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 40 years old and married with two daughters. I was born in Sao Paulo, Brazil and arrived in Switzerland when I was 16. I'm an electrical engineer and have an MBA in Intercultural Management. My professional career includes management, sales and marketing for a number of international companies. I joined Nespresso Switzerland in February 2007 as Technical and Quality Director, and was the first to take this role within the company.
Please tell us about the recycling infrastructure in Switzerland and the implications for how Club Members can recycle used capsules.
Switzerland was the first Nespresso market to collect used capsules, back in 1991. To make any recycling scheme a success, it’s important to offer convenience and accessibility to customers. This is not an easy task and it really depends on the region, culture and level of environmental awareness. In Switzerland, we are able to collect over 70% of the total volume of capsules sold; 77% of Club Members have a collection point within 2km radius from their home and over 96% have a collection point within 10km.
The Swiss capsule recycling network is fully financed and managed by Nespresso and is run by a team of four Nespresso employees, including myself. It is composed of 2'283 public recycling containers and eighteen Boutiques equipped with their own recycling corner. This network is served by over fifty collection partners and two treatment plants, which ensures that the capsules are collected from the recycling containers, transported to the treatment plant where the aluminum and coffee ground are separated, efficiently and with the lowest possible environmental impact.
In Switzerland, once the aluminium has been separated from the coffee grounds, it is compacted and sent to a melting plant where it will be transformed into a material called “secondary aluminum”. As for the coffee grounds, since it has great calorific and methanisation potential, since 2010, it has not only been used only as a fertilizer, but together with local partners, we have developed the possibility to use it for the production of green energy. The methane can be used in green electricity production and coffee grounds can be made into briquettes and pellets for domestic heating.
Have you undertaken any specific initiatives to increase Nespresso’s capacity to collect used capsules? If so, please tell us about them.
We work very closely with NGOs and co-operatives such as Igora (www.igora.ch) to help us increase awareness of the environmental benefits of recycling aluminium within the media, local authorities and among consumers in general. We’re currently working on an exciting project with our partner La Coulette but I’m afraid you’ll have to watch this space for more information about this!
Nespresso has an objective to put collection systems in place to triple the collection capacity to recycle used capsules to 75% by 2013. What are your plans to help ensure this objective is achieved?
In Switzerland our capacity to collect used capsules has already reached over 70%. This is a great achievement but we are looking forward and working on a project to go beyond the set target. We will achieve this ambitious target by being able to collect used capsules from the homes of our Club Members.
Does your work on recycling for Nespresso affect your own personal attitude to recycling in the home?
I became aware about the importance of recycling in 1998, when I moved back from the USA to Gebensdorf, Switzerland. In this town, people are taxed according to the quantity of waste they produce; in fact people are taxed on a plastic bag basis. For a family of four, it quickly became quite expensive to throw away everything in the same plastic bag. Therefore, as a family, we started to separate the paper, glass, aluminum, metal can, and others. Myself, I started recycling because of the cost, but now it has become a habit.
Since I started at Nespresso in 2007, I’ve had the great opportunity to meet all kinds of people, who are involved with environmental issues on a daily basis. As a consequence, I have learnt that recycling is not a question of money or marketing, but that the environment is a major concern for Nespresso. As a company, Nespresso is not only focusing on recycling used capsules, but it is investing a lot of financial and human resources in optimizing all processes across the all the business, from the farmer to the re-use of the capsules, in order to reduce its environmental impact and to ensure that we will be a sustainable company that benefits current and future generations.