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Nespresso Going Green

Based on a recent comment to my article on pod system espresso machines, I wanted to address a big misunderstanding about the effort of Nespresso going green, so to speak.

A reader stated that these machines generate unnecessary trash which is harmful to the environment. As I stated in the article, the coffee can be removed from the individual pods and composted. The empty pods can then be recycled in your local recycling program.

Nespresso Going Green

However, I wanted everyone to know that Nespresso is addressing these concerns. The first thing Nespresso has done is open pod return/recycling locations in Europe. There are plans to open these locations here in North America as well. Their goal is to triple their pod recycling capacity in the next 4 years.

Additionally, Nestle has committed to sourcing 80% of its coffee from sustainable farms by the year 2013. This commitment means they will double the present percentage of 40%.

Nespresso has also initiated a top to bottom review of their corporate policies to make sure they are doing all they can to be environmentally responsible.

I hope I don’t sound like a shill for Nestle, but I think it is only fair to look at the company as a whole before passing judgment on a single product line.

***Note: Before anyone leaves anymore comments on this article go read this Nespresso Crema Fact From Fiction

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27 Responses to “Nespresso Going Green”

  1. greg

    Actually, you do sound like a little bit of a shill for Nestle. Through the Nespresso, Nestle introduced a whole new form of disposable consumerism.

    And while they’re obviously taking the right step in examining how their capsules are being disposed, unfortunately in the hierarchy of “reduce, reuse, recycle” — “recycle” ranks ridiculously low on the list.

    To reduce would mean to not have to go through the materials extraction, mining, shipping, and manufacturing production of their individual serving packaging to begin with. Every one of those steps produce waste and toxic byproducts. So even before we consider recycling, all the fossil fuels and pollutants going into the act of individual-serving-sized packaging needs to be eliminated.

    Then if we even get to recycling, despite its simplistic (and completely inaccurate) “cure all” status, recycling can often be a zero-sum game. This is due to all the energy and materials that go into the recycling process. Many materials recycle at a net negative — making it better for you to simply throw them into landfills.

    Nestle’s track record is, as the UK Guardian calls them, “the world’s largest and most ethically questioned food and drink company” (http://www.guardian.co.uk/business/2005/oct/07/ethicalbusiness.fairtrade). While making an effort is commendable, they wouldn’t be in this mess if they didn’t decide to promote individual packaging and a disposable consumer lifestyle to make coffee consumption that much more environmentally hazardous, by design, to begin with.

  2. greg

    I think you’re also focused on the production of trash and not the unnecessary use and production of materials upstream.

    You almost have to wonder if Nestlé’s product developers and engineers sat in the design room and thought up, “How can we make home coffee consumption far more environmentally wasteful than it is today? How can we get consumers to help us strip-mine and ship more raw materials, and produce more packaging in factories, with every cup of coffee?” The result was the Nespresso system.

  3. oversensitive

    Does anyone know if there are any non-coffee ingredients in Nespresso capsules. The Nespresso website says “no artificial ingredients”. This leaves room for many ingredients denoted “natural.” Nowhere on the Nespresso website does it say “100% coffee.”

    Some of us are sensitive to natural ingredients, such as natural flavors, maltodextrin, gluten, corn derivatives, etc.

    Is this information listed on the shipping container for Nespresso capsules? Isn’t such a list required for all food products sold in the U.S.?

  4. kitchenboy

    oversensitive… i will check into this and get back to you. is there a particular ingredient you are particularly sensitive to?

  5. kitchenboy

    oversensitive, here is the answer you seek. The coffees contain only coffee. The only exception would be the special flavored coffees that are offered during the holidays. You should avoid those with your sensitivities. Now, I also know that these aluminum capsules are coated with a vegetable based coating on the inside to protect the coffee from any interactions with the aluminum. This is the same coating you find on vegan and vegetarian canned goods. Hope this helps.

  6. angelafosters

    After searching for this information, I will have to say most people agree with you on this topic.

  7. tony

    Do the capsules contain both powder coffee (nescafe) and ground coffee? I was told they have both?

  8. kitchenboy

    @tony – I am certain it is only ground coffee and not powdered coffee in the Nespresso line. Nespresso is the upper tier line from Nestle and they take great pride in the quality. I will verify this and get back to you.

    There is a lower tier line made by Nestle, Dulce Gusto. This line is branded as Nescafe and uses Nescafe products, which does include soluble or powdered coffee. I am not a fan of this lesser line, which is made by Krups in China. The machine isn’t as well made and the finished product doesn’t taste good. Also, Dolce Gusto uses powdered milk which causes frequent clogs and needs frequent maintenance. Avoid this machine.

  9. kitchenboy

    @tony – I have confirmed from two different sources that the Nespresso line of coffee does not contain soluble or powdered coffee.

    Some people may have confused the Dulce Gusto and Nespresso product. The amount of soluble/powdered coffee in the Dulce Gusto is limited but still there. The coffee for this machine is made in a Nestle factory in England. Whereas the Nespresso coffee is produced in a Nespresso only plant in Switzerland.

    Thanks for the question.

  10. John

    On the subject of recycling, I have always been an avid recycler as well as a lover of coffee. I love my nespresso machine, but was always a bit put off by the waste – I did my best to recycle the pods by hand but it was a hell of a mess. Anyway, today I received an Outpresso which I ordered at the beginning of the week (www.outpresso.co.uk), and it is brilliant! It’s a bit like using a stapler and results in getting nearly all of the coffee out. It does leave some in, but apparently not enough to be a problem when recycling – a quick rinse under the tap does get rid of the rest though!

    Having spent most of the day pressing out at least a hundred or so pods, I have to say I’m really pleased with it and would strongly recommend it to every nespresso owner.

  11. Andy

    Here is a fact for you:

    In the past 10 years more than 20,000,000,000 Nespresso capsules have been produced. That’s right, 20 Billion, with a B. Stacked end to end that would circle the globe at the equator more than 15 times. …Now that is a lot of aluminum that can be recycled.

    You can now get the Outpresso in the USA at:
    http://www.outpresso-usa.com

    It is a great little gadget for removing the coffee grounds from the aluminum Nespresso capsules.

  12. Florent

    If The Nespresso cups contain ground coffee only, can anyone explain the following. A couple of weeks ago I put a fresh cup in my Nespresso machine atrted it up and then found out it was out of water. So I refilled the can and (because it had a “dry run” removed the cups so the water could run unhindered. The capsule was only punctured in the back and not the front side. Apperently some water had come into the cup because through the little hole in the back I could see foam (yes foam! like what ends up on top of your espresso) come bubbling out. In my humble opinion ground coffe doesnt start to make foam bubbles when it comes in contact with water.

    One more thing, I don’t know if any of you has ever drank his Nespresso Espresso en then left his cup alone for awhile without rinsing it with water. But the residu that stays behind (mostly -again- the foam on that was on top) isn’t very much like the residu that stay behind with regular espresso coffee.

    Big fan of the product by the way, specially the 10′s but 100% coffee? I don’t think so.

  13. KitchenBoy

    @Florent – I will take your concerns to Nespresso and see what they say about this series of events. I will let you know what I hear from them. Thanks for reading.

  14. Julie

    The capacity to recycle lots of capsules (e.g., providing big bins in stores) says absolutely nothing about how many are actually being recycled, a fact Nespresso does not talk about.

    Even if the grounds are removed, many municipal recycling schemes cannot process the pods because they are too small — they jam sorting machine, or fall through the debris screen holes. Everybody who feels righteous recycling them from home needs to check with their local program to make sure they are not just passing them on to someone else to toss into a landfill.

  15. Lisa

    I think you will find that these pods have a touch of carb soda in them – this is what makes the “crema”. As for the recycling – the answer is startlingly obvious – why not have reusable pods???? Answer – because the nespresso is a triumph of marketing over substance and reusable pods would GREATLY lower the profit matgin!

  16. Lisa

    The carb soda is in the coating on the inside of the pods – not IN the coffee – this is how they get away with saying it contains 100% coffee only.

  17. breaking out in hives

    Help. I think I might be allergic to the Nespresso capsules. I read in previous posts that the capsule is coated with a vegetable coating and carb
    soda. What type of vegable coating? I am allergic to soy, and other things that we are trying to determine. When my lip touched the foam this morning I developed a hive on my lip. I have been battling hives all over my body for the last two years and I am an avid espresso drinker especially the nespresso

  18. KitchenBoy

    @breaking out in hives – I finally heard back from Nespresso, sorry for the delay. These capsules are gluten free & free from other “allergens” according to the Nespresso representative I spoke with on the phone. They said there was no soy in the lining, but of course I was not given a complete ingredient list.

    They also state there is no “extra” or enhanced foam being generated by the use of carbonated soda or other elements. In my experience with espresso machines, I can say that crema is generated by pressure brewing and if carb’ soda were introduced to the acid of coffee, the result would not be crema but over-flowing bubbling. Try adding even a little bit of carb’ soda to an acid and see the reaction.

    I hope this helps.

  19. rojo brono

    I was very impressed with this article very informative and it will be very useful to my site.

  20. Lyndsey Lewis

    I’m very interested to have an official list of ingredients including anything lining the inside of the pods. I looked all over the literature that came with the machine and not a word on ingredients.

    I bought a couple of pods and use my own fresh ground coffee and I find the flavor far superior and almost no foaming. The pods are delicate (and expensive) and also made of plastic so I worry about the heat and plastic combined…??

    Anyhoo, anyone know how to get an official list of ingredients?

    Thanks!

  21. KitchenBoy

    @Lyndsey – I have spoken with Nespresso numerous times about the issue of contents in the coffee pods. In fact, I recently communicated with a former Nespresso employee about this topic. He currently works for another coffee machine company and is free to speak his mind on the topic of his former employer. He told me exactly what Nespresso says, there is only 100% coffee in the Nespresso pods, no additives or elements which would cause foaming. The lining of the pods is a vegetarian coating that is found in vegetarian canned goods around the world. Foaming or crema in espresso is a result of the pressure brewing process and is a finicky thing to achieve at times. This article on Sweet Maria’s is the best write up I have seen about crema .

    As for the lack of crema using a plastic insert, which I assume is the CoffeeDuck product, this may just be an oddity with the product. The comment boards on Amazon are rife with unhappy CoffeeDuck customers. I have not tested the product myself, but I do know that as is described in the Sweet Maria’s article, crema can be elusive. Good espresso and therefore crema is a delicate balance between temperature, pressure, water, coffee type and grind and of course the tamp. If the coffee is not tamped or packed into the CoffeeDuck “properly”, then the crema will suffer as will the overall extraction.

    I would experiment with different tamps with the CoffeeDuck, and also check the grind evenness and type of grinder used. If the lid or seal of the reusable pod isn’t tight, then the extraction will be off.

    To your point about the plastic and heat, this would only be a problem if the plastic contained PBA, which CoffeeDuck does not. From the CoffeeDuck web site: “the refillable Coffeeduck cups for Nespresso are made from PP3 plastics and are free of BPA.”

    The only other concern I might have with the plastic and the heat would be one of lifespan. Constant heating and reheating of the plastic might cause it to become misshapen, but the plastics used in the CoffeeDuck are a sturdy next generation BPA-free plastic that should last, but having said that every product has a limited shelf life.

    As for the coating ingredients, see my comments above to the user “breaking out in hives”. If you are really intent on knowing the actual list of ingredients of the pod lining, you will have to write or contact Nespresso. I would not get my hopes up for that list though as companies guard proprietary formulas closely.

    Feel free to email me if you have further concerns.

    Kitchenboy

  22. Connie Ngai

    Why not just use an Italian espresso maker? I just bought an Alessi espresso maker, simple design, easy to use yet stylish. It takes only a few minutes to make a cup of natural espresso. It is stainless steel with copper base. Light and small, simple. Now I am going to dispose of my Krups espresso machine and the regular coffee brewer. :)

  23. Connie Ngai

    I just need to clean it under running water after use.

  24. Bradley Willox

    Could you explain how a 6gram pod produces a stronger coffee than a std 2 shot espresso machine . Have nespresso found a magic concentrated bean . I thoroughly enjoy the black and purple pods. Recently i purchased some permanent re-useable coffee pods but even after purchasing the strongest coffee I could fined the single extraction could not match the strength of the pod.

  25. KitchenBoy

    @Bradley, I can’t tell you how Nespresso gets such strong coffee flavor out of those little pods. I have sat through the lectures with some of their coffee buyers and have seen the cupping that goes on and still can’t say I could recreate what they do. They certainly have the process down and being a large company, they can buy the finest coffee in world, outside of that, I can’t help explain it.

    If you are really curious, drop them an email and see what they tell you. The most likely answer you will receive is that they have a proprietary roasting and blending process.

    Best of luck and thanks for reading.

    Phillip

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