In a surprising move, the former CEO of Nespresso, Jean-Paul Gaillard, has come forward to condemn the use of capsule-based coffee machines (yep, the innovation that’s been a huge part of Nespresso’s success).
When you consider that Australians spent $AUD215 million on coffee pods in 2015, and that it takes between 150 years and 500 years for the aluminium and plastic capsules to break down in landfill, it’s pretty easy to see that we have a potential environmental disaster on our hands.
Although, it’s still a relatively new problem – with Nespresso filing their first patent application for a capsule-based machine in 1996. In fact, the global market for coffee capsules increased by a staggering $10 billion just between 2010 and 2015.
“It will be a disaster and it’s time to move on that. People shouldn’t sacrifice the environment for convenience,” said Gaillard.
Recycling company TerraCycle has been trying to make a difference by teaming up with pod producing companies such as Nespresso.
“We’re able to set up international platforms where you can send us the capsules, we pay you for shipping, we even give you a donation to your favourite school or charity for every capsule you send in and then we shred them,” explained TerraCycle CEO Tom Szaky.
“We separate the organics and compost those and then we take the metals, melt those into new metal products and the plastics into new plastic products.”
However, Gaillard believes that recycling is not the best solution – with Nespresso not publicising how many capsules are actually being recycled.
“I discovered that recycling doesn’t really work. Except if you are very close to a smelting factory which is never the case,” he said.
“Aluminium capsules have to be shredded, the coffee has to be taken away with water, the varnish to be burnt and aluminium has to be re-smelted again. You need a lot of transportation and energy.”
His solution? The Ethical Coffee Company – a company he now heads up that produces biodegradable coffee pods that are designed to breakdown in 8 months.
“This capsule doesn’t contain one single molecule of petrochemical origin element. It is very difficult, a bit more expensive,” he explained.
“It was a tough challenge and I’ll say we are slowly winning the war at this stage.
“This is the future. The planet is not ours. It will be for our kids.”
Or we could just do away with pods altogether. Your plunger is starting to get lonely in the back of the cupboard.