Podback: Coffee brands join forces on UK pod recycling scheme

Brands such as Nespresso, Nescafé Dolce Gusto and Tassimo have launched a new recycling initiative that aims to get the coffee sector collaborating on a simplistic way to enable consumers to recycle coffee pods in the UK.

Podback: Coffee brands join forces on UK pod recycling scheme

Podback is discussing kerbside collection for the pods with Exeter City Council

Podback is scheduled for launch in early 2021 and will act as a not-for-profit organisation. It has been set up Nestlé and Jacobs Douwe Egberts UK (JDE UK), which owns brands such as Nespresso, Nescafé Dolce Gusto and Tassimo.

The aim of Podback is to provide a number of methods for consumers to easily recycle used coffee pods.

Nespresso’s managing director for UK and Ireland and Podback board director, Guillaume Chesneau, said: “As co-founders of the scheme, as well as pioneers of the minimal-waste, portioned coffee system, we are excited to build on our strong existing recycling services already in place. Our ambition is to create a powerful end-to-end recycling solution, available to all, and Podback demonstrates our commitment towards achieving this important goal.”

“We are working closely with manufacturers, retailers and local authorities and calling upon them to join us and ensure the scheme has maximum impact.”

The UK consumes more than 340 million coffee capsules a year. Traditional aluminium capsules contain a fabric filter which can be difficult to separate and therefore hinders the recycling processes, while plastic pods are equally complex with two or three layers of material. However, many manufacturers and brands have simplified packaging to improve recyclability. Nespresso, for example, has committed to using only sustainably sourced aluminium in its coffee capsules.

However, studies show that more than a third (35%) of coffee pod drinkers are unaware that pods can be recycled, while 90% state that they’d like to be able to recycle their coffee pods through their usual household recycling.

As such, Podback is offering consumers an array of measures to ensure the pods are recycled. Consumers can access local Collect+ delivered by Yodel drop-off points, of which there are more than 6,500 in the UK, to drop off empty coffee pods.

Podback is also discussing kerbside collection for the pods. Exeter City Council, Cheltenham Borough Council and South Derbyshire District Council are the first councils discussing how Podback can ensure that 330,000 residents living in those areas can have pods collected alongside household waste and recycling.

Finally, Podback is in discussion with retailers to allow consumers to hand over used coffee pods to be collected for recycling when they have groceries delivered. This is unlikely to ready by the launch date.

All pods will be taken to UK re-processing facilities to separate packaging from used coffee grounds. The pods will be recycled into everyday products.

It builds on a major new sustainability ambition set by Nespresso earlier this year.

Nespresso has outlined plans to reduce supply chain emissions, invest in insetting at coffee farms and purchase carbon offsets to reach carbon neutrality by 2022.

In order to meet the new target, Nespresso has pledged to switch to 100% renewable energy in all boutiques, following the installation of modern energy management systems at these locations. It is already sourcing 100% renewable electricity through a tariff at its offices in York and Gatwick. Manufacturing locations will also be supported to decarbonise their heat by investing in biogas.

Matt Mace

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Comments (2)

  1. Ian Byrne says:

    Hmm, I smell greenwash among the coffee aromas here. There are alternatives that don’t require pods. Probably the best is a simple cafetiere, as grounds can simply go straight into compost. I tend to use traditional coffee filters, also compostable but take time to degrade. And instant coffee is possibly best of all, tending to be supplied in recyclable glass jars. Coffee pods, whether aluminium or plastic, are a recent innovation, and probably one that wasn’t necessary – putting convenience over the environment. (Individual coffee gabs/pads, such as those sold by HEMA are a better single cup solution, as they too are compostable.
    "sustainably source aluminium" – hmmm, better than from virgin bauxite, but still not ideal, assuming they mean from recycled aluminium.
    Renewable energy powering Nespresso shops – designed to make you feel good as you trash the environment? And sorry, why would anyone who likes coffee go to a Nespresso shop if the could go to a Pret, Caffe Nero, or the like? Nespresso capsules are OK, but they are still not as good as the real thing!

  2. Tim Beesley says:

    I really don’t see what the problem is with recycling coffee pods, except laziness. An ‘ex’ had one of these pointless gadgets. I used to peek off the lid, scoop out the coffee into her food waste bin, rinse the grouts out of the capsule and throw the aluminium capsule into the recycling. I prefer a coffee press (Cafetiere) myself. Far simpler.

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