We all know Australians love their cup of joe – especially Melburnians like myself.
Once lockdown was introduced in 2020, my personal coffee capsule consumption increased tenfold due to cafés being shut. As my pile of used coffee capsules slowly became a tower, I started to do some research into how to recycle these little aluminium pods.
To my horror, all the government recycling websites advised me to throw my capsules into the general waste. Not only that, Former Nespresso chief executive Jean-Paul Gaillard revealed that it takes 150 to 500 years for aluminium and plastic capsules to breakdown in landfill. After finding this out, I now make it a habit to check which capsules are recyclable or biodegradable before purchasing them.
According to the Australian Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment website, a whopping 3 million coffee capsules are consumed daily by Australians. With only 10% of this amount being recycled, that leaves an estimated 8,500 tonnes of aluminium, plastic and used coffee grounds being transported to landfill every year.
In response to this, the Australian Government is supporting the Planet Ark Environmental Foundation to develop a product stewardship scheme to recycle coffee capsules, which is due to commence in October 2022. You can read more about this national scheme over at Planet Ark.
On a more local level, a number of coffee brands are using new technology and sustainable processes to help curb the wastage issue. More and more coffee companies are offering customers capsules that are either recyclable, biodegradable or compostable. Generally, used coffee capsules have to be placed in the general waste bin because they are too small to be picked up by recycling equipment. This is where specialised coffee capsule recycling programs come in.
COFFEE CAPSULE RECYCLING PROGRAMS IN AUSTRALIA
A number of aluminium and plastic coffee capsules can be recycled, however, bear in mind that not ALL of them can be. If you are looking to purchase sustainable coffee capsules, it is important to do your research beforehand to find out which brands offer recycling and how to recycle them. If a coffee brand does not offer any recycling options, then the used coffee capsules must be placed in the general waste bin.
NESPRESSO RECYCLING PROGRAM
Well-known coffee capsule brand Nespresso has their own free recycling program for Australian customers. Their coffee capsules are made from aluminium, which can be recycled and used to fabricate new products. The website states, ‘Nespresso aluminium coffee capsules that are recycled with Nespresso are sent to a specialist recycling plant based in Nowra, NSW. There, the aluminium is separated from the residual coffee. The coffee is sent to an industrial composting facility to be transformed into compost, while the aluminium is recycled and sent back to the aluminium industry to produce new aluminium products.’
There are currently four ways you can recycle your used Nespresso coffee capsules.
- In person. Return your used capsules in person to a Nespresso Boutique.
- By post. Send your used capsules back to Nespresso using a special Australia Post satchel, which you can order from the Nespresso website here.
- Drop them off at a participating collection point. There are 19,000 collection points in Australia, you can find your nearest centre here.
- Participate in one of Nespresso’s bulk recycling collection initiatives where workplaces or community locations can become a recycling point to collect on behalf of your community or workplace.
To find out more about Nespresso’s recycling program, click here.
Starbucks® by Nespresso® RECYCLING PROGRAM
You may have seen the Starbucks® by Nespresso® coffee capsule range in-store and online at participating retailers. Since this is an official partnership between the two companies, you can bring your used Starbucks® by Nespresso® capsules to participating Nespresso collection points or return them to your nearest Nespresso® Boutiques. Alternatively, you may also contact Starbucks® by Nespresso® on 1800 411 796 for more information.
TERRACYCLE RECYCLING PROGRAMS
At the time of this article, TerraCycle offers six different coffee capsule recycling solutions in Australia. You can either drop off your used capsules at a Community Collection Hub or you can opt to be a private collector and ship off your recyclables to TerraCycle. Currently, the recycling programs available are:
- L'OR, Moccona & illy Capsules Recycling Program
- Lavazza Capsules Recycling Program
- NESCAFÉ® Dolce Gusto® Capsule Recycling Program
- Roast and Return Aluminium Coffee Capsule Recycling Program (Allpress, Axil Coffee Roasters, White Horse Coffee, Di Stefano Coffee Roasters, Alora Coffee Co.)
- Roast and Return Coffee Capsule Composting Program (Di Stefano Coffee Roasters, Green Barista, Wood Fired Coffee, ST. ALi, The Branded Coffee Co.)
- Seven Miles coffee pods recycling program
Head to the TerraCycle website to see a list of coffee brands and companies that are participating in the program. Please note that you can only recycle items from the brands that are listed on the TerraCycle website or if mentioned by the coffee company themselves.
ALDI EXPRESSI RECYCLING PROGRAM
Aldi has a recycling program for used Expressi capsules. However, according to their website, the program is currently suspended as they have reached their collection capacity. Keep checking in on their website to stay updated with the progress of their program. For the meantime, capsules will have to go into the general household rubbish bin.
To find out more about Aldi’s Expressi capsules, click here.
DID YOU KNOW?
You can recycle coffee grounds from used capsules in the garden! Coffee grounds are high in potassium and nitrogen and the high carbon content helps feed the soil. Learn more about coffee compost at Gardening Australia.
ADDITIONAL READING RESOURCES
- How to recycle coffee pods in Australia by Tahnee-Jae Lopez-Vito | Canstar Blue
- Australian government to support national recycling scheme for coffee capsules by Liam Taylor | Planet Ark
- Australian Nespresso pod recycling centre located in Nowra at Sell & Parker by Stuart Thomson | Blue Mountains Gazette