Portioned coffee is a Nespresso invention – the result of a simple yet revolutionary idea: everyone should be able to prepare a coffee at home like a skilled coffee bar barista. Over more than 30 years, it has transformed the way coffee is consumed around the world.
It is often contested that, since portioned coffee relies on capsules, it must be a poor environmental choice. Once you consider all the facts however, the case for portioned coffee is quite convincing.
Counter-intuitively perhaps, enjoying a cup of Nespresso can be a more sustainable choice than other ways of preparing a coffee. One that takes care of precious energy and resources.
The biggest impacts are at home
The impact of preparing and drinking a cup of coffee goes far beyond what’s in the cup. Every step in the process – from green coffee sourcing to packaging to manufacturing and serving, has an environmental impact.
A Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) illustrates this and shows that the biggest contribution to the carbon footprint actually occurs at home, when the coffee is prepared and consumed.
This is true whichever brewing method is used and is a critical point.
Precision Consumption Preserves Resources
That’s because the home-use portioned coffee system, pioneered by Nespresso, enables “precision consumption”. Which means that only the precise amount of coffee and hot water is needed for each cup. With other brewing methods, often more water is used and heated than is needed and a greater quantity of coffee is used. (Just like those times when leftover filter coffee in the pot is poured down the sink because too much was made.)
An independent 2018 comparative LCA study highlights this, demonstrating that a Nespresso coffee has an equivalent carbon footprint to filter or moka – and a lower carbon footprint than a bean-to-cup machine.
THE CAPSULE IS CRUCIAL
The reality therefore is that the capsule is crucial.
It protects the quality and freshness of the coffee while preventing waste. This waste prevention is especially true because each Nespresso capsule is made from aluminium (or even in some cases 80% recycled aluminium), which is infinitely recyclable.
In our system, you use only what you need and then can recycle what you don’t need. The recycling process allows the aluminium to be reused in other new products and the spent coffee grounds to be reused too – as compost for soil regeneration or biogas.
Of course, these additional circular benefits are only possible when consumers actually recycle their capsules and we continue to strive to make this as convenient as possible.
CAN NESPRESSO DO MORE?
The short answer is yes and our ambition to do so is clear. However, establishing circular operations, low carbon supply chains, and improving the eco-design of products take time, collaborative actions and further investment.
Amongst other subjects, our improvement agenda will continue to consider:
- Coffee cultivation that leverages natural cycles
- Machine design with improved energy efficiency
- Product design with increased recycled content
- The expansion of solutions for easy recycling
- The promotion of biogas infrastructures
- A low carbon aluminium supply certified against ASI Standards
- …and eventually a cup of Nespresso which is carbon neutral