Nestlé joins others to set up first UK-wide coffee pod recycling scheme


The manufacturers of the UK’s three biggest coffee pod brands have joined forces to set up the sector’s first national recycling scheme, in the face of a backlash against single-serve capsules, many of which end up in landfill.

Nestlé, the owner of Nespresso and Nescafé Dolce Gusto, and Jacobs Douwe Egberts (JDE) UK – which makes Tassimo – are next year launching the first system to make it easier and more convenient for consumers to recycle pods in a number of different ways.

Local councils are being invited to provide kerbside collection for pods alongside other household recycling. Consumers will also be able to leave them at 6,500 Yodel dropoff points, and, eventually, hand them over on the doorstep when their supermarket online shopping has been delivered.

The overarching national scheme – run by a new not-for-profit organisation called Podback – aims to replace a complex patchwork of different recycling services. Nespresso expects to phase out its UK recycling scheme – under which little more than a third of its pods are recycled. A TerraCycle system for Tassimo and L’OR pods will also become redundant. The founding brands of the scheme are urging rivals to back the initiative.

More than 95m cups of coffee are drunk in the UK every day, but single serve pods have become an environmental scourge, often ending up in landfills where they can take 500 years to break down. An estimated 20bn capsules are used every year across the world, of which Nespresso sells about 14bn are sold by Nespresso online and from 810 boutiques in 84 countries.

The complex mix of plastic, foil and aluminium – combined with coffee dregs – can make pods difficult to recycle and process in standard municipal recycling plants.

Coffee pod usage soared even before lockdown, but Britons are now drinking more – and premium – coffee while at home. The market research company Mintel has forecast that the UK retail value sales of coffee pods will reach £260m this year, up from £210m in 2018.

The brands’ research highlights confusion among consumers, with more than a third (35%) of people who use coffee pods unaware they can be recycled, and nine in 10 saying they would like to be able to recycle their pods through their household recycling.

Exeter city council, Cheltenham borough council and South Derbyshire district council are expected to be the first confirmed local authority partners, while advanced talks are continuing with others.

Toby Bevans, the marketing director of JDE UK and Ireland and director of Podback, said: “We are proud to be a co-founder of Podback, working to ensure that every pod enjoyed is easily recycled. With Nestlé, we are calling on the entire industry to put commercial rivalries aside and collaborate, working together with other brands and retailers to make it as easy as possible for consumers to recycle their pods.”

Trewin Restorick, the chief executive of the environmental charity Hubbub, welcomed the plans while urging more transparency. “It is hugely encouraging to see major companies collaborating to boost coffee pod recycling. Hopefully this service will eventually be available through all local authority household recycling collection schemes and the companies will be transparent about how many pods are recycled,” he said.