Coffee capsules, a sustainable approach to packaging
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.
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.
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.
Examples from across Europe
BelgiumWe collaborated with other coffee brands and aluminium packaging producers to enable the recycling of Nestlé coffee capsules via the Plastic, Metal and Drinks (PMD) blue bag as from January 2023 onwards. Similar projects have also taken place across Europe including in France, Germany and Spain.Read more
FranceNespresso, Nestlé and JDE Peet's formed the Alliance for the Recycling of Aluminium Capsules in 2019, with the bold intention of recycling all aluminium coffee capsules in France. Through the alliance, we were able to equip 51 recycling centres across France with specialist machines to recycle aluminium capsules. The public recycling scheme ('the yellow bin'), can now be used by 30 million people in France to recycle aluminium capsules. Globally, 88% of Nespresso Club Members have access to a Nespresso dedicated recycling solution for capsules close to their home.Read more
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.
Last year, we announced two innovations in paper-based, compostable capsules, both certified for home and industrial composting by TÜV Austria:
Nescafé Dolce Gusto Neo - Neo is Nescafé's next generation coffee machines and pods. The pods are paper-based, home compostable and use 70% less packaging (by weight) than current capsules. Watch Nescafé Dolce Gusto Neo presentation.
Nespresso paper-based home compostable capsules - these breakthrough paper-based home compostable capsules offer another way to enjoy sustainably sourced high-quality coffee. This new range, for those who prefer to compost, will sit alongside existing Nespresso capsules. The new capsules will be available in France and Switzerland from spring 2023. Discover more on how we developed a new range of home compostable capsules for Nespresso.
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: