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Nespresso pilots coffee pod recycling scheme in London

Coffee giant Nespresso, part of the Swiss company Nestlé, has announced a pilot scheme allowing customers to recycle their used coffee machine capsules through their local household waste kerbside service.

Nespresso pilots coffee pod recycling scheme in London
The six-month pilot, operating across the London Borough of Kensington and Chelsea, will enable Nespresso Club (a premium group that receives coffee deliveries and maintenance) members only to recycle their used pods in special purple bags, provided by the company, which can be collected alongside their other household recycling.

The scheme is only available for recycling Nespresso capsules, which are made of aluminium. Most other coffee capsules are made from plastic and foil, which require separate recycling processes, and the company says that coffee residue left in the pods often increases difficulties associated with recycling them. 

Once the bags containing the used pods are collected, they will be sent to Nespresso’s recycling facility in Congleton, after the waste coffee grounds have been extracted and sent off to be used in compost.

The UK coffee pods market was estimated to be worth £182 million in 2016, and is predicted to rise to £206 million in 2017, according to market research company Mintel. This increase is being pushed by household purchases, with Mintel’s research suggesting that more than a quarter of Britons own a coffee pod machine.

Nespresso has introduced the scheme in response to its customers requesting more convenient recycling options through local council collection services for their used pods.

The company launched a dedicated UK recycling service seven years ago, giving customers three options for recycling the capsules: customers can drop off their used pods at various pick up points, at one of the 24 UK Nespresso ‘boutiques’, or they can schedule a home collection when placing an order for new capsules. 

Francisco Nogueira, Managing Director for Nespresso UK and Ireland, said: “We are focussed on ensuring the success of the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea trial and are committed to making recycling as simple as possible for our customers. We do have an ambition to work with other councils in the future to roll out similar schemes.”

Sarah Ottaway, National Recycling Manager for SUEZ UK, which is responsible for waste collection in Kensington and Chelsea, added: “We’re really pleased to be working with Nespresso to deliver this service alongside the regular recycling collections we provide across the borough. We know that residents in Kensington and Chelsea, like many places, have a desire to recycle a greater range of products and materials within their kerbside recycling scheme, which this trial will enable them to do.

“We also know from experience that residents like simple, regular, collection systems that allow them to recycle as much as possible. By collecting Nespresso capsules alongside the normal regular collection service, this is exactly what the trial offers, so we’re excited to see the results.”

Nespresso pilots coffee pod recycling scheme in London
The sustainability of single-serve coffee pods has been the subject of intense debate
Trewin Restorick, Chief Executive of environmental behaviour change charity Hubbub welcomed the scheme, saying: “Nespresso pods are mainly aluminium and can be recycled whereas many of their competitors’ pods are mixed plastic which currently can’t be recycled. But using aluminium only makes sense from a resource point of view if the discarded aluminium is recycled, otherwise it is a very carbon intensive way for consumers to get their coffee. Nespresso needs to scale up the recycling process quickly.”

Backlash against single-serve pods

Nespresso, who pioneered the single-serve coffee machine in 1986, has faced significant backlash against its use of single-serve aluminium pods, many of which end up in landfill.

As with disposable coffee cups, there has been much debate over single-use coffee capsules. According to sustainable coffee company Halo, 39,000 coffee capsules are produced every minute, with up to 29,000 ending up in landfill.

Recently, David Newman, Managing Director at the Bio-based and Biodegradable Industries Association told Caffeine magazine: “What we are seeing with coffee pods is a disturbing example of the linear, throwaway, mono-use society that many of us would like to see become circular”.

In 2015, coffee manufacturer Lavazza and biochemical company Novamont announced the launch of the ‘first wholly biodegradable and compostable coffee capsules for espresso machines’. The capsules are made using MATER-BI, Novamont’s thistle-based biodegradable polymer, which can be disposed of alongside organic waste. Companies Percol, Dualit and Halo have also created compostable pods of their own.

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