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Coffee capsules, a sustainable approach to packaging

Coffee beans


For more than 30 years, Nestlé has been at the forefront of offering coffee packaged in capsules that ensure quality and freshness, delivered through machines that use a precise amount of water and energy for each cup.

We are committed to giving all of our coffee capsules a second life after use. This requires a range of solutions including making our packaging circular, piloting and scaling new materials and technologies, as well as investing in well-functioning sorting and recycling infrastructure.

Assessing the environmental impact of coffee capsules

The coffee capsule plays a key role in ensuring a very precise amount of coffee is used to brew a cup of coffee. This enables us to use precious resources in an efficient way and helps to minimise the carbon footprint with consistent in-cup results, time after time.

How do we know this? We analyse the environmental impact of our precision consumption coffee offering. In peer-reviewed life cycle assessments (LCA) conducted by Quantis, it was concluded that a coffee brewed with a Nespresso, using an aluminium or compostable paper-based capsule, has a similar carbon footprint to other brewing methods such as drip filter and moka coffee systems. It also found that a full automat system had a 30% higher carbon footprint than the other systems.

Making packaging circular and using less virgin material

We continue to increase the usage of recycled plastic and aluminum. We believe technology will only continue to evolve, and we will continue to evolve our approaches to using existing material.

In 2020 Nespresso launched coffee capsules using 80% recycled aluminum. This is part of the company's continued journey towards circularity, going further to minimize waste and maximize reuse of product materials.

Nescafé Dolce Gusto is constantly improving the design of its packaging to use less virgin plastic where it is possible, aiming to reduce its virgin plastic usage by 1 third by 2025. Already this year, as of March 2023, Nescafé Dolce Gusto will have reduced the amount of polypropylene in all capsules by 13%, resulting in saving around 8200 tons of plastic since 2018.

Nespresso capsules

Investing in well-functioning sorting and recycling infrastructure

Both recycling and composting streams will play an important part in achieving a circular economy. Creating scaled and effective infrastructure takes time, investment, expertise, innovation, and importantly, collaboration.

Since 2014, Nestlé has invested more than 300 million CHF in recycling infrastructure across the world for its coffee capsule products, to give value to material that might otherwise have been wasted or lost. While there is more progress to come, recycling rates continue to rise and effective recycling remains a fundamental part of the solution to tackling packaging waste.


Man throwing capsules to recycle bin

Examples from across Europe

Piloting new materials to scale and making positive impact in the future

We are not just working to evolve, strengthen, and redesign existing packaging solutions - we are also investing in new ones. Scaling new solutions takes time, so our approach is to test and learn and then to make informed decisions on the solutions we believe can make the biggest positive impact.

One of the best ways to make progress towards circularity and sustainability is through complementary solutions that provide consumers the choice of system most convenient and accessible to them. Both composting and recycling can be effective solutions.

Neo capsules

Last year, we announced two innovations in paper-based, compostable capsules, both certified for home and industrial composting by TÜV Austria:

nespresso coffee capsules

Contributing to our Net Zero Roadmap for 2050

Our approach to make our precision-consumption coffee packaging more sustainable is an important part of Nestlé's five-pillar packaging sustainability strategy, which will contribute to our overarching goal of reaching net zero emissions by 2050.

When it comes to our capsules, the last drop doesn't mean the last use!

From increasing the circularity of packaging materials and coffee machines to piloting and scaling new innovations, to investing in well-functioning sorting and recycling infrastructure as well as reducing the need for virgin materials for our coffee capsules - these solutions are all part of our approach to making our precision-consumption coffee packaging more sustainable and give a second life to our capsules.

Find out more

Read more about the sustainability efforts undertaken by our coffee capsule brands:

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