April 26, 2024

Can you recycle co-packed coffee capsules?

For roasters, there are plenty of factors to consider when working with a co-packer for coffee capsules, including the material used for your capsule shells.

Some of these materials are recyclable, which may sound like a great option for roasters. But recycling coffee capsules is anything but simple – there are many other variables to consider.

So, how complicated is it to recycle coffee capsules? How are recyclable and compostable coffee capsules different? And which is the better option for roasters?

To answer these questions, we spoke to our CEO, Anne Djerai. Read on to see what she had to say.

Co-packed coffee capsules being produced

What’s the difference between recycling and composting for coffee capsules?

The main difference between recycling and composting coffee capsules is simple. When coffee capsules are recycled, the materials are repurposed for entirely new products. Meanwhile, with composting, the capsule is broken down into non-toxic organic matter.

"Recyclable coffee capsules are repurposed for other uses through a traditional recycling process that can reutilize plastics or aluminum," Anne says.

However, not all home collection programs will accept coffee capsules, making it difficult for coffee drinkers to dispose of them responsibly .

"Because the coffee can't go with a plastic or aluminum capsule that's headed for the recycle bin, these types of capsules have to be opened by the user, cleaned of their coffee, and then put in a recycling bin – if that service is even available in your area," Anne says.

"There are also specialist return programs where a plastic or aluminum capsule manufacturer might ask you to return your used pods to them for recycling and handling," she adds.

For example, Nespresso has its own free recycling scheme through which customers can ensure their aluminum capsules are recycled properly.

In contrast, compostable capsules are entirely different from recyclable capsules – they can be disposed of in one of two ways.

"Compostable capsules can be designed either to break down in home compost piles or commercial compost facilities," Anne says.

At Metropolis, we manufacture co-packed coffee capsules that are both plant-based sustainable and commercially compostable. We source our shells from Smile Beverage Werks, a company that specializes in compostable products. Anne says these capsules are made from a proprietary non-PLA plant-based material.

"They don't leave microplastics in the soil which can get into groundwater and eventually be consumed by animals and people," she explains.

Our co-packed coffee capsules are not only plant-based sustainable – they’re also certified commercially compostable by the Biodegradable Products Institute (BPI) and the Composter Manufacturing Alliance (CMA).

This means they meet the strictest commercial composting standards in the US and can be disposed of at any industrial composting facility in the country.

Co-packed coffee capsules being prepared

How do you compost co-packed coffee capsules?

As mentioned previously, you can’t compost all capsules at home. Commercially compostable capsules require more consistent and controlled conditions than you can achieve at home.

Industrial composting facilities create these conditions by carefully regulating temperature, humidity, and airflow to break down the capsules quickly and efficiently.

Accessing these facilities varies from area to area: some will offer pick-up services from your business, while others may require you to drop used capsules at the facility directly.

"Often, the service company will provide you with a reusable bin to store your compost and then will come and pick it up on an agreed-upon schedule," Anne explains.

No matter how you get them to the facility, sourcing commercially compostable capsules saves much more time than recyclable capsules. This is because you don’t need to wash each capsule individually to remove the used coffee.

However, it is important to check where your capsules can be composted. This should be clearly displayed on the packaging.

"If a capsule box says it's home compostable that little guy can go right into your home compost bin, and shouldn't go to the commercial composter. The opposite is true of commercially compostable capsules," Anne explains. "All commercial composters will take Metropolis capsules since they pass the strictest commercial composting standards because of their BPI and CMA certifications."

Overall, she encourages both businesses and consumers to pay attention to the packaging and labels to properly compost any co-packed coffee capsules.

A box of Metropolis coffee capsules

Metropolis co-packed coffee capsules

As more states ban single-use plastic items to curb waste, it has never been more important to ensure that your roastery’s coffee capsules can be disposed of responsibly.

At Metropolis, we offer a dedicated co-packing service for roasters that uses our plant-based sustainable commercially compostable capsule shells.

After preparing a sample capsule with your chosen coffee, we can quickly begin production and scale up as needed. All capsules are prepared using our state-of-the-art filling line and nitro-flushed to guarantee they stay fresh for 12 to 24 months.

Once the capsules are sealed, we package them with your branding and ship them direct to you.

Anne explains that choosing compostable capsules doesn't mean sacrificing freshness or quality: “The product is just as good, and you can feel good that you're not leaving a negative impact on the planet.

"Food waste is also a serious factor to consider, and by composting the coffee itself alongside the packaging, you're eliminating two serious waste concerns that other single-serve products can't."

Interested in learning more about our commercially compostable coffee capsules? Explore our wholesale, co-packing, and private label espresso capsule services

Certified compostable facilities may not exist in your area. To find a composter near you, visit www.findacomposter.com or www.compostnow.org on all packaging and marketing materials.

Metropolis espresso capsules are made under license from Smile Beverage Werks, P.B.C.

Metropolis Coffee is not affiliated with, endorsed, or sponsored by Nespresso. Nespresso is a registered trademark of Société des Produits Nestlé.

Metropolis Coffee

Want to keep up with our latest blog posts, news, and products? Sign up for our newsletter here.