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Recycled aluminum Nespresso capsules find a second life as useful tools, such as Victorinox knives and this Caran d’Ache pen.

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Anyone who makes a career out of putting pen to paper likely has coffee to thank for at least a few of their creative breakthroughs. But when it comes to Nespresso, it is not just creativity that the coffee brand’s capsules can take credit for assisting: it is also the manufacturing of writing instruments themselves.

As part of its commitment to sustainability, Nespresso recycles its used aluminum coffee capsules into metal that is then used to create Caran d’Ache ballpoint pens and Victorinox pocket knives. So even long after a coffee drinker has enjoyed their mid-morning productivity boost, the capsule that supplied their daily brew lives on in the productivity tools of tomorrow.

“We want consumers to take action, and the second-life program is one way of promoting recycling with them,” Nestlé Nespresso Canada president Jean-Luc Valleix explains. “Using aluminum from our capsules to create beautiful objects makes recycling more exciting and inspiring.”

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This process places Nespresso into what’s known as a “circular economy,” eliminating waste by allowing materials that were originally used for coffee consumption to gain a second life as a resource in another industry. “We believe that producing recyclable packaging is not enough,” Valleix says. “Nespresso capsules are recycled, not only recyclable.”

Valleix says this future-forward approach reflects the commitment by Nespresso to producing coffee that is as flavourful as it is considerate of the environment. The company’s adoption of aluminum allows it to balance both priorities. Light, oxygen and humidity can all have adverse effects on the taste of coffee, and the shield of a robust-yet-lightweight aluminum capsule ensures that Nespresso grounds “maintain our high quality standard from roasting to cup, with an impeccable consistency,” Valleix says.

The metal has another key advantage, however: its infinitely recyclable nature means that a used aluminum capsule can be readily prepared for other uses. In fact, aluminum has such a long lifespan that over 75 per cent of the aluminum that the world has produced is still in use today. No wonder Valleix sees it as being “one of the most valuable materials in the recycling ecosystem.”

Nespresso is actively working with municipalities in and around Toronto to introduce the Nespresso green bag solution in Ontario to allow consumers to recycle through their municipal bin. In the meantime Ontario consumers have access to a free simple mail-in red bag program and can always recycle through Nespresso boutiques and selected partners.

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Ever since launching its first recycling program in 1991, Nespresso has worked to prioritize sustainability at every stage of production — from the rigorous selection of its beans to the handling of waste. “For me, sustainability means first of all the transmission of a know-how and a unique quality — talent, creativity and personal stories — from generation to generation of farmers,” Valleix notes. This means practicing social sustainability by building long-term, direct relationships with farmers and helping them to achieve high certification standards, which results in more revenue to provide for their families. While Nespresso has reached its goal of neutralizing its carbon footprint by 2020, the company continues to set new targets for reducing carbon emissions and environmental impact in the future. Strategies like moving coffee beans by rail and planting millions of trees in coffee-producing regions to promote biodiversity reflect its deep ecological commitment.

And while this capsule recycling program depends on Nespresso customers doing their part to handle their used capsules responsibly, the company is committed to making this part of the process as easy as possible.

One such program is the ‘green bag’ system currently operating in selected areas of Vancouver, as well as Montreal and other areas of Quebec. The system allows capsules to be collected in a green recycling bag that can then be placed directly into one’s recycling bin for municipal collection. “Our goal would be to allow all of our consumers to recycle curb side,” Valleix says. Nespresso is actively working with municipalities in and around Toronto to bring the Green Bag to Ontario, he explains, “but in the meantime, we still provide our Ontario consumers with a simple recycling solution thanks to our red bag program.”

The ‘red bag’ system, operated in partnership with Nespresso and Canada Post, allows capsules to be collected in a red bag (included with Nespresso capsule purchases in Ontario) that can be dropped into any Canada Post mailbox or brought to a post office to be forwarded to a recycling facility. As with all of the capsule recycling solutions offered by Nespresso, the system is entirely free of charge, including the red bag and pre-paid return postage.

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Finally, providing yet another opportunity for Nespresso capsules to be recycled, the ‘black bag’ system allows Nespresso drinkers to bring a black recycling bag (complimentary with their Nespresso capsule purchase) filled with used aluminum capsules to any of Canada’s Nespresso boutiques and select retail partners. From there, the capsules are forwarded to a Nespresso recycling facility where the used coffee grounds and aluminum are separated, with the coffee composted into fertilizer and the aluminum processed for upcycling into new products.

All of this amounts not just to great coffee, but a sustainable and responsible system at every stage of the process, from bean to cup and beyond. Nespresso fans can enjoy the flavour and convenience of their favourite capsules, secure in the knowledge that they’re helping to write a new story about the power of sustainable thinking.


Advertising feature produced by Globe Content Studio. The Globe’s editorial department was not involved.

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