Even before they were marketed, the coffee pods system was already an aberration. Capsules make coffee less good than Italian espresso machines, make coffee more expensive, give less freedom in the choice of coffee and above all, this process is far from ecological.
I propose today to look at what their impacts are, the promises of the companies that market the pods and finally, I propose to you to determine what alternatives to the polluting pods can be.
There are now a lot of different models of pods for coffee machines. We can find the pods Tassimo, Nespresso, Keurig… The most famous pods are those of Nespresso brand, because they are the first to have appeared on the market. Nespresso is also to my knowledge the only brand that tries to recycle its pods even though, as we will see during this article there is a lot of loss.
For the article I chose to talk about the Nespresso capsules. But what I describe for Nespresso applies to other brands.
The recycling of Nespresso capsules
The brand image
Nespresso offers us a recycling section on their sites. Recycling is the result of several points:
- The used pods must be placed in a green bag provided free of charge by Nespresso. We can get the bags in store or by mail.
- Once the bag is full, we need to put it in a recycling bin.
- In some cities the recycling service has a partnership with Nespresso. Nespresso recovers the bags of used pods and treats them.
- Nespresso separates aluminum and coffee and recycles.
There are two problems in this process. All users do not take the trouble to place the pods in recycling bags. If the pods are thrown individually into the recycling bins, they are too small to be found and recycled. That is, even if Nespresso cares for its brand image by initiating recycling procedures, they will never recycle the whole pods properly. Currently, according to the LesEchos newspaper, Nespresso recycles 20% of the pods and invests to reach 50% by 2025.
If we look at Nespresso’s promotional video on pods recycling, we notice at 1 minute 25 that after grinding the pods to remove the coffee grounds, there are lots of small pieces of aluminum in it. Seeing this, I have the impression that there is a part of the aluminum that mixes with the coffee grounds and that this aluminum is found in nature. But maybe they’re filtering the coffee grounds to get the latest aluminum residue.
Are biodegradable pods really ecological?
There are generic pods with Nespresso pods. Historically, the first generic pods to have appeared in March 2010, when Jean-Paul Gaillard, the owner of Nespresso between 1988 and 1997, used a flaw in a Nespresso patent that allowed him to market competing pods. He launched his first compatible pods manufactured by his company Ethical Coffee Company and sold under the brand Casino. They were biodegradable pods.
But are they really environmentally friendly?
Well at the risk of disappointing you, the answer is no. The generic pods are surrounded by a small plastic bag (sometimes a mixture of plastic and aluminum). This bag is used to protect the coffee from oxidation, as unlike the Nespresso pods in aluminium, the generic pods are not air-tight.
Because of this overpack policy, biodegradable pods are not environmentally friendly.
We can also discuss the biodegradable pods itself. Because its manufacture must have an ecological impact and the biodegradable plastic or cardboard is not as biodegradable as one might think.
Finally, for me the “ecological” part of this type of pods is deceptive and represents only one marketing side.
In addition, I personally find that the biodegradable pods leave a aftertaste in the coffee.
What about the reusable pods?
I have a personal experience of reusable Nespresso pods. I share my experience, my opinion and give my advice to use them in the following article. Overall, among all the pods presented here, reusable pods are the most environmentally friendly and allow to choose your coffee while making it cheaper. On the other hand we lose the practical side of the pods. So if you want to buy a Nespresso machine to use it with reusable pods, I would advise against it. You might as well buy a real espresso machine. On the other hand, if you want to reduce the cost of your pods and be environmentally friendly, why not. You will have a taste similar to Nespresso pods/generic pods. You can easily buy reusable pods on Amazon.
Note that when you purchase a Keurig machine, they provide you with a reusable pods.
The pods that are charged is even and that can be thrown
It’s also a system I’ve tried: Biodegradable pods that are charged with coffee and are biodegradable. I am thinking in particular of the “eco pods” system. I tested the “eco pods” and I strongly recommend that you do not invest in this type of pods. They will damage your machine because they are very strong and difficult to drill. Besides, I do not know why, but we can not reach the same pressure as with the Nespresso pods. They give a funny taste to the coffee and are expensive.
If you want to load pods yourself to choose your coffee and be environmentally friendly, take reusable pods. Not a thing like that.
For me, pods coffee machines are the very reflection of our society. Consumers are sacrificing the financed side, aroma and ecology to the benefit of the practical side.
If you are thinking about buying a coffee machine and you are gourmés, I encourage you to choose an espresso machine rather than a pods machine.
Espresso VS Nespresso
With an espresso machine you will have
- A better coffee
- Choosing your ground or grain coffee
- A much cheaper financial cost so that in a few less you could repay the price difference between a Nespresso machine and espresso
- And a much more environmentally friendly coffee
However, you lose the practical side of Nespresso machines. Instead of putting 30 seconds with a Nespresso machine to prepare a coffee, you put 3 minutes with an espresso machine. And frankly, putting 6 times more seconds to prepare your coffee is not a problem.
I had an espresso machine before switching to Nespresso. Nespresso taste is better and more consistent. It is also less messy. So I understand the ecological concern, but this product is so good! If I turn back to Espresso, it would be by force.
thank you for sharing your experience.
yes if you prefer Nespresso coffees, go for it. however I feel it is important to be aware of the ecological impact that the capsules have.
personally I prefer espresso coffee but it is true that it is more complicated and requires real know-how.
I have a Nespresso machine and drink 2-4 pods’ worth per day. The consistency is outstanding: flavor, texture, aroma and visually appealing. I religiously recycle the spent pods in the pre-UPS-labeled return bag and wait until it’s filled completely before shipping.
I get it though, Nestle’s CEO is basically evil (see his comments on water use for an example), producing aluminium pods and shipping them to and fro is a carbon and water hazard and it bothers me.
The machine and the coffee it puts into my cup are wonderful, but this comes at a cost. It’s complicated. Life is complicated. I would like to think that I make up for this carbon footprint by being more conserving in other ways.
thank you for your message, tell yourself that unlike many people you recycle your Nespresso capsules.
yes, we live in a completely offbeat world. but I think that if everyone makes logical efforts, that things can evolve.
after the coronavirus problem i think things will change.