Clean Coffee Project

We wrote an open letter to George Clooney.

Nespresso answered.

Shortly after we, Clean Ocean Project, wrote an Open Letter to George Clooney, encouraging him to respond to our accusation that he was advertising Nespresso whilst claiming to be pro environment, Nespresso employee Katherine Graham, who has the important sounding title “Corporate Communications Manager” attached to her e-mails, got in touch with us.

The contents of our e-mail correspondence, which went on from beginning of January 2018 until today, are summarized below. What was especially remarkable about her communication was that it was always extremely polite, friendly and full of personal remarks. The friendly face which Nespresso is showing when it comes to their claimed sustainability and business strategies – only have a look at “The Positive Cup” – was perfectly demonstrated through her way of interacting.

The strategy is not only “look at how great we are doing at this, this and that”, but also and foremost distracting from the point that we were actually trying to get to from the first day: Coffee capsules create an immense amount of waste that could easily be prevented, and no matter how much Nespresso does for Greenwashing; as long as these capsules are not recycled 100%, Nespresso is doing a lot of things, but definitely not producing a “positive cup” of coffee for our planet earth.

1. Is Nespresso only doing bad things when it comes to the environment?

Of course not, and it would be wrong to say so. They have an initiative trying to extract aluminum in a more sustainable way, and they try to increase recycling through postal collection, other collection points, drop off service points, provide at-home collection and by paying their farmers reasonable salaries and partnering up with Rain forest Alliance and other pro-environmental groups.

2. Why don’t they use biodegradable / compostable capsules?

This is simple: because they are not advantageous for the environment – at least not yet. Despite their “green”-sounding name, biodegradable/compostable plastic is for now impossible to recycle, and is not accepted by most municipalities, nor does it degrade on a home compost, and it emits methane when ending up on a landfill, which does not make it a whole lot better than capsules made from conventional plastic. Therefore, all other companies producing such capsules are doing this more for marketing reasons than for any other reasons.

3. Does Nespresso do closed loop recycling?

No! Except for Switzerland, where capsules from Switzerland itself, France, Austria, Belgium and the Netherlands nowhere around the world is the aluminum derived from old capsules turned into capsules again. This means that there is a constant need for fresh aluminum to produce new capsules. The recycling rate is estimated to be around 24%, even though other (lower) numbers can be found online. Nespresso argues that it does not make sense to ship capsules from all over the world to Switzerland, and apparently has not come up with the idea of additional recycling plants.

Ms. Graham, the spokeswoman of Nespresso also agrees that she does not think that “it is possible in the near future for any product to get to a 100% recycling rate”. On its own website, Nespresso claims that it plans on a “100 % recycling capacity” by 2020.

4. Why are they against a deposit scheme for coffee capsules?

They say it would add a layer of bureaucracy (which is true, but not really an argument) and it would “distort” the market. Also they doubt that any other capsule producer could implement it. Their biggest fear is to loose customers by taking this step.

5. How credible are Life Cycle Analysis’s putting Nespresso capsules in a favorable light?

They are designed in a way that will always make Nespresso’s capsules look better than other ways to make coffee. Therefore, many thoughts on how people consume coffee are not taken into account (so is, for example a drip filter barely better than a single-serve capsule coffee when it comes to their environmental footprint, but a single serve capsule can only ever serve one person while a drip filter machine can provide coffee for a whole group). Also, it is enhanced that single-serve packaging is advantageous when recycled, while omitting that in most parts, this is still not happening. So generally, it can be said that they are not wrong, but every information that is put in is added for a reason, and every concept is carefully thought through by the Research company, which gets paid by Nespresso, Nestlé and co.

6. What else does Nespresso do to make more money?

Behind the scenes, Nespresso presents itself from a different angle. As an anonymous former employee of Nespresso let us know, her sole job when working together with the PR department was to write bad reviews for capsules compatible with Nespresso machines as a “consumer”, claiming they were not working. Such fraudulent behavior, despite not being very surprising, is unacceptable from a big, serious company.

7. What is Clean Ocean Project’s next goal?

Put pressure on politics to change packaging law by introducing a mandatory deposit system for coffee capsules. We are therefore preparing a petition to the European Parliament. We will also continue to be in touch with Nespresso to find out about their goals and strategies as quickly as possible.

George is advertising for Nespresso

The original Letter

Dear Mr. George Clooney,

first i would like to introduce us. Us, that is the Clean Coffee Project. A campaign from the Clean Ocean Project to implement an european-wide deposit system for single-use coffee capsules made of aluminium and plastic. Why, you might ask? Because their production is a waste of resources and energy and after a short single shot most of them end up on the landfill. These capsules are the embodiment of our thoughtless single-use lifestyle. And you are the ambassador of this lifestyle.

We wanted to write you. Because we are a little bit confused and we want to give you the chance to set the record straight.

You are well known and respected for your commitment for human rights, against war and for the protection of the environment and the climate. In 2006 you were appointed Ambassador of Peace by the UN and while you where in Darfur you fought for human rights.

Beside that you joined the Save the Arctic campaign from Greenpeace and you are a member of the board of administration of Belenos Clean Power Holding – a company which develops environmentally friendly generation of energy.

And your career as an author, actor and director. Of course your attitude towards politics, war and human rights has always been part of your art work.

Now it is getting tricky. Because at the same time you are the testimonial for Nespresso. Or to be more precise – of NESTLÉ. We are wondering if you took a second to do some research on this company before you signed. As you for sure would do with a script.

If so, how could you not be disgusted by the companies business strategy? It is about corruption, human rights abuse and the exploitation, pollution and destruction of the environment.

And you not only show your face to promote Nespresso, you talk about how great the company is, that you are proud to work for them, you salute to the sustainable program and the great job they do for the environment. „Like no one else“, you said.

If at the end you had no idea whom you are working for, we would love to fill that gap. Or maybe just google it. Because we think that you should seriously rethink your engagement for Nespresso and Nestlé. Would that not be a great goal for 2018?

Looking forward to hear from you.


Wim Geirnaert
Founder, Clean Ocean Project

The Nespresso Corespondence

From: “Graham,Katherine,LAUSANNE,Corporate Communications”
Sent: 3. Januar 2018 16:04:18 MEZ
To: “
Subject: Nespresso recycling

Dear Wim

How are you ? I wanted to get in touch with you after coming across your website. I really admire your dedication and mission – to encourage coffee-lovers to enjoy their favourite drink without waste. I share your view that there is a terrible culture of throwing away valuable resources, and not enough people consider where their rubbish will end up.

You clearly have a negative perception of Nespresso and our parent company Nestlé, and I am not going to try to change your mind. But I would like to share with you what Nespresso is doing, in hope that you might be pleasantly surprised.

We believe that coffee can have a positive impact on the world. It’s why we called our sustainability report The Positive Cup. The report details our ambitions, our achievements and where we need to do more. You will be particularly interested in the section on aluminium – our efforts to source sustainable aluminium and our recycling programme. However, most of the carbon footprint of a cup of coffee is not actually in the packaging but in the agricultural stage, which is why so much of our focus is on working with 70,000 farmers around the world to help them grow coffee in a sustainable way.

It is a common misunderstanding that Nespresso capsules are not recyclable – they absolutely are. And the process is not complicated. We have invested millions in building a global dedicated recycling scheme that offers our customers a range of simple options for recycling their Nespresso capsules; they can drop them off at one of more than 100,000 collection points, return them through our postal services, and even have them collected from their doorstep with our at-home collection. The aluminium from the capsules we collect is recycled and goes back into the value chain; the coffee grounds are used to make fertilizer or biogas.

Specifically on your point about a deposit-return system to improve recycling: this is a topic that frequently comes up in our discussions with NGOs. Our principle reason for not going down that route is because our immediate ambition is to have light aluminium, including capsules, accepted into collective recycling systems so that people can dispose of them through their normal household recycling bin. This means making investment and upgrades to MRF infrastructure, which we are pushing for and have some success – this article in Aluminium International explains in more detail.

In short, we believe that the best (and most straightforward) way to improve recycling is to make it easy and convenient for people to do it. The second, complimentary stage of this is to encourage people to participate. We did a big campaign on recycling last year and we are communicating regularly to our consumers about the importance of recycling, as well as explaining how the alumimium and coffee grounds from their capsules are re-used when we recycle.

I hope this is interesting and useful information, and I’m happy to clarify if you have some questions. With my best wishes, Katherine Katherine Graham | Corporate Communications Manager | Nestlé Nespresso S.A. | Avenue de Rhodanie 40 – 1007 Lausanne | Switzerland |

From: info cleanoceanproject []
Sent: 22 January 2018 12:59
To: Graham,Katherine,LAUSANNE,Corporate Communications
Subject: Re: Nespresso recycling

Hello Katherine,

thank you for your email. Great that you share our view „that there is a terrible culture of throwing away valuable resource and that not enough people consider where their rubbish will end up“.

A remarkable statement though, as the incredible success and profit of Nespresso is based on exactly this – Buy it, consume it and throw it away. You sell a convenient product, which means the customer expects no more thoughts on it.

At the same time you leave the recycling to the customer. But why should your customer put work in to collect it, drop it in the mail or even visit a collection point?

If Nespresso talks about sustainability, it is a paradox. Using a capsule for every single coffee made creates tons of waste from the beginning to the end – inherent to the system.

Thanks for the read of “The Positive Cup” and the article about “ASI Aluminium”.

Both contain a lot of figures, euphemisms, “ifs”, “coulds” and “woulds”, and of course certificates. We think that a certificate awarding sustainability should only be granted after a program has run a certain time and has proven it’s effect on the environment. And by the way, both studies have been „supported“ somehow by Nespresso.

One more thought on the Aluminium. You do use primary Aluminium for the capsules –or recycled Aluminium? And „ASI Aluminium“ is extracted, refined and processed in a much more „green“ way? This really sounds magic as the operation is fore sure the most devastating interference of humans on the environment you possible can imagine.

So, this is for sure: We need a deposit system. To save valuable resources, water and energy and to assure a truly effecient way to recollect used capsules. Or even better to switch to refillable capsules or biodegradable & compostable coffee capsules. We are convinced that this is inevitable. If Nespresso would take the lead and change their doing it could set a strong example. It would add true credibility to your claim „Nespresso, The Sustainable Quality Coffee Company“.

Looking forward to hear from you. Sincerely, Wim Geirnaert. Founder, Clean Ocean Project

From: “Graham,Katherine,LAUSANNE,Corporate Communications”
Sent: 25 January 2018 16:59 MEZ
To: “ Subject: Re: Nespresso recycling

Hello Wim and thank you for your reply.

I appreciate your insight and your perspective on making coffee more sustainable. I’ll try and answer the points you raise on biodegradable/ compostable packaging materials because I previously gave you some thoughts on deposit-return. Apologies in advance for the long answer but I think there are many aspects to consider.

Why doesn’t Nespresso use biodegradable packaging materials?

People ask us about introducing biodegradable or compostable coffee capsules as a way to be more environmentally friendly. But I don’t believe these materials are the magic solution that people perceive them to be.

How to dispose of them?

First of all, there’s first the question of access. For example where I live, I compost in my kitchen (I live in an apartment) and I put my bio-waste into a bin which is collected by the city and taken to an industrial composting unit. But they don’t accept packaging (even if it is ‘biodegradable’ or ‘compostable’). I believe that only a small number of municipalities around the world accept packaging in the bio-waste collection; in most countries, it is not collected at all.

Then even in the handful of places where municipalities accept packaging, the standard EN 13432 requires the packaging to degrade in 12 weeks; the composters run on a cycle of much less than this (usually 6 to 9 weeks). This means that typically the material will not disintegrate and at the end of the composting cycle, bio-plastics that have not fully degraded often remain and must then be removed and sent to landfill or be incinerated. But, as the material continues to evolve, or if the EN 13432 standard was redefined to match real-life, I’m sure the performance in the composter will improve and places will actually start accepting them.

Performance in composters

Do you read German? You might find this report of interest: by the German Federal Environment Agency, Biologisch Abbaubare Kunstoffe. It explains why in Germany packaging is not accepted in the biowaste, even if it is biodegradable/ compostable.

Home composters

We might assume that people would compost them at home, but I’m not sure that biodegradable and compostable packaging would actually break down well in a garden composter. If it takes 12 weeks in an industrial composter (at a controlled temperature, humidity, bacteria) to have the EN 13432 label, then how long does take in your garden? There is also the behavioral aspect to consider. Composting, like recycling, requires participation from consumers and available data shows that many more people are committed to recycling than to composting.

Bio-waste to landfill

I suspect that most people believe that sending their biowaste to landfill means it will degrade naturally in the ground, and this is what concerns me the most. I think the average consumer would put biodegradable capsules into their black bin (probably where they put their apple cores and egg shells) and assume that it will be nicely buried in the earth and that it will turn into dust. I fear that awareness of what really happens in landfill – and the greenhouse gas it emits – are very low. Is this true in your experience too?

This is why I believe that recyclable packaging and a solid recycling scheme is actually more beneficial than biodegradable or compostable packaging at this point in time. It’s also the reason why we at Nespresso are focusing our efforts on building and improving recycling systems and ensuring that it is easy and convenient for people to do it. We will of course continue to monitor and evaluate the benefits of bio-plastics but as you see, for many reasons, it is not a highly sustainable option today.

I’ll try to give shorter answers to your other questions: Capsules from recycled aluminium

We use recycled aluminium to make new capsules wherever it is feasible and makes sense for the environment. Because our capsules are so light, they require a certain grade of aluminium and this is difficult to obtain in recycled format – in fact, one of the only sources of this alloy is from recycled Nespresso capsules. So where we can, we take our recycled capsules to make new ones (for example, it doesn’t make sense to ship recycled capsules back from Argentina to make new ones in Switzerland). Circular economy does not have to mean closed loop.


Counter to what many people assume, single-serve does not mean more waste. A precision consumption system like Nespresso means that you only use the exact amount of water, energy and grounds to make one cup of coffee. When we think about waste, we also need to consider the resources we can’t see. Life Cycle Analysis studies show that typically, the savings on resources at least balance the additional packaging of single-serve. If you look at the carbon footprint of a cup of coffee, the biggest environmental impact is the agricultural stage, which is why we focus so much effort on supporting sustainable farming.


I’m not sure I fully understand your question, forgive me, but I think your concern is primarily the ASI? I urge you to look into the organization, in particular the role that the IUCN played in developing the standard, the standards themselves and the standards committee which is multi-stakeholder process with representation from civil society, end-users, indigenous peoples’ groups, conservationists and one of my colleagues here at Nespresso. It took several years to create the standard and everything that goes with it for implementation, certification and auditing, and there are many dedicated people who worked together to bring it to reality and feel that we can be very proud of what the ASI has and will achieve.

I hope this gives you additional insights, of course I welcome your further thoughts on the topic and your feedback on all of this and thanks again for your interest. It is helpful for us to have such dialogue, it allows us to critically review our business practices and try to improve, so your views are very valuable.

I wish you a lovely evening,


Katherine Graham | Corporate Communications Manager | Nestlé Nespresso S.A. (T) +41 (0)21 614 6719 | (M) +41 (0)79 578 4531

From: Ricarda von Meding []
Sent: 25 January 2018 12:44
To: Graham,Katherine,LAUSANNE,Corporate Communications
Subject: Nespresso recycling

Hello Katherine,

I just started an internship with Clean Ocean Project as part of my legal education and read your recent email with great interest.

As you wrote that you are happy to clarify any questions, I have to say that I am particularly interested in the actual success of Nespresso’s recycling scheme.

Do you have actual data on the amount of capsules that are bought and thrown away each year, and can you tell me what a percentage is recycled instead? Unfortunately, there are no clear numbers about this in “The Positive Cup”, even though the implementation of the recycling seems to be an essential factor showing how “environmentally-friendly” your concept actually is.

I am looking forward to hearing back from you,


Ricarda von Meding

From: “Graham,Katherine,LAUSANNE,Corporate Communications”
Sent: 25 January 2018 19:25 MEZ
To: “ Subject: Re: Nespresso recycling

Hello Ricardo

We don’t publish data on anything that might be commercially sensitive, such as numbers that might indicate our sales. For this reason publish our recycling rate, rather than the volumes of capsules that we recycle – it’s around 24%. I think this is the most transparent indicator of how successful our recycling scheme is. But we know we need to do better, and we think the best way to improve is to make it easier for customers to recycle their capsules. For example if they could put them in their regular household recycling waste, rather than using a separate service. We introduced a scheme in France that already gives 8 million citizens the chance to do this, working with MRFs to upgrade their infrastructure so that they can recycle not only our capsules but all light aluminium packaging (ikea tea lights, Capri-sun pouches, baby food and pet food pouches, foil cheese wrappers and crushed soda cans) and light steel items. It has increased recycling of aluminium by 57%. We’re currently trying to scale-up this solution to other countries.

I hope that is a full and complete answer to your question – happy to answer any other questions.

Wishing you a lovely evening,


Sent from my iPhone

From: info cleanoceanproject []
Sent: 05 February 2018 11:14
To: Graham,Katherine,LAUSANNE,Corporate Communications
Subject: Re: Nespresso recycling

Dear Katherine,

in your e-mail to Ricarda you mentioned 24% of capsules that get recycled. That number does sound quite nice, only that other numbers can be found on the internet, and now I don’t know what to believe … Is there any proof for that number, as it is supposed to be transparent?

This Article in the Dailymail from late 2016 claims that recycling rates are in fact as low as 5%. If they have risen by 19% since then, that is quite an astonishing change.

Also, when you mention that there is a certain percentage of recycling, a normal consumer might perceive “recycling” to mean that new capsules are created from old ones.

You say that you use recycled aluminium to make capsules wherever it is feasible… in our view, the deciding factor on whether it is feasible or not is Nespresso as a company. Of course it does not make sense “to ship recycled capsules back from Argentina to make new ones in Switzerland”, but the logical conclusion of this would be to invest some of your enormeous revenues in installing a recycling facility in Argentina (and all other countries where you are selling coffee capsules) instead of hiding behind the fact that they could, in theory be recycled.

It is Nespresso’s decision that the recycling place in which new capsules are made from recycled capsules is in Switzerland only. Or how many of such plants do you have around the world, and where are they situated?

And let me ask again in order to get an actual answer: are new Nespresso capsules made from old Nespresso capsules that you collect in Switzerland?

Thank you very much for sharing your knowledge of biodegradable and compostable packaging. You say that you hope that materials will start to evolve and improve their performance in the composter. The question is, who should have an interest in having these evolve, and who should be responsable to invest in the development of these materials. Maybe you agree with us that it should be on those that produce vast amounts of packaging to assure that these are as environmentally friendly as possible.

A wealthy company like Nespresso, which additionally takes pride in their “sustainability” should make sure that there is an alternative to a system creating thousands of tons of waste every year.

The report of the Bundesumweltamt ultimately only states that while at the moment, there is no preferable biodegradable/compostable packaging, the general concept of biopackages can be improved towards something more environmental friendly than common packaging.

We agree that awareness about what happens in a landfill is really low. Otherwise, the public might stop drinking coffee from capsules of which the majority will be in a landfill for the next 150 to 500 years. If awareness is that low, the question is who should educate the public on the final destination of most aluminium capsules. Maybe George Clooney would be interested in explaining the dirty reality behind the shiny packaging.

The Life Cycle Analysis studies you mention were conducted for a packaging firm which makes single-serve coffee capsules, and for Nestle.

Unfortunately, the Critical Review of the 2015 study is nowhere to be found online, and I have my doubts on the correctness of the Materials and Production and End-of-Life part. Also, the study only takes into account drip filter coffee makers, and none of the other various ways coffee can be made without single-use packaging. Also, it is not taken into account that with a drip filter machine, multiple people can enjoy coffee after one “production cycle”, whereas the Nespresso machine can only ever work for one person at a time.

In the end, it always depends which factors are included and excluded to achieve the result one favors the most, which will then depend on who initiated the impact study in first place.

Additionally, we were also wondering how your recycling scheme applies to the SPECIAL.T capsules and the Nescafé Dolce Gusto capsules, the latter of which are made entirely of plastic. Even though you are only an operating unit of Nestlé, you are surely concerned about what happens to their capsules, too?

Is there a sustainability report on these capsules as well?

About ASI: We had a look through the Performance and CoC Standards, and agree with you that there are many good things that can hopefully achieved through the Initiative.

However, a lot of the standards consist of no more than mere legal English without actual enforcement provisions, making it easy for entities to be “in compliance” with the standards without actually achieving significant improvements for the environment. Before getting into more detail, one question about ASI: which anti-trust laws would ASI not be in compliance with if it made the CoC Standard compulsory for ASI members? Which specific parts or features of the CoC would then not be compliant with anti-trust law?

In the environmental part of the ASI Performance Standards it says that “The Entity shall publish time-bound GHG emissions reduction targets and implement a plan to achieve these targets.”(5.2) So is this system based on self-control and self-iniciative, or is there any overview assured or targets set by ASI itself (except for aluminium smelting entities)? Why would a company set reduction targets that will force it to change its operating habits?

The same question applies to water discharges and air emissions. Why should an entity not interpret “minimalize” in a way most favorable to them?

About Water Stewardship: Is the disclosure of water usage and risks publicly accessible such as for example an Impact Assessment of a Spill (6.4 b.), or can it be concluded from the fact that it does not say “public disclosure” that water usage must only be disclosed to ASI itself?

Further, Entities engaged in Alumina Refining shall (…) not discharge Bauxite Residue and Spent Pot Lining (SPL) to marine and aquatic environments. As discharges to other environments are not excluded, are they not considered to go against ASI’s principles?

In general, there are some good Standards, but it would be great if you could help us get some clarity on the aspects mentioned above. If this is beyond your field of expertise, we would be happy if you could refer us to a direct contact at ASI.

Thank you, and have a nice day


Wim Geirnaert.
Founder, Clean Ocean Project

From: “Graham,Katherine,LAUSANNE,Corporate Communications”
Sent: 06 Febuary 2018 10:06 MEZ
To: “ Subject: Re: Nespresso recycling

Hello Wim

For many years we did not disclose our recycling rate, and in the absence of having an official figure from Nespresso, many media reported numbers that I assume were just guesses. I’m not sure where the Daily Mail took 5% from but I can confirm that it was incorrect. I also frequently read that capsules are not recyclable, or that it is a complicated technical process – this is also incorrect.

We calculate our recycling rate by counting the capsules that come into our recycling plants and dividing it by the number of capsules we sell in that country, through this we arrive at a percentage. Bureau Veritas validated this methodology.

In terms of investing in recycling facilities around the world, absolutely we do this – so again taking Argentina as the example, we have built a dedicated recycling facility for our capsules. So Nespresso capsules get recycled in Argentina, but the recycled aluminium goes into the local economy and is not shipped back to Europe. We’re doing this all over the world, we have recycling programmes in 39 countries. Last year we invested some 24 million euros in our recycling scheme globally, most of this was spent operating the services (collection from homes, mail schemes or drop-off points) and the facilities themselves. Our recycling programme is not perfect and we have much progress to make of course, I’m just trying to give you some idea of the scale of our effort because many people find it surprising (particularly if they read about Nespresso recycling in the media).

Closed loop. When I talk of feasibility, I mean environmental feasibility – in countries far away from Switzerland, where the capsules are produced, it makes more sense for the environment to recycle the aluminium into something else. A closed loop (recycling capsules into new capsules) is not always the best solution in terms of environmental impact.

You asked if new Nespresso capsules made from old Nespresso capsules collected in Switzerland – yes, and also the capsules we collect from France, Austria, Belgium and the Netherlands. So the countries around Switzerland. I hope this explains our recycling scheme and the idea of a closed loop – making new capsules from used capsules.

We do need to better educate the public about managing their packaging waste, and for Nespresso this means encouraging people to recycle. We will soon kick off another campaign to remind our consumers about recycling, show them again how to do it, and encourage them to participate. If you have any ideas about how we can better educate people I would be welcome to hearing your suggestions. It is a challenge but what we have learned is that the easier we make it to recycle, more people participate. That’s why we are so focused on having capsules included as part of the established recycling collective schemes.

On bioplastics, of course we are constantly researching other packaging solutions. The main problems for the moment are that the infrastructure for collecting and treating these types of packaging are today not adequate. If we made capsules from biodegradable packaging tomorrow, what would happen to them? They would most likely end up in landfill. At least aluminium is recyclable and the value can be recovered. Personally, I feel confident that bioplastics will improve and one day they will give us a sustainable alternative, but my concern is that we are not there yet and too many people consider this as a magic answer or a great marketing story when the reality is far from it.

My knowledge on the ASI is inadequate to fully answer all of your questions so I would ask you to please contact Fiona Solomon ( who should be able to respond comprehensively.

On your questions about LCAs, I would like to propose that we speak by phone so that I can be sure we are understanding and properly answering your questions. I would like to include my colleague who has far better expertise in this area than I do, and also a participant from Quantis who have conducted several LCAs for Nespresso. Would this be a good solution for you? If that would be agreeable for you, I will coordinate with them and propose you some dates/ times.

Finally on your comments about plastic capsules; the Nespresso recycling scheme is designed for recycling aluminium capsules only, not plastic or other materials. I do know that Dolce Gusto and Special T have recycling provisions too, and in some countries plastic capsules are accepted in the collective system, although I don’t know in detail. I would suggest that you contact Nestlé directly. Would you like me to find out who would be a good contact to help you with this?

Kind regards,


Katherine Graham | Corporate Communications Manager | Nestlé Nespresso S.A.

From: info cleanoceanproject []
Sent: 15 February 2018 18:52
To: Graham,Katherine,LAUSANNE,Corporate Communications
Subject: Re: Nespresso recycling

Dear Katherine, Thank you for your insight in the efforts you take to move forward with your recycling. But do you really believe that it will ever be posible to reach anything even close to a 100% recycling rate?

What I don’t understand is why it is environmentally feasible to make new capsules in Switzerland from the capsules you collect in the surrounding countries, but not feasible to make new capsules from old capsules in new facilities in other places around the globe?

Is my assumption correct that the only facility in which new capsules are made from old ones is in Switzerland, because this is also the only place where capsules are produced generally? The problem I see with this approach is that while Nespresso takes pride for high “recycling” rates, you will always need more and more fresh aluminium for new capsules at the same time.

We hope that the European Strategy on Plastics in a Circular Economy will help raise awareness among consumers about the need for recycling.

As you suggested, it is essential to make it as easy as possible for people to recycle.

I don’t have many numbers on that, but I assume that your collection and drop-off systems don’t work as well in achieving high recycling rates as recycling in places like Germany with the “Gruener Punkt”.

But let’s assume that you do a big campaign on the importance on recycling… unfortunately, no campaign will ever change the basic concept of your company, which is making money because of the consumer’s wish for convenience. One capsule, one button, and the coffee is done.

As a consequence of that, no solution including recycling that the consumer has to take action for voluntarily will ever be successful. Instead, we need less things to recycle, which Nespresso won’t let happen because your success is based exactly on this additional single use packaging. Therefore, the only way which can assure anything close to sustainability that includes capsules made from aluminium or any other material will go towards a deposit system on these capsules.

By making the consumer pay a little amount, let’s say 0,10€ per capsule, there will be an incentive to assure that the capsule will be returned to a place where its valuable materials can be treated appropriately and brought back into the production chain.

The same system has been implemented for varying bottles in many countries around the world already, an important step which we are sure that someone like you with awareness for environmental issues approves of.

We can therefore not see how a deposit system would not be the ideal solution to counteract the waste Nespresso is producing, and we are interested in your thoughts on this.

Of course, it would mean taking up inconveniences and certain financial disadvantages, but for a company with a determination to be sustainable this should not be a real barrier. Instead, you would pressure rivals on the market to themselves explain the end-of-life of their products and improve their methodology.

Taking action instead of trying to educate – this is our suggestion to you. Concerning ASI, we would like to thank you for the contact, we will get in touch with Fiona.

We considered a telephone call on the LCA’s, but decided against it as we don’t think that it would help either side in any way.

Both the 2011 and 2015 study that we had a look at do not target the topics that we are concerned about, which is mostly the immense amount of unnecessary waste you are creating.

The 2011 study is a hypothetical with a lot of estimates, saying that if 100% of Nespresso capsules were recycled, this would be the most environmentally friendly of several options. But, as you mentioned yourself in the last email, a 100% rate is currently not anywhere close to reality (and probably never will be) and we therefore do not think that it would be worth to speak about how phrasing and setting up an LCA can help to put pressure on rivals on the market by achieving the most favorable results for oneself.

What we however found quite interesting was the suggestion of Stéphane Arditi to “incentivize” responsible consumer behaviour through a deposit system… see p.102 of the comparative report on Nespresso capsules and three generic products.

When it comes to the 2015 LCA, we already phrased our main critics in our last email. Here once again, the study is set up in a way that lets single use look a lot better than it is the case in reality. What would be needed would be a LCA taking into account that there might be multiple people drinking from one drip filter/mokka machine, or one person drinking coffee multiple times after one coffee making process without wasting several aluminium capsules to achieve the same result. Also, all coffee making processes should be evaluated, instead of one (drip filter) that the Nespresso machine looks favorable next to under certain conditions.

Additionally, we have unsuccesfully tried to access the Critical Review of the 2015 study and even asked for it with Quantis directly, but without any success so far. If you have a version of the Critical Review of the 2015 LCA by Quantis comparing single-serve coffee with bulk coffee brewing, we would be very happy to discuss any additional comments with you after going over this critical review.

If you know a good contact with knowledge about recycling that works at Nestlé, we would be happy if you could provide us with their email.

Thank you and have a great day,

Wim Geirnaert.

From: “Graham,Katherine,LAUSANNE,Corporate Communications”
Sent: 09 March 2018 14:02 MEZ
To: “ Subject: Re: Nespresso recycling

Dear Wim

I am so sorry for such a delayed response, I have missed some work through a combination of seasonal flu and skiing holidays, and I am still catching up.

For Nestle products, the best contact would be Anna Turrell. Now I’ll go back to the questions you raised in your last email…

I don’t think it is possible in the near future for any product to get to a 100% recycling rate. However we see that in Germany, where aluminium capsules are accepted in the collective system and there is a strong culture of sustainable behavior among consumers, that the rate of recycling is something like 75%. So yes, in countries where capsules are accepted in the collective, it is much higher than when we have a dedicated Nespresso scheme.

Of course, the reason we have the dedicated Nespresso scheme is because most collective schemes do not sort light metal. But we have worked successfully in France to help municipalities make improvements to their collective infrastructure so that all light metal can be recycled, and now we’re trying to replicate this success in other countries. This has really been our focus and it is why we prefer this approach over a deposit-return scheme.

My main problem with a deposit return is that there are today some 400 different brands of coffee capsule that are compatible with the Nespresso system alone – not counting all of the other systems. The majority of them are made from plastic, some of bio-plastic and some of organic materials like paper and bamboo. Normally, deposit-return schemes work by material, say for example aluminium, or PET. So there is no scheme today that could sort/ recycle all coffee capsules together.

We have discussed various ways of introducing something like this, some of these have been discussion with NGOs who have given us some very helpful ideas to explore. Of course we would also want to avoid the bureaucracy and creating the infrastructure that would be required to have an effective, working deposit-return scheme although because of our direct-to-consumer model, we could almost do this. The way our recycling scheme is set up today it would not be possible to reward customers for recycling, although these are things that we are continuously looking at and if you have some suggestions about how such a scheme (carrot more than carrot/ stick) could work through our existing recycling scheme, I would of course be happy to hear them.

Some of our campaigns are aimed at incentivizing/ rewarding consumers by encouraging them, not actually financially, to encourage recycling. For example by showing them what happens to the coffee grounds and aluminium from their capsule when it is recycled.

Recycling capsules to capsules

Yes, all of our capsules are produced in Switzerland, our coffee is roasted and blended here as well. So the aluminium from our capsules which is further away, it makes more sense for the environment for it to go back into the local value chain, in other words to recycle it into something else rather than ship it back to Switzerland to produce new capsules.


It’s true that the performance of drip filter varies greatly depending on consumer behavior, which can impact significantly the comparison against single-serve. By the way a more recent study was just published in Germany, did you see it? I will try to obtain the 2015 Quantis study and share with you. I really don’t have strong expertise on these studies, so it might be better for me to forward your questions to my colleague working on the technical side of sustainability efforts.

Apologies again for the delay in my response, and have a lovely weekend,


From: info cleanoceanproject []
Sent: 20 March 2018
To: Graham,Katherine,LAUSANNE,Corporate Communications
Subject: Re: Nespresso recycling

Dear Katherine,

First of all, thank you for the Nestlé contact!

Your effort put into improving collective systems is appreciated, but we cannot see how improving this could go against a deposit scheme. Of course, there could not be a deposit on all objects made of light metal, so we are sure that you could still make great improvements on sorting them even while implementing a deposit system.

What we have in mind is taking the concept of extended producer responsibility one step further – by mandating every producer of coffee capsules to take them back and recycle them themselves, just as you are in Switzerland already. This would by no means require you to recycle all capsule materials together. Every company does its own share, no need to work for your competitors.

By being the first one to take this step, you would serve as an “environmental role model” (as much as this is possible whilst selling single-unit coffee packages) to other company’s. You would really show that you understand the extent of the problem you are creating with all your waste and prove that you call yourself a sustainable company for good reasons. And, should such a deposit system become a uniform standard, for example by European laws which might not be too far from now, you would have a big advantage over your competitors who produce capsules made of various materials or have smaller production units and therefore fewer capacities for recycling. Such a step would be very positively acknowledged by the coffee community. We can only encourage you to invest some of Nespresso’s enormeous profits in a deposit scheme and put a deposit – let’s say 0,10€ – on every capsule.

Should you decide to move towards this, we are happy to support you!

From what we have heard, you are also working on barcoded capsules for all of your machines, so having 400 other producers of coffee capsules on the market might not be your problem anymore soon.

The new LCA, as far as we could determine from your website (we could not find the whole document online), does not mention any new aspects. We don’t have any further questions on this. You are right that if you insert certain information and data, the results will look favorable for Nespresso. Maybe we can agree that there are definitely less environmental ways to consume coffee than your capsules, as this is what the Quantis study shows. Our suggestion would be a study including all common ways to consume coffee. This would not only help Nespresso, but also the consumer who wants to do right. But of course it is not worth paying for a study which might not show the result you are aiming for, so this will probably not happen.

We are happy to further discuss a deposit scheme with you, and we are looking forward to your thoughts.


Wim Geirnaert

From: “Graham,Katherine,LAUSANNE,Corporate Communications”
Sent: 11 April 2018
To: Subject: Re: Nespresso recycling

Thank you for your reply Wim, and sorry for the delay in responding.

I hope you find some answers with Nestlé – you will have seen that yesterday they announced some new commitments on plastic packaging, which I hope leads to a positive outcome.

On deposit-return… I will be frank – I don’t believe that any other coffee company has the capacity or the infrastructure to introduce a recycling scheme at this scale, let alone a deposit-return scheme. We at Nespresso alone spend in the region of €24 million a year on recycling (but this is not only in Switzerland by the way, we are recycling our own capsules in 39 countries). I also don’t believe that any company would introduce a deposit on their product only, when no such restrictions were placed on competitors. It would result in an added layer of bureaucracy for one brand and would distort the market. Imagine if Nespresso customers had to pay extra, just to get the money back when they returned their capsules for recycling… they would simply go to a supermarket and choose from one of the compatible brands, almost all of which are made from plastic.

However I do think it is a really interesting idea to consider rewarding customers who return capsules for recycling (the return but no deposit…) I’m thinking about how this would work at Nespresso, because we have several routes of recycling (home collection, deposit points in the boutiques, third-party deposit points, postal schemes) and it would not be easy to reward customers who recycle through a deposit point for example. I will continue to explore this though, and I welcome any ideas you have about how it could work.

Some good recent developments from our side – In Austria, we have made some good progress over these past few months to get municipalities to accept aluminium capsules in the collective system (the infrastructure can already process light alu). In Canada, we are advancing the doorstep collection to other provinces, this allows customers to put their capsules in a special bag and leave it with their household recycling, it then goes to the sorting centre and is transferred to our Nespresso recycling plant as well as rolling out the postal scheme, which is very popular there and seems to work well. I will have more developments to report to you over the coming months.

We are also gearing up to do two big consumer campaigns in the next couple of months, both on recycling and also on gender equality in coffee farming (less your interest area!) as well as an update to The Positive Cup, reporting on our progress in-line with the GRI standards, so I will send you news and updates when we have them.

Many thanks,


From: info cleanoceanproject []
Sent: 13 April 2018
To: Graham,Katherine,LAUSANNE,Corporate Communications
Subject: Re: Nespresso recycling

Dear Katherine,

Unfortunately, Nestlé has not answered our e-mail yet. Maybe this is due to their different marketing strategy, but if you could remind your friend who is working there or give us another contact we would be very happy. Their new commitments do not show any current intent towards immediate change, but they are better than nothing.

If your argument against a deposit system is that few companies besides your own have the infrastructure to introduce a recycling scheme, that argument misses the point.

Our world will only continue to function if polluters accept responsibility and clean up after themselves. If they cannot, maybe they should not be producing an unnecessary product in the first place. The result of a deposit scheme would be that companies have to work together to find solutions, and the ones the worst affected will be the ones that produce capsules which are hard to recycle, may it be because of their mixture of aluminum and plastic or them being made of non-recyclable plastic. Therefore, the overall picture of the coffee capsule market could only improve.

Besides, why would you be worried about your competitors on the market?

We will not stop hoping for a change of the packaging laws which would implement this change, leading to no company having an advantage or disadvantage on the market.

You are mentioning that consumers would prefer plastic capsules over Nespresso capsules because of the risen costs. Are you aware that Nespresso capsules are already a lot more expensive then most compatible capsules? You are selling coffee for 3-4 times the usual market price for high quality coffee. Still, most consumers choose Nespresso over other brands. We do not think that an extra 10 cent, which will additionally only be a monetary factor if consumers choose laziness over environmental friendliness, will be the driving factor to distort the market. Also, according to your previous emails, many of Nespresso’s customers are already returning their capsules, so if your previous statements were true, why would they not accept a deposit in exchange for an action that they are performing by sending the capsules back or dropping them at a collection point? Our answer is because they are missing an incentive to recycle in the first place. And which other rewards besides a financial advantage will make a lazy consumer return their capsules?

A deposit system would overall help to make coffee consumption really sustainable. So if you really want to “have a positive impact on the world” and pride yourself with sustainability being an “imperative for the company”, it should be an imperative for you to do everything for a deposit scheme to actually ensure reaching your claimed goals. I am sure that you will agree that there is no other way to make it possible to collect 100% of your capsules by 2020.

Thank you for the update on your progress around the world.

Have a good weekend,


Wim Geirnaert

From: “Graham,Katherine,LAUSANNE,Corporate Communications”
Sent: 16 April 2018, 16:50:29 MEZ
To: Subject: Re: Nespresso recycling

De: “Graham,Katherine,LAUSANNE,Corporate Communications” Asunto: RE: Nespresso recycling Fecha: 16 de abril de 2018, 16:50:29 WEST Para: info cleanoceanproject Hello Wim

I’m afraid that I cannot offer you a satisfactory answer on this for now, although please accept my thanks for having given us much for consideration.

It is an interesting question, that of making the polluter pay – who is the polluter, the company that produces the product or the consumer who uses it? Or both? And do we punish companies/ people for bad behavior, reward them for good behavior, or both? Carrot or stick? Should we be rewarded for recycling, or should one do it because it’s the right thing to do? I do see some merit in incentivizing people to good behaviour, particularly when the process is not straightforward. I also think that much which falls within ‘sustainability’ should be pre-competitive, and we should not be averse to working with competitors.

However for me the optimum solution for Nespresso is the German model, where we have our highest recycling rates and our customers have the most convenient option. We have been moving in this direction in several countries for several years now, and we are not about to divert from our long-term strategy which is to make recycling as easy and convenient for our customers, and encouraging them to take part.

I will keep you informed of developments and I hope that we are able to demonstrate to you some real progress, and improves your opinion of our business.

With best wishes,


From: info cleanoceanproject []
Sent: 23 April 2018
To: Graham,Katherine,LAUSANNE,Corporate Communications
Subject: Re: Nespresso recycling

Dear Katherine,

the questions you raise are more suitable for an ethics discussion than for moving forward with actual results. Of course, there are always two sides of a medal – no bad consumption without producers, no bad products without consumers.

The only difference in your case is that you are making your customers believe that Nespresso is an environmentally friendly company by twisting facts and words in a favorable way that is aiming at making Nespresso look like it is sustainable. So is, for example the goal of announcing a 100% recycling “capacity” something very different from the actual recycling rate, may they be 24% as you claim, or lower. Your so-called “corporate responsibility” is a show for all the consumers that care (or think they care) about the environment.

This is especially the case in Germany, the country you mention as the optimum country when it comes to sustainability. Recycling in Germany is convenient for you – you don’t have to do anything and leave it to the Grüner Punkt and the consumers.

They are blinded by pictures of happy farmers and lush green forests in South America, making them believe to make the world a better place by consuming a single use packaged product while idolizing George Clooney.

Do you really believe yourself when you say that your high moral standards are in accordance with the concept Nespresso stands for? Sadly, I cannot see how.

Of course, we are nevertheless happy to hear about your further projects, innovations and maybe even positive solutions such as a deposit system.

All the Best,

Wim Geirnaert, founder

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