WE’RE a nation of coffee drinkers.
We love coffee so much that we go through over 2.7 million non-recyclable takeaway cups a day.
What’s surprising, given our love of cafes and hatred of instant coffee, is that we use 2.5-3 million coffee capsules a day. I contribute 2-4 a day. And unlike most capsule coffee drinkers, I can and do recycle mine.
My motivation to use coffee capsules is two-pronged: like most people I am lazy, but baulk at the idea of paying $4.50 a cup or using the dreaded instant coffee. But, more than that, I can’t do caffeine, and with the exception of three of the Nespresso varieties, everyone in the entire world really sucks at decaf. Seriously, go into any cafe, order decaf, and see if you can drink the swill they produce.
Discovering Vivalto Lungo Decaffinato capsules saved me from a coffee-less existence.
But the cost to the environment is huge, which hurts my Lefty bleeding heart.
After a little research, the situation seems to be worse than originally thought. If you put your coffee capsules in the regular recycling bin, they’re going to landfill. They’re difficult, expensive and not profitable to recycle, so your local council doesn’t bother.
Most of the spokespeople I talked to about their assorted brands said that they’re in discussions to start recycling programs, or make their capsules biodegradable, but they couldn’t tell me when.
The only two kinds of capsules I know of that can currently be recycled for free, Nestlé’s Dolce Gusto and Nespresso, have programs run by Terracycle, a company that recycles the unrecyclable (like toothpaste containers, cigarette butts and used pens and textas).
Dolce Gusto has a program you can sign up for on the Terracycle website, print off a shipping label and post your used capsules back for free, earning 2c a capsule toward the charity or school of your choice.
Technically, Terracycle can recycle all coffee capsules, for a price. If the company that makes the capsules doesn’t fund a program, you can buy a recycling box from Officeworks for $107.50. It’ll hold 600 capsules and includes shipping, but does rather eat into the savings from buying a cheaper brand. Despite the programs being in place for about a year, only about 1 million capsules have been recycled, likely due to lack of awareness or laziness on the part of consumers.
As for the much-disputed matter of taste, that’s up to the drinker. But, in the interests of science and sadistic entertainment, I got a former barista and a lifelong coffee connoisseur to each try out 22 different flavours of coffee capsules, while I tried all the decaf ones I could get my hands on.
With the decaf, nothing could hold a candle to the Nespresso range, and a few, particularly the Expressi, made me question all the life choices that had brought me to that moment.
My coffee experts came out with fairly mixed results: Nespresso’s Livanto and Fortissimo Lungo; Aldi’s Expressi India and Abruzzo; and Woolworths Select’s Kenya and Ethiopia single origin coffees all got very high marks, despite being “a little watery”.
It all comes down to personal preference but it is possible to get a good cup of coffee from a capsule, without wrecking the environment, despite what sermon your local cafe hipsters will give you.
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