used to make new coffee capsules, or products such as car engines, computers and cans. Any remaining coffee grounds can be used to produce biogas and farm fertiliser.
Nespresso says it recycles around a quarter of its pods in the UK using this process, but has in the past refused to disclose how many pods this accounts for, nor how many pods it sells in the UK each year overall.
The company operates similar recycling schemes in 53 countries, offering customers more than 100,000 coffee pod drop-off points globally, it said.
Yesterday it issued a call out to other rival coffee pod manufactures to join its programme, with a view to developing a universal recycling scheme for aluminium coffee pods.
Company CEO Jean-Marc Duvoisin said aluminium was a valuable and infinitely recyclable material. "We have built a global scheme for recycling our capsules, and by inviting other companies to join our system, we hope to offer a solution for the whole category," he said. "This decision is aligned with our global initiatives to shape a waste-free future and drive behaviour change towards a circular economy."
Daniel Katz, who sits on the Nespresso sustainability advisory board and is also chair of the board at green NGO the Rainforest Alliance, said the open invitation for rival capsule manufacturers to join the Nespresso's recycling scheme had the potential "to drive significant change on one of the key issues that faces the portioned coffee industry - the capsules themselves".
"Nespresso has worked with the Rainforest Alliance for 16 years on sustainably sourced coffee, and it is inspiring to see the company take ownership of aluminium recycling, helping lead the way and engage competitors, and driving towards a potential global solution to coffee capsule recycling," he said.
Nespresso has also pledged to use 100 per cent 'sustainable' certified aluminium to make its coffee pods from 2020, and in November inked a deal with metals and mining giant Rio Tinto to help achieve this ambition.