Part #1 – Ethical Troubles: Nespresso

Many businesses establish themselves with strong ethical principles, but committing to a wholly ethical business plan has its difficulties…

Based in Switzerland and part of the Nestle Group, Nespresso produces home and professional coffee machines which brew espresso and coffee from their coffee capsules, or pods.

In 2003, the company developed the Nespresso AAA Sustainable Quality Program, which focuses on producing good quality coffee, having a positive environmental effect, and creating a positive social impact for farmers.

pixbayNespresso states that 85% of their coffee now comes from these AAA farms. By 2020, they want to reach 100%.

The recycling of coffee pods is an issue for Nespresso as well as it’s coffee machine rivals. For Nespresso, each pod is made of aluminium and plastic that are not biodegradable. It takes between 150 and 500 years for the aluminium and plastic to break down in landfill.

In 2016, the German city of Hamburg banned the use of all coffee capsule machines, or Kaffeekapselmaschine, in government-run buildings, including schools and universities, due to their negative impact on the environment.

Jan Dube, spokesman of the Hamburg Department of the Environment and Energy, said: “These portion packs cause unnecessary resource consumption and waste generation.”

Nespresso claims it has the capacity to recycle over 75% of its worldwide pods. It offers Capsule Recycling Bags for its customers to send back their used pods.

But Jean-Paul Gaillard, former Nespresso chief executive, has criticised the company’s environmental position in regards to recycling pods.

Speaking in 2016, Gaillard said: “I discovered that recycling doesn’t really work. Except if you are very close to a smelting factory which is never the case.”

Andres Nieto Porras wikimedia commons
Photo: Andres Nieto Porras/Wikimedia Commons

Gaillard added: “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.”

Gaillard continued: “Packing 5g of coffee into something not biodegradable is nonsense. It would be like selling all the water in the world in tiny bottles.”

Ethical Enterprise contacted Nespresso to find out many pods are recycled in the UK using their Capsule Recycling Bags scheme. Nespresso declined to comment.

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