Nespresso Proves That Single Serve Coffee Makers Can Be Environmentally Friendly

by Gina-Marie Cheeseman
Aug 17, 2017 11:05 PM ET
Nespresso capsules are made from aluminium, a material that is infinitely recyclable

Originally published on Justmeans

Machines that brew single cups of coffee are extremely popular. Single serving coffee brewing machines are the second most popular brewing system in the US after drip coffee makers. In 2017, 29 percent of American coffee drinkers used them to brew their favorite drink.

Single serve coffee makers tend to create waste that isn’t recyclable as most of the pods used are made from plastic. And plastic itself is harmful to the environment as it is a petroleum product. Enter the Nespresso machines.

A Nestle Group subsidiary, Nespresso creates single serve coffee machines with pods made from aluminum. It is a material that the company describes as “infinitely recyclable.” Nespresso capsules are recycled into a variety of other products, including soda cans, bicycles, computers. Some are even recycled to make more capsules. At the end of 2015, Nespresso’s capsule collection capacity was over 86 percent in 39 countries. The goal is to increase the capacity to 100 percent by 2020. No stranger to recycling, Nespresso launched it first recycling initiative in 1991 in Switzerland.

Recycling schemes in many countries are not equipped to separate lightweight aluminum from other packaging. Small metal items are usually separated from mixed recyclable materials and then either sent to a landfill or incinerated. Nespresso created a successful pilot program in France to recover small steel and aluminum items from mixed waste. The company is working with municipal and national authorities around the globe to help them upgrade their operations.

Getting customers to recycle the capsules is key part. Nespresso has several innovative ways to help its customers recycle their used capsules. There is a network of capsule collection points numbering in the hundreds of thousands that allow customers to return their used capsules to Nespresso boutiques, retail partners and parcel collection points. An app is available for Apple, Android, Blackberry and Kindle to help Nespresso Club Members locate a collection point nearest them to return their used capsules. The app is available for Club Members in 20 countries. In 15 countries, Club Members can have their used capsules picked up when new capsules are delivered to them. When a customer places an order for capsules through Nespresso’s website, they are enrolled as a Club Member.

In Australia, Nespresso designed special recycling satchels with Australia Post so customers can mail their used capsules back to the company at any of Australia Post’s post offices or street mail boxes. Nespresso is the first private company to launch an independent recycling system in Denmark. In the United Arab Emirates, it created its first recycling system in the Middle East.

The energy use of Nespresso machines contributes the most to the carbon footprint of a cup of coffee made from them. Nespresso machines for private consumers have been designed since 2009 to save energy by switching to an automatic stand-by mode after being inactive for a few minutes. Professional machines need to stay ready to be used longer, so they feature an insulated water heater, which reduces energy use by 30 percent.

Nespresso proves that a single serve coffee maker can be an environmentally friendly choice. Although they are pricier than other single serve makers, their cost to the environment is much less.