Ecology and coffee capsules: a file without filters!

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Aina Prat
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Spaniards love coffee so much. But at a time when ecology takes center stage, we must be vigilant about the consumption of single-use capsules and pods. Back to the capsule market and alternative solutions.



Despite the awakening of ecological consciences, pod and capsule coffee machines are enjoying great success: pod coffee makers today represent a fleet of 17,1 million devices, present in 54% of Spanish homes in 2018, against 12,8 million for filter coffee makers (according to GIFAM figures).

According to an article on the Echos site, the sale of coffee represents 2,9 billion euros in Spain, half of which would be absorbed by the pod market (i.e. 1,4 billion).

On the price side, the addition is full-bodied, since Nespresso pods cost on average almost 7 times more expensive than entry-level coffee beans (as can be read in the file below).

If this market is to say the least tonic, this encapsulated black gold is still the subject of many debates: not ecological, non-recyclable, toxic, expensive... In short, the capsule is more and more talked about!



The big actors heckled

Among the major players in coffee machines with pods, we find Nespresso, Dolce Gusto or Philips Senseo, to name a few... But recently, new manufacturers have come to heckle these capsule spawns, for example Boulanger who has recently marketed the Miogo Mec machine which uses its own capsules.

Delonghi Nespresso Lattissima One Introductory price €200


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How the Krups Dolce Gusto Lumio Pricing Table Works Introductory Price €100

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How the Philips Senseo Original HD6553/71 price chart works Introductory price €79

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Manufacturers most often sell proprietary pods, which can be restrictive for the user. While each manufacturer uses its own capsules, it was the end of Nestlé's patent in 2016, which allowed all coffee players to covet the mass distribution market. And the latter did not deprive themselves of it...


Indeed, more and more brands and supermarkets are switching to "compatible" capsules, which are cheaper and more accessible (available in supermarkets): according to LSA, in 2018, L'Or pulled up the segment of Nespresso compatible capsules, increased from 200 million euros in 2016 to 400 million euros at the end of 2018.

Classic Espresso Lungo Black Card

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Recycling, a miracle solution?

Obviously, coffee capsules are a real ecological sinkhole. According to an article by Espagneinfo, nine billion capsules/pods are sold worldwide each year, representing 400 tonnes of aluminum waste – a material very often used to better preserve the aroma. The problem is that recycling these capsules is complicated and only 000 of the 18 sorting centers in Spain are equipped to recover them.


Some manufacturers, however, are trying to take the strategic turn of ecology. This is the case of Malongo, which was the first player to position itself in the ecology sector: in 2012, the Spanish coffee manufacturer marketed the first fully recyclable and biodegradable ecological pod. However, we still regret today that the pods of the "ecological" manufacturer are individually wrapped in plastic. Malongo had been promising (for 5 years) that, little by little, paper packaging would arrive. They are finally starting to be available. Good things come to those who wait for...


A lot of waste for an eco-friendly builder...

Nescafé Dolce Gusto has decided to "earn points that can be converted into financial donations for the associations of your choice", for those who will throw their capsules at a collection point.

As for Nespresso, it communicates on recycling on its site by indicating the number of sorting centers near its home or by explaining what happens to the used capsules that are sorted.

The Swiss company has also launched the Ecolaboration platform dedicated to its various actions in sustainable development.


When Nespresso explains (in a very popular way) what a recycled capsule can become!

Real awareness or Greewashing? Nespresso is in any case trying to redeem itself for good behavior following the highly publicized intervention in 2011 by the Swiss NGO Solidar, which demanded that Nestlé offer fair trade coffee in all of its assortment of capsules.

According to the newspaper Les Échos, Nespresso Spain would in any case wish to recycle 50% of its capsules in 2025 by investing 10 million euros.

Small problem: according to the Decoders of the World, to really recycle the capsules throughout the chain (coffee, plastic, metal), it would be necessary to consider a scheme passing through four countries: the Netherlands to clean the capsules, Italy to remove the lacquer and melt them into ingots, Germany to transform the ingots into sheets, and Switzerland to transform the metal back into capsules. In addition, if a capsule contains materials other than aluminum (plastic and coffee scraps in particular), it cannot be melted in a conventional oven. In short, the complete recycling of a coffee pod seems to be almost impossible, since too expensive for the moment, but also not so ecological if we stick to the various stages of recycling...

Alternative solutions

Dosette and ecology are not incompatible, and there are several substitute products to overcome the problems of the single-use capsule. Here is a non-exhaustive selection chosen by us, according to the price, but also the materials used.

Biodegradable and compostable

Terramoka

Among them are the Terramoka capsules.

Terramoka Mademoiselle Adele

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  • Philips L'OR Barista Sublime Best price: 59.99 € See the test
  • Bosch Tassimo Vivy 2 Best price: 25.99 € See the test
  • Krups Dolce Gusto Lumio Best price: 87.9 € See the test
  • Bosch Tassimo Suny TAS3203 Best price: 54.98 € See the test
  • Krups Nespresso Essenza Mini Best price: 86.99 € See the test
  • Delonghi Nespresso Lattissima One Best price: 164 € See the test
See more Mademoiselle Adèle Biodegradable Capsules Terramoka offers

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  • BioloMix BM6178 multifunction food processor 1200W bowl 4 liters Best price: 74 € View
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Without aluminum and compatible with Nespresso machines, the Terramoka are intended to be "100% biodegradable": the packaging of these capsules is indeed compostable since it is exclusively composed of corn starch. They are also OK Compost certified. This label certifies the compliance of bioplastics. After use, it is therefore possible to throw the small Terramoka lid in the green bins (or on its compost pile).

The case of 15 Terramoka capsules costs around €6 and the capsule costs €0,40, which is the price of a Nespresso capsule.

**Cosy Coffee

Cozy Compostable Coffee Capsules

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Cozy Coffen, a young Spanish company, launched at the end of 2018 its own capsules compatible with Nespresso machines, 100% recyclable and naturally compostable. This means that it is possible to dispose of the capsules in the garden, vegetable patch or outside compost. Made from sugar cane, bamboo and paper pulp, the capsule is sold for around 50 euro cents.

rechargeable

The refillable capsule is not only economical, but also environmentally friendly. Unlike the others, it is not disposable and can be kept for years, depending on the material used. Simply fill the pod with the ground coffee of your choice, then tamp it down to avoid air pockets (you need about 7 g of coffee). Once the coffee has been poured, remove the grounds from the capsule and rinse it with clean water. Obviously, the refillable pod requires maintenance after each use, which can be restrictive.

MyEcoCafe

Myecocafé Reusable Capsules

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My EcoCofe or the reusable capsule. According to the manufacturer, this stainless steel capsule "represents no danger to health" since it is made of stainless steel, unlike a classic aluminum capsule. It is compatible with all Nespresso and Dolce Gusto machines and all ground coffees. Attention, this unique capsule still costs 25 €.


The MyEcoCafé reusable capsule

Xavax

Xavax Capsules espresso

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Admittedly less ecological, because in plastic, the Xavax capsule is however much cheaper than MyEcocafé since the batch of 3 capsules costs 15 €. It is only compatible with Nespresso machines.

We've only presented a non-exhaustive list of biodegradable and reusable capsules here, but there are many more and it's a safe bet that this market will grow in the years to come — even Starbucks is getting involved. !

It is important to specify that we have not tested these capsules. We therefore do not know what to expect in terms of maintenance or ease of use. However, it's a safe bet that we will develop grips for these capsules in order to give you a "lab" opinion of these new coffee stars!

alternative coffee machines

And if the biodegradable or recyclable capsules still fail to seduce you, it is possible to do without them by opting for the automatic machine with grinder, which only requires coffee beans! Among all the machines available, we recommend the Delonghi Magnifica S ECAM 22 or the Philips Series 2200 EP2231/40. And in a dedicated article, we tell you all about the true cost of these machines.

Delonghi Magnifica S ECAM 22 Introductory price €299

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