This limited edition bike by Swedish start-up Vélosophy is made out of 300 Nespresso capsules. Photo: Vélosophy Cycles AB
Upcycling Nespresso coffee capsules
Upcycling, recycling and the use of biodegradable materials: Companies around the world have been focussing on how to produce their products sustainably for some time now. Climate protection targets and consumers who are increasingly calling for goods and packaging that have been produced in an environmentally friendly manner require companies to rethink their strategies. As a result, there are now numerous examples of upcycled products made out of old packaging, for example furniture made out of Euro-pallets or cardboard, which can also be used for toys as well as bikes made out of old deodorant cans.
Swiss food group Nestlé has also put sustainability on their agenda: In August 2019, the company obtained 4.9 out of five available points on the FTSE4Good Index. By 2025, Nestlé Germany aims to ensure that any packaging it uses is either recyclable or reusable.
The Nespresso brand, which belongs to the Nestlé group, aims to steadily increase the recycling rate of its empty coffee capsules and, in cooperation with companies in various sectors, to use them to make practical articles of daily use.
Various campaigns are to raise awareness of the importance of recycling empty coffee capsules. Moreover, Nespresso regularly cooperates with Swiss companies to produce practical articles of daily use that are made out of empty Nespresso capsules. As part of its Second Life project, for example, writing utensils company Caran d’Ache recently launched a special edition of ballpoint pens that are made out of recycled aluminium obtained from empty Nespresso capsules, whilst Victorinox AG launched a pocket knife.
The latest development is a bike made out of Nespresso coffee capsules. Swedish start-up Vélosophy and Nespresso spent two years honing RE:CYCLE – now, the bicycle is available as a limited edition that costs 1,290 euros per bike. Around 300 empty capsules are used to make each of these rides. And consumers that choose one of these sustainable means of transport support a social project at the same time: For every bicycle sold, Vélosophy donates another to schoolgirls in developing countries.
The RE:CYCLE bike costs 1,290 euros and is made out of old Nespresso capsules. The company donates one bicycle for every purchase. Photo: Vélosophy Cycles AB
Nespresso aims to promote recycling of coffee capsules
Every year, coffee manufacturers around the world produce an estimated 56 billion single-use coffee capsules; it would take 150 years for these capsules to decompose in landfills. Due to their many components, the recycling process for coffee capsules has proven particularly complex. Each capsule is made out of a combination of plastic, foil and aluminium, which makes them difficult to recycle in standardised recycling plants.
Accordingly, Nespresso aims to motivate its customers to recycle used capsules by means of targeted campaigns and appearances of celebrities from all sectors. At around 122,000 collection points in total, customers can hand in old coffee capsules. Special plants then separate the aluminium cases from the coffee grounds, which are then processed to compost, topsoil and biogas.
Nespresso UK makes things even easier for its customers and offers to collect empty coffee capsules from end consumers. In New York City, Nespresso furthermore cooperated with the local Department of Sanitation and Sims Municipal Recycling, and built a state-of-the-art sorting plant for 1.2 million dollars. This plant has been designed specifically for aluminium coffee capsules and thus allows recycling without any problems. This in turn enables consumers to continue to dispose of their coffee capsules in their normal household waste along with plastics, glass and other material, whilst still feeding them back into the recycling economy.
“I used to be 24 coffee capsules” proclaims the advertising slogan for this pocket knife made out of old Nespresso capsules by Victorinox AG. Photo: Victorinox AG
Lavazza and Jacobs
Italian espresso giant Lavazza and German coffee brand Jacobs are also addressing sustainability. According to company statements, Lavazza has developed compostable coffee pads with a bio-polymer base, for example. These pads are thought to take a mere six months to decompose, however, details on the decomposing process have not yet been released. Jacobs, on the other hand, encourages its Swiss customers to collect their used capsules in packages. These are then sealed, addressed to “Jacobs” and handed in at one of the around 800 national collection points. The coffee grounds are then processed to biogas and fertiliser in recycling plants, whilst the aluminium capsules are used to make new aluminium products.