Capsule collection in Switzerland
Interview with Alexandre John Bolay, Nespresso Technical & Quality Director, Switzerland
“Switzerland was the first Nespresso market to collect used capsules, back in 1991”
Tell us a little about yourself.
I'm 42, married, and have two daughters. I was born in São Paulo in Brazil, and came to Switzerland when I was 16. I am an engineer specialising in electrical engineering. Over the course of my career, I've worked in the management, commercial and marketing departments of various international companies. I joined Nespresso Switzerland in February 2007 as Technical and Quality Director. I was the first person to hold this position in the company.
What recycling infrastructures exist in Switzerland, and what are the solutions offered to Nespresso Club members for returning their used capsules?
Switzerland was the first Nespresso market to collect used capsules. That goes back to 1991. For a recycling programm to be successful, the service needs to be simultaneously simple, practical, and close to hand for the consumer. That's no easy matter, because everything depends on the country, the culture, and the level of environmental awareness. In Switzerland, we are capable of collecting over 84% of the total volume of capsules sold. 76% of Nespresso Club members have a collection point within a 2 km radius of their home, and over 96% of members have one within 5 km.
The capsule recycling network in Switzerland is entirely funded and managed by Nespresso, with the help of multiple partners. This extensive network of over 2,600 collection points employs around 60 people full time across Switzerland. From the logistics point of view, it is maintained by around seventy recycling enterprises involved in collections, along with two processing centres which see to it that the capsules collected are processed in the optimum manner to separate the aluminium from the coffee grounds. In Switzerland, once the aluminium has been separated from the coffee grounds, it is compacted to be recast and converted into a material called "secondary aluminium". The coffee grounds, which have significant calorific value, are partly recycled for energy, and partly as compost. Since 2010, we have been diversifying the use of the coffee grounds, and by working together with carefully- selected partners a large proportion of the coffee grounds are recycled in producing green energy.
Did you take specific initiatives to increase the capacity of Nespresso to collect used capsules? And if so, can you tell us about them?
Yes - we are looking to achieve 100% recycling capacity for Switzerland for 2012.
With this in mind, in 2011 we set up a domestic recycling service which will be rolled out across all of Switzerland at the end of 2012. It is an innovative service, set up with the help and support of Swiss Post, which involves exchanging new capsule orders for the used capsules. In practical terms, it's a simple service: 1) The member signs up for the home recycling service, and is sent a kit with a recycling bag and an information leaflet. 2) The member puts his used capsules (up to 200) into the bag. 3) When placing his next order, the member advises the coffee specialist or on the internet site that he has a bag to be returned. 4) At that point, he seals the bag with the used capsules and places it in his mailbox. 5) Within 48 hours, the postman will put the new order in the mailbox and remove the bag with the used capsules, which will then be forwarded to the recycling centre.
Nespresso is looking to triple collection capacity, to reach 75% of capsules being recycled by 2013. What do you see as contributing to achieving this target?
In Switzerland, our capacity for collecting used capsules is already over 84%. This is a great achievement. With home recycling, we will reach 100% by the end of 2012.
Does your work on recycling for Nespresso influence your own behaviour in your private life?
I started to become aware of the importance of recycling in 1998, when I left the US to come and live in Gebensdorf in Switzerland. In that town, residents are taxed depending on the amount of rubbish they produce, using the plastic bag as a unit quantity. For a family of four, throwing everything into the same bag can quickly prove very expensive. So we started to sort paper, glass, aluminium, tin cans, etc. You could say I started recycling for economic reasons, but today it has simply become a habit.
Since I started working for Nespresso in 2007, I have had the opportunity to meet many people involved day-to-day in environmental issues. I have learned that recycling is not just a question of money or a marketing consideration for Nespresso, but an environmental initiative based on a genuine sense of conscience. As an enterprise, Nespresso is not only pushing for recycling of used capsules. It is investing financially and on a personal level in improving practices across all its activities, from the grower to capsule recycling, so as to reduce its environmental impact and to become a company that respects the environment for the benefit of current and future generations.