More than 7 billion coffee capsules, made from aluminum, are thrown away every year.
Take a single-dose capsule coffeeit may not have that creaminess of classic espresso, or the bohemian touch of old Italian coffee makers. But it is comfortable, fast, and the wide variety of flavors and toasts means that the most connoisseurs can change their taste every day.
These little capsules, however, have a problem:its materials are not biodegradable. Each six-gram capsule of coffee requires another three grams of packaging, which is mostly aluminum and plastic that is not recycled, or is thrown in the wrong container. And that's not counting the cardboard or plastic of the container that protects them.
The second most consumed product in the world
Coffee is the second most consumed product in the world, behind oil. According to the cooperative bank Rabobank, the sale of capsules has grown by 26% in the last decade, and has surpassed the rest of the methods of preparation of this product eight times. A study by Kantar Worldpanel estimates that in a few more years, single-serving coffee will outperform ground and soluble coffee. And where do most of these capsules go? To the trash.
One of the producers of biodegradable packaging, Halo, estimates that every minute 13,500 aluminum and plastic capsules are thrown into the waste bin, that is, in a year, there are more than 7 billion capsules that will take at least a century to be recycled naturally. Statistics lovers say that if placed side by side, these little packages could go around the world 14 times.
The ecological impact is so great that even John Sylvan, the creator of the K-cup pods - the most popular model in the United States - regrets his invention. "I no longer use them, they are very expensive," he said, and in an apocalyptic tone, he told The Atlantic magazine "no matter what the manufacturers say, the capsules cannot be recycled."
There are already more than 1.5 million people who drink two or three single-dose coffees every day, which has also led to higher expenses for the sake of comfort: from buying half-kilo packages to five or six euros (11 or 12 euros per kilo), it has gone to capsules that increase the price of the kilo to 50 euros.
One problem with this type of product is that consumers recycle it incorrectly. The regulations do not consider it as a container, and it should not be thrown in the yellow container. If someone tries to empty the coffee and throw away the aluminum capsule, there will always be organic remains.
Nespresso, the world's leading single-dose sales company, has more than 900 points where customers can bring used capsules. They have 14,000 centers around the world, and company spokesmen say that by 2020 they hope to have the capacity to recycle 100% of their production.
But not everyone has the time or conscience to approach the recycling point: it is estimated that only one in five cares about collecting and delivering them.
The alternative of organic capsules
A solution to the ecological problem can come from the hand of biodegradable capsules. One of the companies that has launched them on the market is Cafés Novell, whose pods are compatible with Nespresso machines. The Catalan company wants to take advantage of the current of ecological awareness of many consumers and aspire to sell 500,000 units a year, of capsules that can disintegrate between one and three months.
The secret is in the biodegradable plastic with which the pods are made. It is Ecovio, a material created by Basf produced based on a polyester called Ecoflex
The secret is in the biodegradable plastic with which the pods are made. This is Ecovio, a material created by Basf produced based on a polyester called Ecoflex (also developed by the German multinational) and the PLA biopolymer, made with corn starch.
A recyclable paper covers the outside of the capsule, and inside is this type of biodegradable plastic. In addition, the structure is unified with a compostable adhesive called Epotal Eco, another creation of Basf. In this way, as with other capsules, moisture, oxygen or light is prevented from damaging the product.
More brands on the market
Another brand that presents its biodegradable capsules is Café Ético, the subsidiary of Ethical Coffee Company, founded by former Nespresso CEO Jean-Paul Galliard, in 2008. Precisely, things with his old company did not end well and the Nestlé company He sued them for the patent of his famous capsules, a claim that the food giant lost and gave wings to this new company to present ecological capsules and sell coffee from producers included in fair trade.
These capsules are manufactured "based on vegetable fibers of 100% biological origin", the company reports, and ensures that in six months it degrades thanks to an industrial compost system. When throwing it away, you have to throw it in the organic garbage can.
There are companies that manufacture capsules "based on vegetable fibers of 100% biological origin", ensuring that in six months they degrade thanks to an industrial compost system
Cabú Cofee is another company that aims to conquer the market with its biodegradable capsules, which can be disposed of in organic containers, and its models are compatible with Nespresso and Dolce Gusto machines.
The ecological advance against traditional capsules goes in parallel with the expansion of this system. In Hamburg, its municipal government has prohibited the purchase of machines and capsules in all public administration units - among other sustainable consumption measures. Perhaps with the arrival of these new capsules, the officials of this northern German city will be able to have a single-dose coffee during a break from work.