Oricol is Nespresso's recycling partner in South Africa

The Positive Cup

Ecollaboration and sustainability targets are transforming how coffee is sourced and produced worldwide and Nespresso is making headway into becoming an industry leader that is looking full circle at its impacts and involving its consumers in its ambitious recycling initiatives; changing coffee culture, one cup at a time. Melissa Baird reports.


The aroma of freshly brewed coffee precipitates the many hued flavours savoured on sipping from a delicious cup and baristas around the world lay claim to their unique styles of coffee bean roasting, combination and presentation.

Nespresso developed a method to enable coffee lovers to enjoy a perfectly brewed cup of coffee at home and their 24 different Grands Crus from coffee regions all over the world ensure a range of flavours that is hard to beat.

The single use coffee capsules are crafted out of aluminium to ensure freshness and stable quality of their product and since 1991 Nespresso have been focusing on how to recycle these capsules.

Aluminium has the advantage of being infinitely recyclable so the recycling initiative has had direct benefits for the creation of second generation aluminium products.

Since then Nespresso has set up its own capsule collection systems in more than 30 countries worldwide. In South Africa Nespresso's recycling partner is Oricol, an environmental service company that has assumed a leading role in South Africa for the delivery of superior environmental and resource recovery solutions that aims to divert waste from landfill and turn waste into a resource.

All used Nespresso capsules are transported by road to Oricol's Spartan facility in Johannesburg for separation, storage and recycling. Once separated the aluminium undergoes a further recycling process at a nearby steel smelter where it is reused to make new aluminium products while the coffee grounds are composted to produce a very high-quality fertiliser for organic farming purposes.

Walking around the Oricol facilities, I was amazed at the waste beneficiation processes and the machines that are used to extract what would be dumped so that the waste can be turned into something of use. Old food transforms into biofuels and animal food stocks and old machinery is broken down into essential components that can reused and recycled.

This is the waste economy in action and it is creating dignified work for people who once were "informal' (meaning totally unprotected from disease and pollution) pickers on landfill sites.

Given the increase in waste to landfill, specifically where non-aluminum single use products are concerned, it is nice to see that a company such as Nespresso has made recycling and sustainability a core value of their business.
The question, however, is what environmental impact is happening further along the supply chain? Which takes us into the social aspect of the business and the welfare of the coffee farmers.

Nespresso, in collaboration with the environmental NGO Rainforest Alliance, launched the Nespresso AAA Sustainable Quality Programme in 2003, its unique coffee sourcing model that enables it to secure the supply of the highest quality coffees, while protecting the environment and enhancing farmer welfare.

At the end of 2013, the company met, and even surpassed, ambitious sustainability targets set out in 2009 with regards to coffee sourcing, aluminium and carbon footprint. Nespresso sourced 84% of its coffee from its AAA Sustainable Quality" Programme, against a target of 75%, and reduced the carbon footprint of a cup of Nespresso coffee by 20%.

Building upon these achievements to further improve farmer welfare and drive environmental sustainability in coffee sourcing and consumption, Nespresso announced last August an ambitious Strategy for 2020, titled The Positive Cup.

The Positive Cup sustainability vision is based on the idea that a cup of coffee can create shared value and a greater, positive impact on society and the environment. The ambition to reach The Positive Cup vision by 2020 builds on the significant steps the company has already taken over the last five years, to improve farmer welfare and drive environmental sustainability.

One hundred percent of its permanent range of Grand Cru coffees will be sourced through the Nespresso AAA Sustainable Quality"Programme by significantly expanding the AAA Programme in Ethiopia, Kenya and South Sudan.

It will also assist farmers in achieving high certification standards (in water management, biodiversity and fair treatment of workers, for example) through The Rainforest Alliance and Fairtrade.

These sustainability targets are enabling the brand to innovate and secure its product and enhance farmer development for the future benefit of all involved in the supply chain. But what of their consumers?

The ease with which consumers can recycle their capsules and the intention of the brand to further educate consumers about the value of recycling and of being more conscious of their waste impacts will continue to flourish.

The Nespresso store in Hyde Park, Johannesburg is a flagship of beauty and technology. The coffee capsules line the walls and the lighting is so inviting you wonder why this isn't a boutique coffee shop in itself.

This is just one of stores that take the used coffee capsules back; there are dedicated recycling bins at the W&A Waterfront and in the Canal Walk Shopping Centre, Sandton City, Menlyn Shopping Centre, and Gateway in Durban.

As Nespresso continues its journey to reach ambitious sustainability targets it is encouraging to see their visible commitment to the better way of doing business.

  • Originally published on www.alive2green.com/publications/green-economy-journal
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