Table of contents:
- The development of coffee generations
- The triumphal march of the coffee capsule through Nespresso
- Coffee capsules produce garbage
- Commitment to the environment: Refillable and biodegradable coffee capsules
- Recycling coffee powder
Video: Recycle coffee capsules instead of disposing of them
More and more people are turning to coffee capsules for the daily preparation of their coffee. No wonder! Because the coffee capsules are not only particularly easy to use, they always allow the right dosage and are now part of the lifestyle. However, the capsules also produce a lot of garbage. Therefore, the coffee capsules should be properly disposed of and recycled.
Coffee capsules are small hats made of metal or plastic that are supposed to make the perfect coffee at the push of a button. With an annual consumption of around 160 liters per person, coffee is the most popular drink in Germany. Already more than six million people in Germany enjoy their coffee from the coffee capsule. And this trend has continued to increase since the Nestlé Group launched the Nespresso capsule system.
Regarding the environment, however, coffee enjoyment is quickly clouded. Because the packaging of the capsules produces garbage. With three million coffee capsules a year, about 5, 000 tons of waste are generated. Around 500 garbage trucks are required to remove this accumulation. Environmental protection definitely looks different! Fortunately, there are now a number of alternatives on how to dispose of the coffee capsules and do something good for the environment.
The development of coffee generations
A few years ago, coffee at the push of a button was unthinkable for many. While in previous generations the filter machine still dominated the preparation of coffee, other methods are revolutionizing the coffee market today.
It is important that the coffee at home tastes at least as good as with a professional preparation from the coffee shop. If you can afford it, you can get a fully automatic coffee machine that grinds the coffee yourself and, depending on the equipment, also does the milk frothing. However, these devices are not only expensive to buy, but also laborious to clean.
The triumphal march of the coffee capsule through Nespresso
The use of the coffee capsule enables coffee to be prepared quickly and easily.
Photo: Alamy Stock / Ian Allenden
Sealed coffee in a small aluminum capsule was first launched by the pioneer Nestlé as a Nespresso coffee capsule. During preparation, the coffee is shot into the cup by pressure, similar to a real espresso machine. The reason for the increasing use of the coffee capsule is above all the quick and easy preparation with a constant quality. The increasing number of single households is also changing consumer behavior. More and more consumers are therefore turning to smaller portion units.
Coffee capsules produce garbage
However, the coffee enjoyment is clouded by the mountains of rubbish that arise when using coffee capsule. 5, 000 tons of waste are produced annually by coffee capsules. Not only is the inefficient relationship between packaging and content particularly problematic, but also the correct recycling of the capsules.
Since the coffee capsules are very small, it is difficult for people to see in which rubbish they have to be sorted out. Pure aluminum capsules can be reliably sorted into the respective garbage, but as soon as the capsules are composed of several components such as plastic and metal, it becomes difficult. Such waste products, which cannot be sorted without a doubt, usually end up in a waste incineration plant.
To ensure that you dispose of the coffee capsule correctly, you should always follow the manufacturer's instructions. The disposal procedures differ depending on the brand. If there is a green dot on the product, this is a sign that the manufacturer is participating in the dual system. This means that the manufacturing company pays for the collection, sorting and recycling of the coffee capsules. In this case, the coffee capsule belongs in the yellow sack.
If there is no green dot on the packaging, the packaging of the coffee capsules must be disposed of in the residual waste.
Commitment to the environment: Refillable and biodegradable coffee capsules
If you have a guilty conscience because of the high amount of garbage, but still don't want to do without your capsule machine, you can fall back on two options: the biodegradable or the refillable coffee capsule.
The Ethical Coffee Company (ECC) has launched a coffee capsule that can be used in the Nespresso system. According to the manufacturer, these capsules are completely biodegradable. Almost true, because the capsules consist of a total of four components - linen, cotton, polylactate and a cover film.
Accordingly, the main components are plant fibers, but these do not offer any nutritional values or minerals to the environment. Because decomposition only produces carbon dioxide and water. For this reason, according to the Federal Environment Agency, the coffee capsules are not suitable for composting and should be disposed of in the residual waste. This variant of the coffee capsule is therefore better than a pure aluminum capsule, but worse than a reusable capsule.
Refillable coffee capsules are made of either stainless steel or plastic and are currently the best way to enjoy environmentally friendly coffee. Some suppliers already have capsules in their range that even fit in a Nespresso machine. The principle behind it is very simple! All you have to do is fill the capsule with ground coffee, close it and insert it into the coffee machine.
This alternative is not only particularly environmentally friendly, it also protects your wallet! Because with one kilogram of ground coffee you can make about 160 small capsule servings. With an average purchase price of around 15 euros per kilo, a capsule costs around nine cents. Compared to a Nespresso capsule, which is 36 cents each, you can save 27 cents per capsule and 43 kg per kilogram of coffee. If that's not an argument!
Recycling coffee powder
While the environmentally conscious alternatives for the packaging of the coffee capsules have been developed for a long time and are used in some households, there has so far been no possibility of recycling the used coffee grounds. That has now changed: Food chemists from the Free University of Bozen-Bolzano have found that the used coffee powder is not only suitable as a fertilizer or ecological energy source.
According to current studies, coffee powder can be used in the food industry as a supplier of natural antioxidants and fats. After the coffee has been brewed, there is still a large proportion of naturally occurring phenols in the coffee powder. To extract this, the scientists developed a particularly environmentally friendly process with low temperatures and so-called supercritical carbon dioxide, which is completely recycled after the process. The extracts obtained in this way no longer contain any residues or solvents.
This new method of recycling coffee powder has two advantages. On the one hand, this reduces the high amounts of waste that arise from the use of coffee capsules. On the other hand, the extraction also enables natural vegetable fats to be extracted from the ground coffee, which could be used as an alternative to the controversial palm oil.
The researchers publish the findings and make them freely available to companies. In doing so, they want to promote the development of modern processes for the sustainable use of production waste. This is a further step in a particularly environmentally friendly and sustainable food production.