The cost of convenience
The attraction of coffee capsules is the simplicity and consistency of taste. And it certainly costs less than an espresso from a cafe, which sets you back about $3.50, whereas the cost of a capsule can vary from 37c for Aldi Expressi to 68c for Nespresso.
However, you’ll pay a lot less per kilogram for your coffee if you make it at home on a manual coffee machine. Piazza D’Oro coffee beans are $34.63/kg, and its ground coffee is $49.10/kg - but its coffee capsules work out at $118.27/kg from Coles Online in Sydney.
The environmental cost
When it comes to the packaging of coffee capsules, the boxes they come in are recyclable – no surprises there, since they’re made of paper.
The capsules, however, leave a much bigger environmental footprint. For a start, aluminium is an energy-hungry product, requiring nine times more energy to manufacture than steel. In Australia, Nespresso capsules have to be taken to one of the 11 boutiques for recycling. But how many are actually being recycled?
In 2012 Nespresso said it reached its “75% recycling capacity commitment”. But while it may have the ability to recycle 75% of the capsules, it has not yet revealed if that many capsules have been recycled. Nespresso has sold an estimated 28 billion capsules worldwide – that’s about 28 million kilograms of aluminum, much of which may be sitting in landfill.
However, Nespresso and other brands of capsules – which are mostly plastic rather than aluminum – generally can’t be thrown into domestic recycling bins. They’re too small for the machines at recycling plants to separate from other rubbish and simply drop through sieves into general waste. Piazza D’Oro and Caffè Vergnano also have an extra layer of plastic wrapping around their capsules.