You are here : Home > Style > Everlasting aluminium.

Everlasting aluminium.

Nespresso Recycling

Over the last twenty years, Nespresso has paid serious attention to environmental issues. The aluminium capsule is unrivalled when it comes to protecting your Grands Crus but it is also environmentally-friendly: using minimal energy, this metal can be made to last forever, so Nespresso makes sure it is brought back to life.

In the 1860s, the three heroes of Jules Verne’s “From the Earth to the MOON” TRAVELLED through space aboard a VESSEL made of a metal that is strong, light, airtight, easy to fashion, keeps its shape and does not oxidise: aluminium. Back then, aluminium was already seen as the manufacturing solution of the future: compared to an equal weight of steel, it is twice as strong. But due to production costs, it was considered a precious metal: during a banquet given by Napoleon III, honoured guests ate off an aluminium dinner service while the others had to make do with mere gold. If the visionary novelist were to stumble across a Nespresso capsule today, a century and a half later, he would see in it the qualities of his space vessel, such as air-tightness and protection. “To get the best results, the ground coffee must be protected from oxygen, moisture and light,” explains Alexis Rodriguez, the Nespresso Coffee Expert who bestows Grands Crus and Limited Editions with the sensational aroma that must be protected until the moment the coffee is drunk. “Aluminium offers ideal protection against this triple threat.” In short, the Nespresso capsule is both a container and a suit of armour. Aside from its ability to preserve flavours intact, Nespresso has also taken advantage of aluminium’s incredible recycling potential for over twenty years. Simply melting down recovered fragments is enough to restore the properties of the original metal. This recy­cling process also uses very little energy: only 5% of the energy required to extract the same quantity of metal. Such great benefits meant that Nespresso prioritised the implementation of a specific procedure.

A chronicle of collection

And so it was in Switzerland, the home of Nespresso and a country particularly interested in environmental issues, that capsule recycling began in 1989, alongside the launch of the first range of domestic machines. Marc-Alain Dubois, who is currently European Commercial Director at Nespresso, was at the helm of the Swiss market at the time. He recalls, “The trifold business model of machine, capsule and club had been established. But creating a recycling system seemed a Herculean task. Where would Nespresso Club Members dispose of used capsules? What process would separate coffee grounds from the aluminium? Finally, how could we persuade Nespresso Club Members to recycle their capsules rather than throw them out? At the time, people hadn’t got used to the idea of portioned coffee.” They came up straightaway with a rule, which is still kept to: Nespresso would invest in the best solutions... Club Members had the right to choose. No one would be forced to recycle. In 1990, at a time when there was still no real provision for recycling, Nespresso came up with their first collection method: an empty recycling bag came with each order, which could be returned to Nespresso filled with used capsules. This idea has in fact stayed the course, since a current version of the system, called “Recycling at Home” is proving successful in the Swiss cantons. “At the time, we contacted a Swiss aluminium collecting cooperative called Igora,” Marc-Alain Dubois continues, “but they were unable to separate the coffee grounds from the aluminium. Finally, it was Thévenaz-Leduc, a group which specialises in recycling metals, that allowed us to use their 35 collection points.” Collection points are the strategic heart of the whole operation, he explains. “We immediately realised the great importance of giving the consumer easy access to the network. This need was met when we were able to install handy collection points in shops where machines were sold, then in Nespresso Boutiques as they opened. The first of these, found on the Loewenstrasse in Zurich, is still running! Swiss towns then suggested specialised containers. The increasing number of collection points in Switzerland created a need for a more comprehensive recycling solution. You could describe it as a virtuous circle.”

The importance of networks

How has capsule recycling evolved since the introduction of the first Nespresso machines? The first change is quantitative. A number of other countries which have fallen in love with Nespresso Grands Crus have gradually signed up to the associated recycling solutions. The first recycling schemes in other countries may only have appeared ten years after they were initiated in Switzerland, but there are now 20,000 collection points available to Nespresso Club Members across the globe. And the number is growing with each passing month. The aim of being able to recycle 75% of capsules by 2013 has already been reached. The second change is logistical. Nespresso now works in line with recycling systems in individual countries. Depending on local conditions, collection points can be found not only in Nespresso Boutiques but also in shops which sell our machines, recycling centres with specialised containers and in shops where products bought online can be collected. The increasing number and diversity of collection points demonstrate both our commitment to making Nespresso Club Members’ lives simpler and providing a personal service which benefits everyone.

Remaining challenges

A second collection method, which makes use of national waste collection systems, is also being closely monitored. The method is already in place in Germany, Switzerland and Finland: used capsules are thrown in recycling bins for packaging, often found in the bottom of apartment blocks. And others are following suit. In the south of France, Nespresso has introduced an initiative which means capsules can be thrown in the “yellow bin” – the one which is then sorted – in apartment blocks. At the sorting centre, a high-tech piece of equipment removes them and injects them into the recycling system. This makes recycling easier for the consumer and thus guarantees a higher recuperation rate. Whether methods are individual or communal, and no matter what systems are used, one great principle is central: each country comes up with its own scheme. Removing coffee grounds from the aluminium is more a technical than logistical challenge, met in 1990 with a crushing system which has since benefitted from regular improvements. In this area too, the choice of solution is always left up to regional subsidiaries. In the South, old capsules are left outside to dry: using the sun’s energy doesn’t cost the earth! Elsewhere, heating or washing is used. Coffee grounds are used as organic fertilizer or as a source of green energy. And the aluminium is made ready for its next reincarnation. Quite simply, they are given a new lease of life... and it’s all up to you.

Every little helps

More collection points than ever, researching the best ways to rem­ove coffee grounds from the metal, integrating used capsules into recycling collection systems... for over twenty years, Nespresso has been investing its time, money and intelligence into finding the best solutions. Why? Because we, like many others, believe that recycling is worth the investment, and that with the cooperation of Nespresso Club Members, our capsules can be given new life. Every little gesture helps build our future. There are more than 20,000 collection points around the world. Find your nearest one using our geolocalisation system at, or via the Nespresso mobile app.


What is the point of recycling capsules? The answer can be found simply by popping into your nearest Nespresso Boutique. Because the PIXIE machine’s elegant casing is actually made out of millions of used capsules which have been recycled by Nespresso Club Members! Its new coloured side panels – available in Carmine or Brown – are made from 98% Nespresso capsules which have been recycled in Switzerland! There is no better way to walk the walk: the cute PIXIE machine, which was already energy efficient, is now a real-life illustration of the benefits of collecting capsules. A recycling ambassador able to reach out to coffee lovers around the world, with no need for an interpreter. >


This photo story was shot at the Papirec factory (part of the Thévenaz-Leduc group) in Moudon, Switzerland. The factory is contracted by Nespresso to recycle capsules. The process has three steps: storage of used capsules, separation of coffee grounds from the aluminium and compacting of the two materials. A fourth step, melting down the aluminium, takes place at another factory.

Text Francis Dolric Photography Jean-Claude Amiel

Nespresso extends its support to Talents


Nespresso extends its support to Talents

Read Read


All style See See

© Nestlé Nespresso S.A. 2010 . Nespresso Policy . Terms & Conditions . About us . Credits . Nespresso Websites
Logo Opsone Logo FCINQ